Sunday, November 20, 2011

Filthy Cities - Medieval London

From the UK Telegraph on 5 April 2011: Medieval London: 10 disgusting facts. Ahead of BBC Two's new history series, Filthy Cities, we list some revolting facts about how dirty medieval London was.

1. The inhabitants of medieval London (human and animal) produced 50 tons of excrement a day.

2. In medieval London, there were no pavements - people had to walk on the bare earth. Except, unfortunately, it wasn't bare earth - the ground was covered with the excrement of both people and animals, as well as animal entrails and rotting food.

3. Eventually, many streets became impassable, so muck-rakers were hired to clean them as best they could. Though the job was abhorrent, the muck-rakers were paid much better than the average working man.

4. In the 14th century, Sherborne Lane in East London was so disgusting that it was officially known as Shiteburn Lane.

5. It was illegal in medieval London to empty chamber pots out of windows. Not that this always stopped people doing it, of course.

6. In 1369, King Edward III demanded that butchers be banned from slaughtering animals within the City of London because of the stench from blood and offal. Rotting meat was commonly dumped in the Thames.

7. In 1345, a law was passed stating that anyone dumping refuse in the street would be fined two shillings - at the time, a considerable sum.

8. Pigs owned by the Hospitallers of St Antony, a charitable order, were allowed to roam the streets of medieval London freely.

9. Between 1348 and 1665, there were 16 outbreaks of the plague in London. During the Black Death of 1348-49, a third of London's inhabitants died or fled.

10. Other causes of terrible smells in medieval London were the tanneries, where leather would be boiled. People rarely washed or changed their clothes.

Filthy Cities - Medieval London -©BBC


  1. This are one of the thing that I don't like about in medieval times. Coz if you're a commoner, you stay that way. And if you're then you're powerful.


  2. iam lost like is this for some joke? yeah it sounds arful but this needs to be shown education shown cuz it's no good keeping this hidden ..and i really wouldn't mind swaping my life for an ansester in those times.. cuz iam bored of 2012 take me back to 14 centuray anytime :P

    1. In order to understand slavery, you need to revisit the habitation of the enslavers. The British settled what has become the United States, these people transfered their same filthy habits to the shores of North America.

      Historians often write of the filthy horrors of slave ships, slave dungeons, etc. when in fact, the enslavers didn't live that cleanly themselves. If you click on the posts that surround this post, you will see that not only the filth of London, but Paris and New York are also highlighted.

      Cities like New York often experienced outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, typhus and various other diseases associated with contaminated drinking water. It was just a nasty place to live.

      It actually puts slavery in perspective. White European sailors worked on slave ships that could be smelled 5 miles from shore. In Africa, the Europeans erected churches on top of slave dungeons. In the 21st Century where do you go to even imagine that level of human fecal, urine, dead corpses, animal waste, dead animal corpses, rotting flesh, no sanitation, no running water, no sewage system, nothing but piles and piles of poop and raw sewage running in the streets. It's hard to even imagine Third World Countries with that level of unsanitary living--YUCK!

      Sometimes you just need to show the conditions of the whole world of slavery. It's a complex history.

      --Ron Edwards, US Slave Blog

  3. OHHH one more thing thats not 'negative' the plage was not fully destoryed by the FIRE ohh noo ...some kind bigger rats from norway helped london a lot by eating the rats that came from china to plage london yes CHINA! ..thank fully even the most looked down rodents are the ones to thank for thanks to the buggers who disrespect them! ...this is why i love rats.. cuz their cute..



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