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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » fantasy research: where to sleep in medieval cities

   
Author Topic: fantasy research: where to sleep in medieval cities
Wordcaster
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Sorry for the dull post - Dr Google and the books I have failed to enlighten me. If a medieval city hosted a very large festival, where would outsiders sleep? An inn wouldn't be built for an every-so-often event such as this. Perhaps a campground inside the city?

Any thoughts?


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izanobu
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Camping would most likely take place outside the city, depending on what type of city it was. Also, depending on the exact era, there weren't the kind of cities as we think of them now. If you have a typical walled fantasy city, then camping would generally happen outside the walls.

Hope that helps!


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goldhawk
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People would let out sleeping places in their own houses. A private room would be very expensive but a place on the floor cheap. It would also be very crowded; they would want to make as much money as possible. Merchants would sleep in their waggons or booths. The really poor would have to make due where they can, just like the homeless do in modern cities.
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Pyre Dynasty
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For some reason this makes me think of Sparta, where no non-citizen was allowed alive inside of Sparta after nightfall. Which made sporting events a little tricky, but they still did them.

Anyways, I'd go with camping outside the city as well.


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Wordcaster
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Yeah, I really need my characters to stay in the city. Outside of the walls, it seems like they would have to stay in a random village or in the open where they would be vulnerable to the unlawful.

I could see people opening up their stores and homes. Hey, people still do that today for superbowls and other unique events.

Thanks for the feedback.


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Osiris
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Don't forget stables! How often have we seen characters sleeping in the stables in medieval settings.
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goldhawk
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Sorry but only farmers would have barns or stables to let out for sleeping. In the city, there were very few animals which were not meant for eating. And even not many farmers had horses before the horse collar was introduced (circa 920 CE). However, there would be shops and warehouses and other buildings that could be rented.
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MartinV
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Perhaps the city authorities would empty a barracks if there was no threats nearby.
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izanobu
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if the main mode of transportation is cart or horse, there'd be stables in the city (how else do all those horses and carts and what have you get stored at night or when not in use?). They'd likely range from small personal stables attached to houses to larger hostleries.

I highly doubt that the barracks would be emptied... that many new people will create a situation that would need policing and the only police are usually the military presence. The wealthy would rent rooms and homes, the poorer people would camp or sleep in the streets. Probably It's all speculation anyway. Do what feels right for your story (and it also depends on city size, goverment, military, politics, what the festival is about, etc).


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Meredith
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A lot depends on your characters.

If any of them belong to a guild or a religious order, they might be able to claim shelter there. If they have a wagon, they'd probably sleep in it or under it.

Otherwise, there's probably some official camping area for the festival.


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Wordcaster
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I have a father and son. They are from a poor nearby village and the father is an inventor by hobby and is trying to make a better life for his son. He would want them to be safe, but could not afford a private room.

I was stuck, but now it seems there is some flexibility...


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AndrewR
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I recall seeing a program on the History Channel about Jesus, which talked about how Jerusalem was during Passover at that time.

People would bring tents and set them up everywhere. Homeowners in the city would rent out their roofs for people to sleep and for their passover ceremonies. So, as mentioned before, the city dwellers would rent out anything they could, including roofs and attics if they had them. Everyone else would set up camps wherever they could.

Just my 2 pence worth.


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coralm
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It's common to read about tent cities outside of the walls of cities in period stories. I'm not sure how accurate it is historically, but I know I've read it several times. I agree that most cities wouldn't let people just randomly camp on the streets, but in the case of a festival the king (or whomever) might allow people to camp in the square or gardens, if the festival was something he was particularly interested in or enjoyed.
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Pyre Dynasty
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This sounds like the kind of event that would attract the unlawful, and that sounds like a bit of conflict, and conflict smells like a story to me. Wanting to be safe and being able to pull it off are different things.

Good luck.


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rich
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Here's a little something from George Orwell regarding the sleep situation for poor people in London and Paris. The "twopenny hangover" probably being the more infamous of the methods.

http://www.george-orwell.org/Down_and_Out_in_Paris_and_London/36.html


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MAP
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That was awesome, Rich. Thanks for posting.
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MattLeo
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That's an interesting question. Monasteries commonly offered accommodations to travelers -- some still do in fact, for a price.

If we believe Walter Scott's Invanhoe, manor houses often hosted visitors, even those of lower classes, but those would most likely have been pilgrims. During a major festival I would imagine they wouldn't want to open their doors to anyone. I'd bet that just about everyone with a roof over their head would be selling space under it, much the way you see people turn their yards into parking lots for major fairs today.

There'd be all kinds of accommodations for all kinds of people. Nobles, high class people or very high class merchants might lodge at the castle with their retinue. Clergy, nobles and wealthy traders might lodge at a monastery if there is one (and possibly pay for the privilege if they weren't important enough). Guild members selling their wares probably lodge with other guild members or business associates. Other people would lodge first come, first serve in private homes letting out space inside the house or barn. Latecoming traders might be forced to camp, but they'd probably band together for protection. Finally there'd be plenty people who came too late and didn't have the money to buy a place to sleep. They'd flop wherever they could.

Even major medieval cities were pretty small by modern standards. What are now dense urban neighborhoods were the sites of bucolic country estates. That said, you wouldn't expect forest camping adjacent to the fairgrounds or city. Trees were fuel, so there'd be deforestation around and wood and charcoal are probably carted in from some miles away. There'd be plenty of fields growing hay for oxen and horses, particularly marshy areas that couldn't be farmed. Those would be damp, buggy, unpleasant places to camp.


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