Sunday, April 07, 2013


"Medieval people were small and weedy, right?"

Here's a list from the London and Middlesex Archaeology Societie's publication The Cemetery of St. Nicholas Shambles. The cemetery, now occupied by the British Telecom Centre in Newgate Street, London, was excavated between 1975 and 1979 and consisted of 234 skeletons dating from the 11th and 12th centuries and comprised the first large group of human burials to be reported from the City of London. The book discusses the remains in detail, but what particularly interests me is that it gives data from other cemetery excavations and lists the average heights of the males and females involved. It's something of an eye opener.

At st Nicholas Shambles itself, the average height of the men worked out at 5ft 8ins with a range from 5ft 2ins to 6ft 2ins. For the women the average was 5ft 2ins (my height) and a range of 4ft 11ins to 5ft 8ins.

The book posts samples from another 16 excavations.
Bideford on Avon. Saxon. Men 5' 7 1/2. Women 5'1 1/2 large sample
North Elmham Norfolk Saxon Men 5'7 3/4 Women 5'2 20 people
Porchester Castle Saxon Men 5'9 1/4 Women 5'5 15 people
St. Helen, Aldwark, York. 10th-16thC Men 5'6 1/2 Women 5'2 large sample
Durham Cathedral 12thC Men 5'7 1/2 No women. 20 people
Pontefract Priory 12th-14thC Men 5'7 1/2 No women 34 people
Wharram Percy Medieval Men 5'6 No women. Large sample
Greyfriar's Chester Medieval Men 5'6 1/2 Women 5'3 20 people
Austin Friars Leicester Medieval. Men 5'10 Women 5'2 13 people
Bordesely Abbey Medieval. Men 5'8 No women. 19 people
Rothwell Charnell House Medieval. Men 5'5 Women 5'2 Large sample
Dominican Priory Chelmsford Medieval. men 5.7 Women 5'1 1/2 25 people
Guildford Friary Surrey Medieval. Men 5'8 Women 5'3 56 people
St Mary's Priory Thetford. Men 12th-13thC 5'9 3/4 No women 5 people
South Acre Norforlk 12th-14thC Men 5'6 Women 5'1 1/2 5 people
St. Leonard's, Hythe, Kent 14th-15th c Men 5'8 Women 5;2 large sample.

Case rested. The average height of a British male in 2010 was slightly taller at 5ft 9ins but not by a long chalk. The average height of a British female was 5ft 3ins, so virtually no change.  At 5ft 2 myself, I'd fit into the medieval word perfectly! 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow I would have thought they were shorter. I bet they were generally fitter though.