Living in the medieval ages, it’s fair to say that the role of the rich, powerful and godly was, unfortunately somewhat egotistical. Little thought or care was given when the peasants or serfs were involved. This is not only reflected in the literature of the time but even in the way the cities were constructed and planned, or more accurately unplanned. We have come a long way from thatched rooves and dirt floors.
Most medieval cities were created through impromptu building decisions made on the resources available. Cobbled streets twisted through narrow walkways creating a maze of backstreets filled with the poorest of the poor.
Anyone who has been to European medieval cities will understand the real threat of ending up trapped in the inexplicably tight alley with no room for a u-turn. The walls covered in strange lines that you eventually realise are the thin strips of rental car paint from now folded inside mirrors.
These tourist traps came about for many reasons – one being only certain areas of medieval cities were planned – predominantly the homes of the aristocrats, clergy or royalty. The other aspect of medieval cities that were not haphazardly thrown together were, of course, the defences – moats, walls, battlements and even the classic spike pit were all planned out. Another reason that many of these tightly packed streets exist is because cities were not planned for the people; they were created to meet the needs of the people in charge and nothing more. The third and most powerful reason is medieval peasants, building their homes, didn’t care that one day you and your steel dragon wouldn’t fit.
The ideals of city planning, among many other things began to change during the renaissance, becoming more comprehensively inclusive to not only the powerful but also the people.
Renaissance living and city building
Many of the great minds of the renaissance envisaged cities designed from scratch with purpose, sewage, water and ventilation. Leonardo Da Vinci – one of the great minds of the renaissance, designed cities with specific pathways for people, local marketplaces to reduce travel time and designated freight routes to ease congestion. Although many of these ideas were not implemented they were the first step towards contemporary town planning and residential standards.
The importance of these ideals was most duly noted on September 2nd, 1666 during the Great Fire of London. The medieval city was a sprawling network of inter-joining alleyways, tightly packed hovels and limited drainage and water sources. These elements strung together to create one of the biggest metropolitan disasters in the last 500 years. The fire started on Pudding Lane in a local bakery and from there got very out of hand.
An estimated 70,000 homes were engulfed in flames over the 3 days the fire raged. Firefighters could do nothing to stop the spread as wooden shacks built practically on top of each other created the biggest bonfire the city had ever seen. The fire was eventually brought under control through the use of black powder, with the Tower of London Guards demolishing entire blocks to create fire breaks. Not a strategy that many (or any) modern cities would use today.
Living in Australia today
Australian cities were built much later than those in European countries and benefitted from the hindsight of their structural disasters. Because of this knowledge, the importance of town planning had become clear to the Australian leaders and builders. As society grew, so did the demand for curated suburbs with many aspects being at the forefront of planners minds including – local amenities, shopping, education centres and entertainment venues.
These responsibilities to society have been adopted both within the government and private sector. For example, our sponsor, North Harbour doesn’t simply build homes but rather understand its ethical obligations to society to create high standards of community living. The creation of communities rather than just homes is what separates contemporary city planning from that of the medieval ages. Homes are built with access to amenities, schools, playing fields and entertainment hubs in order to provide people with the tools they need to live life to the fullest.
The role organisations like North Harbour play in creating an ideal living for not just one family, but an entire community are the building blocks of contemporary city development.
North Harbour is a new development in Burpengary East. North Harbour has a special history and contains the heritage listed “Moray Fields” homestead site, which was the first European settlement in the area and dates from 1861. These remains contain significant areas of cultural heritage, which are proposed to become a publicly accessible interpretive centre. The Abbey Museum is working in partnership with North Harbour to facilitate the creation of this centre.
In return, we are very pleased to welcome North Harbour as a major sponsor of The Abbey Medieval Festival.
To learn more about land for sale at North Harbour please visit www.northharbour.com.au.