MEDIEVAL TOWNS IN HEREFORDSHIRE
Some people say that to have a town you need a market, a charter (a legal document granting rights or privileges) and a jury of 12. Others will say that you need burghers and a mayor instead of a reeve (a reeve looked after the affairs in the medieval village), and defences, such as a town wall.
The Romans had had towns in England, but the early Saxons did not build towns, they had trading or manufacturing centres.
It was Alfred the Great in the 10th century who started towns (burhs), to defend settlements from Viking raids. During the time of the Domesday Survey Hereford was the only town in the county.
Hand in hand with the growth of towns came the growth of a money economy. This is one of the reasons medieval lords encouraged the growth of towns on their land. Traders could be charged rent and tolls. Barter was often still used in villages, but with more trade taking place, people started using coins. Hereford, for example, had a mint. In fact according to the Domesday Book, seven men were allowed to coin money, including one for the Bishop: . . . .
And in Scandinavia you have the kaupang or seasonal market places frequented by the vikings as traders and described in the sagas.
Even Copenhagne could becalled the trader's harbour
Towns also gave some people new opportunities in a society that was very regulated and controlled.
The saying, 'TOWN AIR MAKES FREE', arose from the practice that if any unfree manorial tenant managed to stay in a town for a year and a day, he or she was set free. This freedom meant that the person could leave the town if they wished (in villages the villeins were tied to the manor), own or sell property and practise a trade
Many towns evolved on strategic sites, such as on a river crossing, near a border or around a monastery, cathedral or castle. Transport links to road or river routes were an important factor in the success of a town as was location. A thriving town would need to be easily accessible to settlements in the surrounding area.
Towns which grew out of successful settlements and villages are often called "organic towns". The historian Maurice Beresford (New Towns of the Middle Ages, 1967) divides medieval towns into two distinct categories, planned and organic towns. More recent scholarship, however, disputes this clear-cut division and asserts that all towns have an element of planning
which can be seen in regular burgage plots (the citizens owned their houses but paid an annual fee for the plots of land they were built on), or a laid-out market place.
Later came the stationsby when the commercial centre moved organically from the church to the railway station