Health and Hygiene
n Tudor times people did not understand exactly how diseases were spread and how to treat different illnesses so they tried cures that might seem strange to us today. The plague was a disease that killed thousands of Londoners in the 16th century. One of the ways people tried to prevent the plague was to burn sweet smelling herbs as many believed the plague was spread through bad smells. People bought medicines in jars like we do today but they also believed in the power of objects to heal the sick, such as gold coins given by the king as a cure for the skin disease scrofula.
Fuming pot, used to burn sweet-smelling herbs, thought to prevent the spread of plague
Find out about how the plague affected Tudor London
Find out how people tried to stop the plague using fuming pots
Drug jar, used to contain medicines, ointments or cosmetics
Find out about medicine jars, who made them and how they were used
Drug jar with lid, used to contain medicines, ointments or cosmetics
Gold coin probably given by the king to people suffering from the skin disease scrofula
Find out how the disease scrofula was treated in Tudor times
Find out about conditions for rich and poor prisoners at Newgate prison
Find out about ‘jail fever’ and the poor conditions for prisoners in Newgate prison
eeping clean was not as easy as it is today. Water for washing and drinking had to be got from wells or public water fountains in the street. Most people did not have water taps in their homes and certainly no showers. Water could be dirty so most people drank beer or wine to avoid getting ill.
Find out how a pump under London Bridge provided drinking water for Tudor Londoners
Find out how drinking water was supplied to London
Find out what it was like to live as a law student at Staple Inn
udor objects show that people cared about their appearance and personal hygiene - they cleaned their ears and nails with small tools and combed their hair with wooden or bone combs that still survive today.
Bone ear scoop, used for cleaning wax from ears
Find out how Tudor people cleaned their ears
Find out how Tudor people kept their hair looking nice
London was a crowded city and getting rid of waste was always a problem. Toilets were known as privies and were often a simple plank of wood with a hole in it over a deep pit called a cesspit. Henry VIII’s palace at Hampton Court had many toilets which emptied into the River Thames.