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Tudor Towns

Most Tudor towns were small and only had a few hundred houses.

They often stood on river banks and had a wall around them to keep out attackers.

Exeter, 1563

Streets were crowded and filthy. There were no proper drains or sewers and people threw rubbish into the street. The dirt attracted rats and mice which spread disease. The streets in a town smelled terrible and rich people often carried a little bag of herbs called a pomander.

A lot of trade took place in towns. Goods and supplies were carried around in horse-drawn wagons along muddy roads.

Town houses were often tall and narrow to fit as many as possible in. This made the streets gloomy because they blocked light and made it easy for criminals to rob and steal.

Many town houses would have a shop or showroom in the downstairs front room facing the street. Some had workshops at the back. Few people could read, so traders had to use signs to show what sort of work they did.


Some towns had districts known as the Shambles, named after the benches butchers used for chopping up and selling meat on the street. A town might also have had a Pudding Lane, a Fish Street, a Shoemaker's Street and other streets where particular trades were carried out.

Some towns specialised in particular goods. For example, Swansea sent coal by sea to London and Great Yarmouth sent cod to markets across England.

Ambitious young people moved to towns to find work or enrol as apprentices. They hoped to improve their chances of a secure, comfortable life by training for a well-paid career.