Tudor Travel to Work

Having read that Tudor homes have better energy efficiency than many recent buildings had fewer carbon emissions (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6129912.stm) I decided to give some consideration to another issue: travel to work times.

Late medieval York had a relatively stable population. Precise estimates are difficult to come by. However, a figure of 10000 or more is a generally accepted figure.

Most people who had a job in York, both lived and worked in the City. The industrial unit was small, commonly a master, wife, and one apprentice. Where family and apprentices were not enough they were supplemented by journeymen (a time-served apprentice paid on a day rate) or servants.

Of these individuals working at a trade (and in late medieval York there were as many as 80 different crafts), the master, wife apprentice and servant would share the same premises. And the work would usually take place on the same premises. Only the journeyman could expect to have to travel to work for a trade that was based within the master’s house.

However, there was considerable “immigration” with people traveling to the City to become an apprentice or find work as a journeyman.

Provisioning arrangements centered on the authorized markets—corn markets, stock markets, the fish markets on Ouse and Foss bridges, or Thursday Market for poultry, game, meat, salt, rushes, spices, cups, dishes, bowls, salt herrings, butter, cheese, and eggs. Both City traders and “foreign” (ie those from outside York) could sell at these markets. Country butchers had probably always handled the greater part of the city’s meat supply. The city brewers were threatened with “foreign” competition if they did not amend their ale and abate their prices. Official policy was neatly put in 1503 when it was ruled that Lincolnshire and Norfolk men ‘that are victuallers, bring in good and wholesome victual and to be welcome’.

This paints an interesting picture of locally based traders and craft guilds competing with traders who travel some considerable distance to sell provisions in the City.

Trading links and activity went much wider but for a much smaller number of people. York ships carried corn to Hull for transmission to the Low Countries; York men were buying corn and other victuals in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Nottinghamshire. York merchants, for their part, imported cloth, wax, canvas, and oats from the Low Countries, and exported grain to Gascony and grain and wool to the Low Countries.

So in late medieval York there is a pyramid distribution of travel to work. At the bottom of the pyramid are craftsmen, journeymen, apprentices and traders who live and work either on their own premises or have a short walk to their place of work. Further up the pyramid are a much smaller group of people who travel to York to sell goods or raw materials. And at the top are a very small number of people who travel considerable distances to buy and sell processed or raw materials.

Of the population of 10000, probably 90% fall into the first category, making York in the medieval period a place with very low travel to work times.

Today, travel to work times in Yorkshire (outside the metropolitan areas) are as follows:

<20 minutes <40 minutes <60 minutes <90 minutes MEAN TIME (minutes)
55% 89% 96% 99% 20

(source: www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=7800)

Of these journeys, the majority are made by car and public transport. And there are 1.5 million people living within a 45-minute drive of the city centre.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and communication industries were 48.4 per cent higher in 2003 than in 1990 (source: www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=901).

If York today had the same travel to work times and patterns as in late medieval England, then there would significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, congestion, and general air quality.

So clearly we all need to work at home in Tudor buildings!