England in 1066

by Gabija

What did England look like in 1066?


Very different from today - that's for sure. There were far fewer people living in England, and large parts of the country were covered by woods.

There were no castles and not many stone buildings. Some churches and monasterial buildings were fashioned from stone, but most of the houses - even grand ones - were made from timber.

There were some large-ish towns - London, York, Winchester, Southampton, Canterbury - but mainly people lived in villages or on farms. There was trade, but many villages were still self-sufficient, only relying on the traders for luxury items.

Families stuck together, especially if they farmed land.

All free-born men could be called on to go to war when their overlord needed them. They had to bring their own weapons - shield, axe, spear, sword and any armour they could afford. Anglo-Saxon warriors usually fought on foot in a shield wall. Horses were only used as transport to get to the battle.

Most people would not have been able to read or write. Noble children, and those whose family engaged in trade, were taught reading, writing, maths and latin. Some Anglo-Saxon nobles also learnt Norman French and travelled to the courts of Normandy.

England had a very efficient government. The country was divided into Hundreds, a little like today's counties. Leaders of each Hundred formed a council and met regularly to discuss problems and issue fines for transgressions. There was one currency across all of England, and the king's officers collected taxes and kept records.

Compared to some other parts of Europe, England was a very well established, well-run, rich and prosperous country. No wonder William the Conqueror braved the English channel and a war to get his hands on it.

More about Life in Anglo-Saxon England

The Anglo-Saxons held England from around the 5th century all the way to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and during this time, much changed. Farming methods improved, husbandry developed, new technologies were adopted. And from seven different kingdoms grew a single one: England.

Life in Anglo-Saxon England, a book of the Shire Living Histories series, brings Anglo-Saxon England to life for all of us. It's well written and beautifully illustrated and a very good read whether you're doing a school project or simply want to discover Anglo-Saxon England for yourself.

This book is also available from amazon.com

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by: Anonymous

It is a good website, Mrs.... or Mr...
I just wanted to know one thing: was life good or bad in England in 1066.

Comment from Sue:
Mrs.actually. Good or bad is a very difficult question to answer.

If you were the king, then you would have had food and people doing your bidding, but you'd have spent a lot of time travelling and sitting down and relaxing wasn't really in the job description. Or spending more than a handful of nights in the same bed.

If you were a serf, you might not ever leave your village - or even the house you were born in - but there were taxes to pay, and when the harvest went bad food might be scarce.

So, would you call that good or bad?

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