Our Learning & Interpretation Manager, Rachel, has written a short blog about the games children played in the time of King Richard III:

We tend to think of the medieval period as one of darkness, filled with war and disease, but how did children live through this seemingly dismal period?

Although King Richard III’s childhood may not have been the most idyllic, play was still a big part of children’s lives during the 15th century.

Games such as playing with dolls, chess, card games, dice, balancing on stilts, leapfrog, rolling a hoop, all of these were seen in the streets of medieval England, and many are still played today.

Some games, however, can be seem a bit obscure, particularly to a modern-day observer. For example, shouting into a barrel, riding on top of a barrel or pulling each other’s hair! Other games were just downright dangerous; mock jousting, playing with knives, creating bonfires and grappling (an early form of wrestling).

These activities are key in understanding how the boys of medieval England, such as King Richard III, became such great warriors, going into battle from the early ages of 18 to 19.

Many games found within the medieval period are early forms of the games that we play today. The game ‘Knucklebones’, originally played using real bones (!), is an earlier form of ‘Jacks’. Games such as leap-frog, hide-and-seek, handstands etc. were all played during the medieval period and some even date back further than this.

Although technology has developed since the medieval period, playground games of then and now are not as different as you might expect, maybe just with less bones and barrels involved..!