The Tudor period began when Henry VII became king in August 1485.
Henry VII became king after the battle of Bosworth. The period ended with the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603. More
It was a time of great change.
At the start of the Tudor period, England was still like a medieval country, but a new type of society was starting to appear, where power belonged to the monarch rather than to the local lords. The reign of Henry VIII saw a further centralising of power. More
The English Reformation saw a break from the Catholic Church.
The Tudor period was a time of great religious change. Henry VIII broke with the Pope in Rome, and became head of the English Church. The monasteries, which had played such an important part in Medieval society, were destroyed and their land and riches sold off to noblemen. More
People in Tudor times were very religious.
However they were also very superstitious. This included all ranks of society; even Queen Elizabeth consulted an astrologer. People were forced to change their religion based on the religion of the reigning monarch; those who refused could face being put to death as heretics. More
During the Tudor period, England became a richer place.
Tudor England was still a farming society but towns and cities like London, Bristol and Norwich were growing. More
Towns were overcrowded, causing danger from fire and disease.
The town streets were narrow and crowded; this made it easy for criminals to rob and steal from shops, traders and people. The townhouses were built close together on both sides of the street, which blocked out light and made the streets gloomy. More
In some places in the countryside, larger farms were replacing strip farming.
A small number of local landowners were starting to gather land into larger farms because the markets were growing and needed more food. More
It was a time of exploration and discovery.
Europeans crossed the oceans in search of spices and new lands. This completely changed what people knew about the Earth. More
The new trade routes made spices, silks, gold, ivory and other exotic goods easier to buy.
They were shipped from East Africa, India and the Far East. As new lands were discovered, settlers soon followed, leading to the spread of European languages and religion. More
European empires started to develop and the Slave Trade began.
The 16th century saw the start of worldwide empires. It also saw the beginnings of the Slave Trade. At first the Portuguese and Spanish were involved, then, towards the end of the period, came the first British traders. More
Tudor society was divided into four groups of people.
These four groups were gentlemen, freemen of the towns and cities, yeomen of the countryside and the poor. However, with hard work, it was sometimes possible to better yourself and move up into another class. More
Travel was expensive and difficult.
Although sailors were travelling the world, for most people travel was difficult and dangerous. The poor had to travel by foot, the rich on horseback. The roads were muddy tracks and, after heavy rain, many roads, even important ones, became almost impassable. More
Most people never went further than their own village or, at most, the local town.
Men and women usually lived and died in the same village; they were often tied to the land in order to make enough to live. More
As the country grew richer, wealthy people built beautiful houses.
One example of a rich Tudor house is Hampton Court. Those on middle incomes lived in sturdy, half timbered houses. The poor continued to live in simple cottages with one or two rooms. More
Wealthy homes became more comfortable.
Furniture was usually made of oak and was huge, heavy and expected to last for generations. Rich Tudors were fond of gardens. More
In poor homes, living conditions could be very harsh and uncomfortable.
Smoke escaped through a hole in the thatched roof. Floors were of hard earth and furniture was very basic: benches, stools, a table and wooden chests. They slept on mattresses stuffed with straw or thistledown. More
Whilst the upper class and the middle classes became richer, the wage labourers became poorer.
In the 16th century, the population grew and prices rose steeply. Wages rose too but less than prices, so the amount of food and goods the poor could buy fell. More
Thousands of people were looking for work and jobs were hard to find.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth there was high unemployment. The enclosure of land had begun and fewer agricultural labourers were required to work the land. When the harvest failed, it was tempting for poor people to steal food or beg. More
The Elizabethan period saw the introduction of the Poor Laws.
1572 saw the first compulsory local Poor Law tax and 1601 saw the passing of the 'Elizabethan Poor Law’. The poor unable to work were to be cared for in almshouses or a poorhouse. The able-bodied poor were to be sent to work in a House of Industry, the idle poor and vagrants were to be sent to a House of Correction. More
Laws and punishments were harsh.
People believed that if a criminal’s punishment was severe, it would deter others. For minor crimes, there were the pillory, the stocks, the ducking stool and the whipping post. A public execution was an event not to be missed and people would queue to get the best places. More
All kinds of sports were popular, as well as watching plays.
The rich had a wide choice of sporting activities. For the poor, entertainment was often saved for Sundays, the one day of the week when most people did not work, and for religious festivals when they enjoyed feasting, dancing and drinking. More
Music played an important part in the lives of the Tudors.
Both rich and poor loved to sing and dance and listen to minstrels who, in the case of the rich, entertained them in their own homes, or, in the case of the poor, visited the towns and village fairs. More
For rich Tudors, fashion was important.
For the poor, clothes had to be hardwearing and practical. All classes wore wool but the quality varied. Linen was used for undergarments. Only the rich wore cotton or silk. Rich Tudors embroidered their clothes with silk, gold or silver thread. More
Although the rich were well educated, most people were not.
During the early Tudor period, there were chantry schools run by the Catholic Church for boys wishing to become priests and the fee-paying rich. After the monasteries were closed, King's schools and Grammar schools opened. Girls did not go to school. If they were educated, it was at home. More
Some important advances were taking place.
The Renaissance saw a blossoming in the arts and sciences. The new printing presses were producing many books about new subjects. The spinning wheel caught on in England in the 1550s, allowing women to spin much faster and have more time to do other jobs. More
Children from rich families usually had their marriages arranged for them.
Children from poorer families had more choice about who to marry. Girls usually married young. Many girls were married when they were only 15 or 16. Boys often married between the ages of 18 and 21. More
During the Tudor period, weights and measures became more accurate.
In 1497, Henry VIII revised the system of weights and measures; then, in 1574, Elizabeth set up a committee to find out how to improve the accuracy of weights and measures and distances. More
On the death of Queen Elizabeth on 24th March 1603, a new era began.
The throne passed to King James VI of Scotland as Queen Elizabeth I never married and left no heirs. More