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Medieval town life

A cutaway illustration of a medieval townA cutaway illustration of a medieval town The time in history lasting from around AD 600 to 1500 is called the Middle Ages, or medieval times. Most people lived and worked farming the land—but, particularly after AD 1000, towns grew larger and more important. They were places where markets were regularly held and where craftsmen lived and worked. Some of the finer buildings in the town, such as a rich merchant’s house, were built of expensive stone. The poorer houses were made from cheaper timber with walls of sticks and plaster, called wattle and daub.


The grandest building in the town was the stone-built church at its centre. This was built to show the world how prosperous the town and its lord were. The town’s buildings contained shops and workshops on the ground floor with living areas above. Inns were not only places where people gathered to drink. They also provided food and lodging, as well as stabling and fodder for the travellers’ horses.

A medieval town squareA medieval town squareMost townsfolk struggled to make a living, but some merchants became very wealthy. They lived in grand houses in the centre of the town and employed servants and entertainers. The merchant owned the whole house, but might rent a small room at the top of the house for a poor family to live in.

Although the population of towns and cities grew throughout the Middle Ages, by 1500 townspeople probably still made up no more than 10% of the overall population.

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