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Bricks and Construction Materials during the Reign of Edward III (1327 - 1377)

The reign of Edward III, which spanned 50 years in the 14th century, was a time of significant growth and change for England. This article offers an insight into the use of bricks, building materials, and construction techniques during his rule.

Population and Living Conditions

The population of England during the reign of Edward III is estimated to have been around 3 to 4 million. The Black Death, however, significantly reduced this number in the mid-14th century. The majority of the population lived in rural villages, with agriculture forming the backbone of the economy. Life was hard, with long hours of labor and the ever-present threat of famine and disease.

Common Dwelling Types and Construction Materials

During the reign of Edward III, the majority of the population lived in rural settlements in simple houses constructed using the wattle and daub method. The process involved creating a frame from interwoven wooden strips, which was then filled with a daub made of clay, dung, and straw. The roof was thatched with straw or reeds. The structure typically had a central open hearth for warmth and cooking, with a hole in the roof to allow smoke to escape.

The layout of these houses was quite basic. Most had a single room that served as a living area, kitchen, and bedroom. A house would typically accommodate an entire family, which often included multiple generations. Thus, it was not uncommon for six to ten people to reside within a single dwelling.

The daily life of these villagers largely revolved around farming and household chores. Men would toil in the fields, while women would handle household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and looking after children. In the evenings, the family would gather around the hearth for meals and rest.

For the nobility and wealthier citizens, the homes were larger and constructed of more durable materials, such as stone and, increasingly, bricks. These houses often had multiple rooms, including separate sleeping quarters, kitchens, and living areas. The occupants would include the nuclear family, their servants, and sometimes even guests. Daily activities in these households would typically revolve around managing estates, participating in courtly life, or engaging in trade.

Notable Buildings from the Era

One of the most notable buildings from Edward III's reign is the Tower of London's Jewel House. The Jewel House was the first secular building in England to be constructed with bricks since the Roman times, marking a pivotal moment in English architecture.

Notable Engineering Achievements and Engineers

While there were no renowned engineers named during Edward III's reign, the period is significant for the introduction of brick in secular architecture, notably in the construction of the Jewel House. This began a gradual shift towards more durable construction materials.

Castles Built during the Era

Edward III invested heavily in castle construction as a means to demonstrate royal power and authority. One of his significant contributions is Windsor Castle, where he built the grand Edward III Tower. While largely made of stone, the tower reflects the period's move towards more durable construction materials.

Societal Impact from a Housing Perspective

The shift towards more durable construction materials such as bricks represented a desire for permanence and a way to showcase power and wealth. For the common people, their homes were still primarily made of perishable materials, but these buildings offer us insights into societal hierarchies and values of the time.