What Was Life Like in 16th Century London?

Life in London in the 16th century was surprisingly comfortable for many of its citizens. Life for women and the poor was more difficult, which has been true throughout history.

Because the 16th century witnessed the rise of a secure merchant class, the economy was relatively strong and improved the standard of living for London's inhabitants from the previous century. This was apparent in the Tudor architecture, for example, since for the first time in England's history people designed their buildings and houses with comfort more than defense in mind. The robust economy allowed for the development of a middle class, with luxuries comparable to those of the modern middle class.

Londoners ate relatively well in the 16th century, with much of their social life organized around meals. For the middle and upper classes, lunch and dinner tended to be elaborate affairs. Food was still cooked for the most part over open fires in fireplaces or pits, even for the wealthy. The generally high standard of living was also reflected in the emphasis on gardens in this period, some of them featuring lavish topiary and landscaping. For entertainment, the theater dominated, as the 16th century marked the advent of Shakespeare and Marlowe, two of London's greatest playwrights. Clothing styles in London in the 16th century were similar to those in Europe and featured complex designs with ornately ruffled collars and virago sleeves for men and women, elaborate long dresses for women, and breeches for men.