Area of a medieval town?

NewJeffCT

First Post
About how big would a medieval town of 1,000 be, in terms of square miles/acres/km?

This is the number of people living inside the town walls, not the people living in surrounding hamlets, farmsteads, etc.

I was trying to judge how long the town walls would be, assuming a square - 1,000 feet each, 1/3 of a mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile?

Thanks
 

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CharlesRyan

Adventurer
Not big, if you're talking about a pretty realistic medieval town. A market square (50 to 100 yards on a side, not necessarily square in shape) and a couple irregular blocks in each direction.

A couple points of reference from here in the UK: The two historical market towns nearest us both have populations of around 20,000, and neither is more than a mile across now. Obviously, they would have been much smaller when they had populations in the 1,000 range (which they probably did in medieval times).

And the walled towns I've visited, which would have had populations well over 1,000, are not more than half a mile on a side.

Worth noting: In larger, bustling walled towns, where space was a constraint, the buildings might be very dense. But in more common small market towns, the buildings probably have sizeable crofts and might only be dense right around the marketplace.

Hope that helps!
 

NewJeffCT

First Post
Not big, if you're talking about a pretty realistic medieval town. A market square (50 to 100 yards on a side, not necessarily square in shape) and a couple irregular blocks in each direction.

A couple points of reference from here in the UK: The two historical market towns nearest us both have populations of around 20,000, and neither is more than a mile across now. Obviously, they would have been much smaller when they had populations in the 1,000 range (which they probably did in medieval times).

And the walled towns I've visited, which would have had populations well over 1,000, are not more than half a mile on a side.

Worth noting: In larger, bustling walled towns, where space was a constraint, the buildings might be very dense. But in more common small market towns, the buildings probably have sizeable crofts and might only be dense right around the marketplace.

Hope that helps!

Thanks - that was helpful. So, I wouldn't be out of line to say the town is surrounded by a wooden palisade that is maybe 125 yards on each side?
 

CharlesRyan

Adventurer
That might be a little tight, if there's a market (and in real medieval towns, the market was the raison d'etre)--maybe 200 - 300 yards on a side would be more "realistic." But not too far out of line if the main function of the town is huddling behind the defenses of the palisade.
 

S'mon

Legend
A good rule of thumb for medieval cities is 1 square mile per 50,000; medieval City of London - 'the square mile' - being the model. But 1,000 is too small for full urbanisation; these kinds of market towns typically had lines of terraced houses along the roads, with open areas behind, and would not normally be seriously walled.

200 yards on a side if roughly square sounds reasonable, but it would be more common for them to be drawn out along trade roads, eg I lived in Swavesey in Cambridgeshire which fits this model (a village now, it was a medieval market town).
 

Wombat

First Post
While this is not for D&D per se, you can find some great ideas on points like this over at ...

Lýthia.com

Since Harn is more or less built around the notion of a low-magic, fairly straightforward medieval world, the core and fan-created material provides great insight into all sorts of small points this way. :) Just check out some of the maps to get an idea.
 

NewJeffCT

First Post
A good rule of thumb for medieval cities is 1 square mile per 50,000; medieval City of London - 'the square mile' - being the model. But 1,000 is too small for full urbanisation; these kinds of market towns typically had lines of terraced houses along the roads, with open areas behind, and would not normally be seriously walled.

200 yards on a side if roughly square sounds reasonable, but it would be more common for them to be drawn out along trade roads, eg I lived in Swavesey in Cambridgeshire which fits this model (a village now, it was a medieval market town).

Thanks - the town is on the eastern edge of a range of hills & small mountains and sits at the edge of a pass through the hills. So, it is on the trade route through the hills and onto a larger city on the other side.
 

Treebore

First Post
What? Where is the links to those awesome websites that tell you all kind sof things abut towns, their sizes, etc...?

Yeah, HARN material is an awesome resource, adn the stuff the people do for free at lythia is just jaw droppingly good.
 

Ashtagon

Adventurer
A typical unwalled market town would be Watford, Hertfordshire. It consisted essentially of a crossroads, and another half-dozen side-streets. The main core "business district" was a single road about half a mile long. There was a church to one side, and the market would be held in an adjacent field. The surrounding countryside was farmland.

Walled towns would actually be fairly unusual unless the town was also a centre of government.
 

Hejdun

First Post
This site:

Medieval Demographics Made Easy

Says that population density for towns and cities is about 61/acre. So 1,000 would correspond to about 16.5 acres. Of course a lot of people can't visualize how big an acre is, but it's slightly smaller than an American football field without the endzones. An acre is also a square with 208 feet to a side. Or perhaps it helps to envision 1/640th of a mile ;)

Basically, each person has their own 25 foot square. Which actually sounds unnaturally high, but I suppose the larger estates of the more affluent bring the average up quite a bit.
 

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