Health and hygiene in a castle
How did people stay clean and healthy during the time of medieval castles?
In this article you can find out:
- What people's health was like during medieval times
- What toilets and bathrooms were like in castles
- What people's teeth were like in medieval times
- What the plague was and how people tried to cure it
This resource is suitable for Castles topics for P2, P3, P4, P5, P6 and P7 (First and Second Level Curriculum for Excellence).
What was health like in medieval times?
- Skeletons found in the ground from times can tell us a little bit about health in and around castle.
- In the 1200s and 1300s, most people would not expect to live to an old age and many died young. However, kings and queens usually lived a bit longer.
- Medieval doctors didn't have the same medicine as modern doctors have today.
- Plants, like aloe and garlic, were used to treat common illnesses.
What was hygiene like in a castle?
What about their teeth?
Archaeologists can look at skulls to find out what people's teeth were like during the time of castles.
It might be a surprise for you to learn that many people living in and around Medieval castles would have had clean teeth!
This is because they didn't eat much sugar – it was too expensive. The richer a person was the more sugar they could afford and the more their teeth decayed. Queen Elizabeth (1533–1603) was famous for her rotten teeth and she even brushed her teeth with honey.
And they didn't have sweeties and fizzy drinks like we do now. They ate lots of grains and vegetables which are very good for your teeth.
What was the Plague?
The plague (also known as the Black Death) was a that spread across Europe during the Middle ages.
- spread through fleas on rats
- first arrived in Scotland in 1349
- caused painful swellings, made it difficult to breathe and infected blood
- killed about half of all the people in Europe
Doctors tried many unusual things to cure the plague:
- rubbing onions, herbs and even chopped up snakes on the boils
- drinking vinegar
- sitting close to a fire or in a sewer to drive out the fever
Test your knowledge
Research the history of the toilet
Toilets in castles were usually just a hole in a wooden or stone bench. The waste would fall down a chute and into the or a . Yuck!
Can you find out when the flush toilet was invented?