The Grossest Facts About Medieval Life in England

If you’re one who is concerned about proper hygiene and conditions to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases, then medieval life in England would certainly not have been for you. You would have likely cringed daily at various smells and sights. Some of their practices would have gone against everything that you believed in and found to be acceptable. Here are five of the grossest facts about life in England at that time.

1. People Thought Bathing Made Them Sick 

Regular bathing was a part of the routine of the populace for the majority of the medieval age. They frequently used the public restrooms and ensured that they kept clean. However, when the Black Plague struck, everything was different. The Europeans grew scared when two-thirds of the world’s population passed away from disease. They started to speculate about the cause of the disease. According to the doctors, the plague had spread because individuals were washing themselves too frequently. They began enforcing immediate bans on all forms of bathing, claiming that water weakened people’s bodies and opened their pores, making them more vulnerable to the plague.

2. Families Slept on Filthy Dirt Floors 

All, except the wealthy, had homes with no floors. Instead, they stood on compacted ground that was covered with plants and grass. While covering the ground kept the houses warm, there was a downside. Rats and insects were drawn into people’s homes by food that had fallen on the grass. Only the top layer was occasionally cleared and replaced but the bottom layer where most of the filth was found was never cleaned. The people slept on the floor as there were no mattresses. This meant that they slept on a carpet of rotten food.

3. Everyone Was Infested With Lice

In medieval England, infestation of lice and fleas was a problem that everyone, regardless of social standing, experienced. It became a daily occurrence for family and friends to assemble and remove lice from one another’s bodies. This particularly applied to those who had to travel. It was soon realized that this problem was not restricted to only England but also other countries.

4. The River Thames Was Full of Rotting Meat

The River Thames was known for its offensive stench in medieval times. This was a result of butchers disposing of all of their unused and rotten meat in the river. This practice made this river the most repulsive place in the entire nation. One bridge was called “Butcher’s Bridge” because it was used so often by butchers in this routine. There were dried blood fragments of animal entrails that had leaked out of the butcher’s wagons along the bridge. In 1369, a law was passed against this, however, it took years before this tradition was discontinued.

5. People Piled Garbage in Front of Their Homes

People were expected to clean out their houses when they were filled with waste and rotting food. In accordance with the law, they had to carry their waste outside the city. Instead, they disposed of the waste on the streets. Garbage was stacked up in front of people’s homes. King Edward II enacted England’s first rule prohibiting the dumping of waste on the street.  It was mandated that any rubbish be cleared in a week. This made no difference as garbage kept piling up. To avoid the stench, the rich people used towels sprayed with perfume across their noses. People were later hired by the king to clean the roads.

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