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Pupil Pages

The Normans
The Castle

Medieval Towns


Town Walls:
Medieval towns were surrounded by a Town Wall. The town wall protected the townspeople but it was also a status symbol. It showed where the countryside ended and the town began. It showed that the townspeople were independent and it celebrated their wealth.

Most towns had plain walls of stone. They often had battlemented walkways. Towers were located at certain points along the wall. Town walls had gates and gatehouses. These gave the townspeople control over those entering and leaving the town. Spies or criminals might be arrested. Diseased persons could be kept out. Money (tolls) was collected at the gatehouses. (Tolls had to be paid on all goods brought into the town for sale. The money collected was spent on the town walls, bridges and paving the streets.)

Most towns had one long main street with narrow side streets. The main street was often used as the market place. Many main streets had a market cross. Public announcements were made at this cross. Punishments and executions were carried out here too.

Houses and Shops:
The gable or short end of the house usually faced the street because each family owned a narrow rectangular plot of land stretching back from the street. Behind the house there may have been other buildings, sheds, a well or a garden growing herbs, vegetables or fruit. In Ireland, most houses were timber-framed and had walls made of post and wattle with plaster on the outside. Roofs were thatched.

The ground floor, facing the street was often a shop. The goods sold in the shop were usually made in the house. Most shops were small, like stalls or booths. Lean-to stalls were sometimes set up on market day.


The People:
Towspeople were merchants, craftworkers or labourers.

Merchants owned ships and travelled to other countries. (A ship might sail from Ireland with a cargo of animal skins or woollen cloth. This might be sold in France. Wine would be bought and brought back for sale in Ireland.)

Craftworkers usually worked at home. They spent their days making objects which they hoped to sell in their shops. Each town had carpenters, coopers, drapers, embroiderers, glovers, hosiers, furriers, potters, shoemakers, smiths, tailors and weavers. There were also bakers, butchers, fishmongers, grocers, poulterers and vintners.

The labourer owned no property and depended on others for work and for money.

The Church:
Religion was very important in the Middle Ages. Most towns had one parish church. It was usually a beautiful, big, stone building. It was a place of prayer but it was also used for important meetings as some towns had no town hall. Many towns also had monasteries.
The Castle:
Most towns had a Norman castle. This could be in the town or just outside it.
Travel back in time and explore a Medieval Town. Begin by getting a worksheet. Have fun!
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