Filth was a fact of life for all classes in the Middle Ages. Towns and cities were filthy, the streets open sewers; there was no running water and knowledge of hygiene was non-existent. Dung, garbage and animal carcasses were thrown into rivers and ditches, poisoning the water and the neighbouring areas. Fleas, rats and mice flourished in these conditions. Indeed this was the perfect environment for the spread of infectious disease and plague: the Black Death was to kill over half of England’s population between 1348 and 1350.
Common diseases in the Middle Ages included dysentery (‘the flux’), tuberculosis, arthritis and ‘sweating sickness’ (probably influenza).