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Creating a stink

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By Jenny Wortington — Reception teacher in Kent

Exploring living conditions in a Tudor town

You will need

‘Tudor town’ sheet; for the extension activity: small bags, oranges, spices and fragrant herbs.

What to do

Start the lesson by reminding children of the country peasant’s home and reinforcing the unhealthy aspects of the living conditions and lifestyle.

Working in groups, provide the children with copies of the ‘Tudor town’ sheet. What does the picture tell us about life in a Tudor town? Ask the groups to discuss the different features they can see.

Now bring the class together, discuss the image and scribe a list of key points. These should include: narrow streets and cramped buildings; no pavements; streets filled with rubbish and dirt that had been thrown on to the streets from windows; pigs, dogs and rats rooting through the muck. Workers called ‘scavengers’ were responsible for cleaning up the rubbish but often there was too much! The Tudors had no understanding of the link between disease and cleanliness. Only wealthy people could afford soap, and even Queen Elizabeth I herself only washed once a fortnight!

Ask the children to imagine they are visiting a Tudor town. What would it be like? Ask them to describe what they would see, hear and smell.

Apparently, Henry VII held a piece of orange under his nose to mask the unpleasant odour. Similarly, wealthy ladies would often carry pomanders filled with herbs and spices to combat the smell.


Children can make their own pomanders by filling bags with fragrant herbs such as lavender.

fragrant bag image