Life without light

Published: Monday, 13 May 2013

It is really difficult for us to imagine life without electricity, gas, petrol, phones, public transport, TVs and the like. We take these for granted.

Go camping! 

The easiest way of seeing what life was like in the middle ages may be to go into a field with an axe, a saw, a spade and not much else and try to build yourself some shelter, get warm, find something to eat and drink and make sure you don\'t wear any man-made fibres or take any power tools. You can\'t light your fire with any matches or lighters; you have to find another way. Of course you aren\'t going to be able to do that, whoever owns the field may get a bit upset! (That would happen in the middle ages too.) But you can go camping. Life in a tent isn\'t so different especially if you don\'t take a torch or anything to cook on.

But not on a camp site 

Not having any electricity or gas means not having any house or street lighting, so when there was no moon, towns would be very dark. The only heating would come from fires which required someone to fetch something for them to burn. If you were rich you could send someone. If not, you went yourself. Of course you can\'t just pop outside and get some wood. There isn\'t much nearby because for hundreds of years before you wanted to light a fire people had been burning anything they could find. You might have a long walk.

You also have a bit of a walk to get water. Not nice clean warm water, or water from a bottle but water from a stream or a well. The same goes when you want to use the loo. Very few houses had toilets; people used potties and in the morning would throw the contents out of the window except for the rich who might have a garderobe which was a hole in the floor from a top room jutting out over a drop so everything fell outside the house. Getting clean was another problem. Imagine no nice warm baths or showers. If you were very rich you could pay someone to heat up water for you and pour it into something large enough to sit in. If you were poor you would probably only bath in the local stream or lake.

And go in winter 

There wasn\'t any central heating so people got used to being cold if they stepped away from the fire. Most houses didn\'t have glass so any wind would blow through your house. Most windows were blocked with a panel of wood.
Luckily people were very religious so in cold weather they would often congregate in churches, or rich people\'s houses which, because some were made of stone and had glass in the windows, were presumably warmer than their own houses in mid-winter.