Medieval Township – Joanna Tissainayagam

Medieval Towns


Towns usually had tall walls for protection, which made villages very crowded. Because of this, buildings had to be built very close together and with six or seven stories. Because most buildings were made of wood, the chance of fires were high. Some towns were either partly or completely destroyed by fire. Later when stones were used, the number of fires decreased significantly.   


The conditions in which Medieval people lived in was very unhygienic. A common practice was to throw garbage out the window, and hope the rain would wash it away. Pigs and other animals roamed free around the village cleaning up the garbage, somewhat like todays garbage trucks. As a cause of low sanitation, diseases were common and were able to spread very quickly. One of these diseases was called the Bubonic plague also known as the ‘Black Death.’ This disease was transmitted by fleas from rats. It not only killed large portions of towns and villages, but killed possibly a third of Europe’s population.

Town Square

Most towns were laid out in the same way. In the centre there was a large open area called a square, a place, or a piazza. The square would also contain the cathedral. Merchants and tradesman would set up stalls and sell goods. Sometimes actors performed a play, while jugglers and clowns did their part.

The Guild

A group of craftsman in the same trade would often form guilds. A guild would make sure that anything made by a guild member was up to standard and was sold at a fair price. There were several steps involved for a young man to become a guild member.

  • Firstly at around the age of seven a boy who wished to learn trade, would be an apprentice to a master craftsman. He was given food, a place to sleep but he wasn’t paid.
  • When a man learnt all the skills necessary to earn a living he became a journeyman. At this stage he could work for anyone who hired him. He was paid a little money.
  • When a man wanted to own his own shop, he had to create a masterpiece of work showing that he has mastered his particular skill. The guild will then judge to see whether or not he is able to set up his own shop and become a master himself.


Life on Manor

The Feudal System

Feudalism was when the lord gave his serfs farmland and protection from bandits. In return the serfs looked after the lord’s land and animals. Serfs were bound to serve the lord. They could not leave without the lord’s permission. Freedman also worked for the lord, but they were not bound to serve him.

The Manor

The manor consisted of a village, a church, the lord’s house or castle, and the farmland where the peasants worked.

The manor house was built apart from the village and was the house of the Lord of the Manor and his family. It was similar to medieval castles but was built on a smaller scale. The size of the manor house depended on their wealth. The manor house consisted of a great hall solar, kitchen, storerooms and servant headquarters.


Serfs were given strips of land to work on. They were usually free to work on their own fields for 3 days of the week. The rest of the week, other than Sunday, the land was given over to the lord. Serfs could grow vegetables or whatever he wanted on his strip of land, but he was required to give a portion of his harvest to the lord. The lord also received a part of the serf’s chicken’s, pigs and livestock.

The three field rotation

During the feudal times, farmers used the three-field method.

  • The first field was planted in Autumn, usually wheat or rye.
  • The second field was planted in Spring, this time in either barley or beans, peas and oats.
  • The Third field was left fallow, or unplanted. This was done so that the fertility of the soil would be preserved. Each year a different field would be left unplanted.



One Comment on “Medieval Township – Joanna Tissainayagam”

  1. swoonie says:

    Nice work, Joanna. I like your summary for the different sections of a Medieval township. I love your group’s diorama. It really reflects your group’s tremendous effort to replicate the past. Proud of you, girls!