Monday, 19 February 2018

Life in a fourteenth-century town By April Munday #History @AprilMunday

Life in a fourteenth-century town
By April Munday

If the Doctor whisked you off in his Tardis to a town in the second half of fourteenth-century England, what would you notice?
The first thing might be the noise, or the lack of it. You might hear dogs barking, people talking, birds singing and church bells marking the liturgical hours of the day. You would not hear cars, or planes, or engines of any kind. You’ll even be able to hear birds singing.
Since the Doctor has brought you to a town on the south coast, you will see that it’s encircled by a strong, stone wall. England and France have been at war since 1337 and the French have attacked and burned towns along the coast, including this one. It’s important to protect the town from them.
There are gates at various points along the wall. If you’re in the town for long enough you’ll see that the gates are closed at sunset and aren’t opened again until sunrise. No one is allowed in or out during that time.
If you go into a building you’ll notice that the walls are painted or, in wealthier homes, covered in tapestries. Wall are usually painted white first and then painted over with symbols and patterns. The colours will be bright, like the clothes you see around you. Even the parish church is colourful. The statues of the saints are painted, as are the tombs, the walls and the pillars. Since most people still can’t read, the walls of the church are covered in pictures telling stories from the Bible. There’s probably a large doom painting somewhere showing the different fates of those sent to hell and those sent to heaven. There are no chairs in the church. If you come here for mass, you’ll stand.

Romsey Abbey

The streets will mainly be full of people on foot, but you will probably see some people on horseback, women as well as men. Everyone walks or rides. A wealthy sick person might lie on a litter carried by two horses, but no one will be in a carriage. Only the fabulously wealthy can afford them and there are only four or five of them in the whole of England.
Most towns have places where itinerant preachers can stand and address the crowds which flock to them. The audience is thrilled to hear about how they can live in a way that pleases God. This is not what they hear from their parish priests and some of them are not sure what to think of their priests, anyway. The priests, and their bishops, failed to give any warning about the Black Death and many of them died along with their parishioners. It seems that God holds them in no higher regard than he does anyone else.
If you walk through the town, you’ll see very quickly that it’s small. It won’t take you long to walk from one end to the other, or one side to the other. After the Black Death the population of England is about four and a half million and the vast majority of those do not live in towns.
As you go through the town you’ll see the shops.  You rarely have to go inside a shop. They’re open-fronted, with the counter facing out into the street. There are also men and women walking the streets selling their wares as they go.

Counter of Medieval Merchant’s House, Southampton.


One thing you will probably notice, even in a busy town, is that people know one another. People live in a community and parishes cover a small geographical area. They go to mass together and to one another’s funerals. People who live next door to one another know exactly what’s going on in the next house. They live very close to one another and will probably stare at you, a stranger, as you pass by.

April Munday

April Munday is the author of romances set in the fourteenth century. She lives in Hampshire, where many of her stories are set.  In her head she lives in the fourteenth century, but only in her head; she has learned far too much about life in the Middle Ages to want to live there in reality.  She is inspired by the remnants of the past which are part of her local landscape. Her latest series, The Soldiers of Fortune, is set after the Battle of Poitiers, which changes the lives of four brothers.
You can find April over on her blog and on Facebook.

The Heir’s Tale


 Ancelin Montfort returns to England as his father's heir, following the death of his older brother at the Battle of Poitiers. Everything he does from now on is to prepare him to be the Earl of Somerton, even marrying the woman his father has chosen for him.

Emma has loved Ancelin through the months of his absence, but the man who has returned from war is not the man who left. As the day of their wedding draws near, she wonders if she ever knew him at all. Then he accuses her of betraying her with another man. Can she convince him of her innocence? Does she want to?


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx