Is it typical or at least sometimes happening to have a town that started as a group of huts? And have gradually and organically grown into a village and later into a town?

To be more specific, it would happen in an ancient or medieval Europe, in world working exactly like real one.

I know that most of villages never grown into a town, but assuming that we are observing a lucky one[1] - is it reasonable to depict an organic and gradual growth?

Or is it unreasonable and realistic depiction would have setup of a new village as an organized action of settlers, then it would be steady and unchanging until sudden jump in development that would grow it into town?

I know that growth would be interrupted by wars/famines/fires etc, so it would not be a steady progress.

[1] reasons for its growth may include location on a trade link, religious/cultural/ideological/symbolic importance, location of important resources, good water source...

  • $\begingroup$ Are you more interested in a "depiction" of the growth, or the actual growth? I fear @AlexP's frame-challenge answer missed this distinction. $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ Irl both versions exist. From growth over millennia out of Roman settlements to constructed on the desk of landscape architects in early modern times. And anything in between, given up and repopulated, hiatus or stability, whatever fits your story. $\endgroup$
    – user78828
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer I am not sure about difference. In this case it is supposed to be a simulation/game showing history of a settlement on timescale on centuries, and I wanted to review whatever planned mechanics at least sort-of relate to the reality. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2020 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ So is this some montage during a level transition, or do you want users to stop anywhere in the middle to see a particular point in time? $\endgroup$
    – Spencer
    Dec 5, 2020 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer It could be described as generator of a video. It would progress gradually with all changes in location over years shown (new buildings, fields, destruction of buildings/trees/fields. "selfbuilding Simcity screensaver" would be one potential description. And yes, it is likely that I am sole person who is interested in something like that - in large part it is a pretext to learn about history and 3D rendering. I have vague plans to add possibility for making some decisions, but I treat it as 100% optional for now. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2020 at 19:55

1 Answer 1


Typical? Villages and towns or cities serve fundamentally different functions, and most of the time it makes little sense to convert a perfectly functional village into a town. Towns and cities are geared towards commerce; many of them began as market places, or places where merchants met to exchange goods.

Sometimes happening? Yes, of course. In many cases, one of a group of villages became the usual point where commercial exchanges took place, and over time the urban functions became more important that the agricultural functions; in some realms, for example in England, such a village may seek and obtain a royal charter declaring it a market town.

Some towns or cities were explicitly founded by organized settlement, at all times since the Antiquity, through the Middle Ages and up to very modern times; others grew from pre-existing villages; others grow out of support structures / camp followers for a military stronghold, or a temple, or an abbey. (Fun factoid: the -caster, -cester or -chester in Colchester, Gloucester, Lancaster, Manchester, Winchester is the Latin castrum, military fort.)

Not sure about the "huts" part; that depends very much of what counts as a hut and what counts as a house.

Examples of cities which grew out of pre-historic agricultural settlements include Rome and Athens, both of which show continuous inhabitation for thousands and thousands of years, On the other hand, Paris and London seem to have been set up for trade from the very beginning, starting most likely as meeting places for Celtic traders in pre-Roman times, conveniently located at cross-roads and fords.

In conclusion, all avenues are open. You can have a town set up by explicit settlement, possibly by royal charter; you can have a town growing organically around an abbey or a ford; you can have a town growing out of a place used for trade; you can have a town growing out of a village. Your pick.

  • $\begingroup$ "Towns and cities are geared towards commerce; many of them began as market places" - yes, but this marketplace was initially in a village - not on empty field or in the middle of forest, right? $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2020 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted for now, I will wait a bit with accepting to give chance to others. $\endgroup$ Dec 5, 2020 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ @reducingactivity: "This marketplace was initially in a village": sometimes yes and quite often no. Often, this market place was a traditional place at a cross-roads, or at a ford, or around a stronghold. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 5, 2020 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ @reducingactivity: Those Polish permanent dwellings with four walls, a roof, windows and doors are definitely "houses". At least in Romania they would could as houses. As I told Willeke, in Romanian usage a "hut" would be a temporary dwelling made of tree branches and such; if it has walls and a door, it's a "house". $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 5, 2020 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP, I deleted my comments and will delete this one later as well. Maybe you want to delete the answers to mine. $\endgroup$
    – Willeke
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:18

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