When was my house built?
Throughout history architectural styles have been constantly reacting to fashions. This is not only true for public buildings but also in domestic architecture. The constant evolution in domestic architecture makes it difficult to define clear categories in the present. However, we have broken architectural history into sections from 1500 to the present day.
Why do we begin in 1500?
Prior to 1500, the buildings which received financial support were ecclesiastical buildings. It was not until after the reformation, when Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon, simultaneously divorcing the church in 1534, and destroying the monasteries, that public effort was directed towards secular buildings.
Pre-tudor residential buildings that still exist today are rare. Homes of the common people were often built of wood, meaning they have now either rotted, burnt, or been replaced by more sturdy structures.
Monarch: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I
Main historical events: Henry VIII is the most famous Tudor monarch because of his six wives, the controversy of those marriages and their endings, and as the founder of the Church of England. One of the effects of this move, was the reformation and consequent closure of monasteries around the country. Prior to the reformation, most money had been pumped into church buildings, but now the focus lay more on secular structures and Henry VIII began an immense building programme.
Description/ Features: In most cases, timber was used as a frame work. Brick (in herringbone pattern) or plaster, or wattle and daub were then used to infill the framework. In some cases, brick was used on the ground floor, with the first floor using the black and white style of timber and plaster. Often the first floor would also have an overhang. In Tudor times, tax was based on the area of the ground floor of your home- less ground floor area meant lower tax, but the overhang meant not losing out on floor space upstairs. Glass, like brick, was used as little as possible, as it was expensive. During the Tudor period, the focus in domestic architecture (of the middle classes) lay on the decorative rather than grand scale.
Homes of normal people (middle classes) were not large, but were decorated very ornately. The most unmistakable mark of the Elizabethan style, was strap working. One of the key design changes from the houses built before this, was the incredibly ornate chimney stack. People had begun using coal instead of wood for their fires and a hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape would no longer suffice.
Brick was expensive and only available to the richer communities, and so like glass, was used as a status symbol by the upper class aristocracy. Timber/wattle and daub homes can be seen in Shrewsbury and Chester.
Influences: The architecture was largely dependent on the materials available, and the affordability of the project.
Materials: Bricks used by richer upper classes, timber frames (coated in black tar to prevent them rotting) and plaster infill, or wattle and daub. Wattle is the wood that was woven together to form the wall. Daub was made of dung, clay and sand and smeared over the wattle as plaster. It was then often painted white using limewash. Roofs were either thatched, or covered in tiles or slate.
Famous Buildings: Hampton Court was begun by Wolsey, the Archbishop of York in 1514, as a gift to Henry VIII. However, the original building was heavily altered by Henry VIII and later monarchs, and is not typical of the average person’ home. Country house building also flourished under Elizabeth at the end of the period. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon is more typical of the average person, and provides an example of the black and white style of building.
Famous Architects: The historical records we have for properties from the sixteenth century place more emphasis on the patron than the architect.
Jacobean 1603- 1630: (early Stuarts)
Dates: The first half of the seventeenth century (c. 1603- 1630: the early Stuarts)
Monarch: James I
Main historical events: James I was concerned about the overcrowding in London, and was the first English monarch to set out basic building standards in an attempt to improve the living conditions of the poor. He specified minimum wall thickness for outer walls, minimum room height, and window size.
Description/ Features:Henry VIII had seriously overspent so there was not much public building in the latter half of the Tudor dynasty, but under Elizabeth I, at the end of the sixteenth century, building began to begin again.
Under James I the homes of the non-aristocracy evolved from Tudor style. Again, the black and white half-timbered style as used, but with the timbers more widely spaced. Brick became more common, and often homes would have a brick ground floor, and a black and white half timbered first floor. Fireplaces, chimneys and staircases also became more common than before. Like houses built in the Tudor period, the focus was on detail and ornamentation rather than size and grandeur.
For the aristocracy, Jacobean architecture was an early phase of the English renaissance, acting as a transitional style from the late Tudor Elizabethan style to the pure Renaissance style of Inigo Jones. Facades were symmetrical and classical ornamentation was often used though this did not come directly from Italy but from Flemish and German carvers.
Influences: Predominantly a continuation of the Tudor style.
Materials: Timber, wattle and daub, plaster, and brick, like the Tudor period. A general rule is that the more brick or stone that was used, the more wealthy the patron.
Famous Buildings: Holland House, Hatfield House, Temple Newsam House
Famous Architects: John Thorpe, Inigo Jones
Monarch: Charles I, Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne
Main Historical Events: The civil war (1642), the plague, the Great Fire of London
Description/Features: The homes of the middle classes, during the seventeenth century until the end of the reign of the House of Stuart, were again a progression of the Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean half-timbered style. However, the use of stone in houses of the middle/lower classes became much more common.
Following the plague and the great fire of London, the city was redesigned with wider pavements, roads for stagecoaches, and public amenities such as streetlamps and drainage systems were introduced. In a revised attempt to levy a tax on people relative to their wealth, the 1696 window tax was introduced, as a way in which to charge tax relative to a person’s wealth (the assumption being that the richer the individual, the bigger the house, and therefore the greater the number of windows). This allows us to distinguish easily between the homes of the rich and the very rich. It encouraged many people to block up their windows. However, the very rich used it as a form of ostentation commissioning properties with as many windows as possible, to prove they could afford the tax. We also see the introduction of the sash window rather than the casement window- many casement windows were taken out and replaced with sash windows.
The country house building slowed towards the end of the seventeenth century and we see the first introduction of the terraced house.
In 1707 an Act was passed that specified the minimum thickness of walls and stated that walls must continue two feet above the roof to stop fire spreading.
For the aristocracy, the civil war which took place at the beginning of this period marked a period where the aristocracy were unable to build. Many of them spent this period abroad, avoiding the fighting or following their King into exile. This opened their eyes to French, Dutch and Italian architecture, so on their return in the 1660’s after Charles’ restoration, in attempt to re-establish themselves, much building took place in these European styles. This was the birth of the incredibly ornate style of British Baroque. The picture to the right shows Blenheim palace.
Influences: Louis XIV of France, and his palace at Versaille, shown to the right
Materials: Stone was used for the palaces of the aristocracy, with a lot of columns, carving and gilding.
Famous Buildings: Blenheim Palace, Castle Howard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Naval College at Greenwich
Famous Architects: Vanbrugh, Hawksmoor, Sir Christopher Wren
Georgian and Regency Eighteenth century; Georgian 1714- 1800; Regency 1800-1830
Monarch: George II, George III, George IV, William IV.
The ‘Regency’ style was named after George IV, as he was named Prince Regent.
Main historical events: Whigs came to power, Stuart family reign ended
Influences: During the eighteenth century the education of the young aristocratic male was often completed with what was known as ‘The Grand Tour’, as a coming of age. Upon their return to England, they would use this grand tour as a status symbol, leaving suggestions of their travels and understanding of classical principles. This manifested itself in the architecture of the period, as it too then adopted the classical laws.
Description/ Features: The population of cities was growing rapidly, and the terraced house allowed a high population density.
The most common design, was a terraced town house, with four storeys, and steps leading up to the front door. The front door often had a fanlight above. Windows on the ground floor also often had a semicircular top to the window. Walls were very thick to prevent fire spreading. Sash windows, became shorter towards the top of the building, to lower costs, and give the appearance of the building being taller than it is. Houses were often set out in straight lines, around a communal garden, or in circuses. The Georgian style of building allowed classical principles to govern the design- this was the case for both major buildings and minor ones.
Society also dictated that owners of these homes should have at least one pair of horses and a carriage. The stables, combined with accommodation for the coachman and groom are often now converted and known as Mews houses.
For the less prosperous cottager class, cottage design developed, often with the use of slate roofs becoming more common rather than thatch. Also by this point timber was scarce, so brick became the main building material.
As a progression from Georgian design, Regency homes included similarly grand rows of terraced houses.
Similarly, they alluded to the classical style and proportions, rather than ornate decoration. The windows were often tall and thin, and they had balconies of very delicate metalwork. The windows and doors (especially ground floor) often had semicircular heads.
Found in Brighton, London, and Cheltenham.
Materials: brick, slate roofs, stone parapets.
Famous Buildings: Portland Place, London; Apsley House, Bedford Square, London.
Famous Architects: Inigo Jones, Surveyor-general to James I had already begun the move towards classical principles during the Baroque period. In this period, famous architects include Robert Adam, and John Nash, designer of Regents Park and Regent Street in London.
Victorian 1830- 1900
Monarch: Queen Victoria
Main historical events: Victorian is a historical time period, rather than an architectural style. It is at this point that architectural styles become difficult to define. Often, new styles were rehashes of old styles, and often, more than one style was used in a building at the same time, making it difficult to define. However, certain events took place which allows us to understand the movements in architectural style of the Victorian age.
Influences: It was the industrial revolution (begun at the end of the previous century but really got going in the 1830’s/40’s). Stylistically architects rejected industrialism. Functionally, it made the production of iron and glass, key building materials, much cheaper and faster. The growing railway network also made it easier to transport these goods.
The industrial revolution was not limited to an advance in technology, but it was also characterised by socioeconomic change- people wanted a better quality of life- this included better living and working conditions, i.e. better sanitation, and less cramped conditions.
Styles of domestic architecture based on class: It was during this period, that, with the growth of transport links, the suburbs became fashionable places to live.The home of an upper middle class person could be found here and would be built of red brick and wood, and were a standard design with room for personal alteration is desired. These houses were often inspired by the Gothic revival, with steep sloping roofs, a tower, a bay window, a balcony. These houses were often decorative, with iron railings and stained glass windows.
The middle class also had houses like the one shown in the picture to the left. This type of house was a cross between a regency townhouse of the higher classes of the previous generation, with the sash windows and steps up to the front door, and the Victorian terraces in their scale.
For the Working Class, terraced housing became prevalent, and allowed for high density housing. Typically, a house like this was a two up- two down, with a front entrance, and a backyard. Often there would be an outside toilet though it was considered a luxury to have this indoors.
The Garden Village
At the end of the Victorian era, and the beginning of the Edwardian period, great efforts were made to improve living conditions around cities.
Bourneville is an example of a village built by an industrial employer for his workers. However, the Bourneville houses were not exclusive to the Cadbury staff. The first houses were built in 1895, but the model village style began in 1905, when 315 houses completed. This marked the beginning of housing estates with focus on community, and affordable living.
Further north Joseph Rowntree’s son began building his village designed for those on lower incomes after publishing a paper entitled “Poverty: a Study of Town Life” in 1901. Both Bourneville and New Earswick had large gardens, in the hope their residents would grow fruit and vegetables, and so that the homes would still get plenty of light.
“The objects of this Garden Village,” said Sir James Reckitt, speaking of the village he designed in Hull in July, 1908, “are to provide a House and a good Garden, in fact a better house if possible, and a garden attached for the same rent as is now paid for inferior houses with no garden at all.”
Tudorbethan/Mock Tudor Architecture
The mid to late nineteenth century saw the first appearance of Mock Tudor, or sometimes called ‘Tudorbethan’ home in England, as a reaction to the Victorian Gothic revival (the use of a lot of points inspired by medieval cathedrals). As mentioned earlier, the industrial revolution had a strong influence on residential development during the Victorian era, and this style saw a conscious rejection of the modernity of the age, and instead looked back to simpler times. It featured quaint picturesque half timbered cottages, built of brick and other modern materials, but with the appearance of timber beams over the functional structure. This style has continued until the present day.
The Italianate movement was pioneered by John Nash, 1805. Like the Tudorbethan movement it concentrated on the picturesque. Style was popularised by Charles Barry in the 1830’s, at the very beginning of the Victorian Era.
The photo to the right shows Queen Victoria’s Italianate home , Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. It was designed by Thomas Cubitt, and commissioned in 1845.
Twentieth century – 1901 to present day
Monarch: Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, Elizabeth II.
Main historical events: WWI
Description/ Features:Domestic architecture in the twentieth century laid more emphasis on function than form.
Aristocratic homes at the turn of the century: As in the Victorian Era, architects were still looking to the past for inspiration for houses of the rich aristocracy and public buildings. It was at this time that the Neo-Baroque style reached it’s height. Heavily rusticated basements, incredibly steep, curved (mansard) roofs; a profusion of dormer windows (those protruding from a sloping roof), and the occasional use of Ionic columns and domes.
Building Legislation: For the normal working class citizen, housing continued as it had done in the Victorian period in the grid-patterned terraced housing, until the beginning of World War I. The post-WWI recession meant that immediately after the war very little new housing was built. Following the Tudor Walters Report of 1918 recommending that every house should contain a living room, parlour and scullery and at least three bedrooms; a bathroom and larder were both regarded as essential. The houses were to be built in cul-de-sacs rather than long terraces, and the facades of garden city houses were to be emulated.
Two further important acts were passed in residential development in the early twentieth century. In 1908 an act was passed forbidding the building of back-to-back houses, like those responsible for the slums in inner cities. In 1919 the Housing Act was passed, and the government began providing funds for housing (1919-1923).
Local Authority Housing: ‘Local Authority Housing’, also known as ‘Council Housing’ refers to public housing built and maintained by the local authority or housing association, to provide affordable housing for local people. The problem of poor housing conditions was recognised throughout the 19th century, but it was not until 1890 that the Housing of the Working Classes Act was passed encouraging local authorities to improve their housing stock. However, it was the first world war that provided the real incentive to improve living conditions, as the poor physical health of army recruits from the inner city became apparent. This, with the 1919 Housing Act, led to the campaign entitled, “Homes for Heroes”. The picture to the right shows a typical 1930s housing block, built in Hackney, North London.
Later council houses were built in estates, and usually took one of two forms: blocks of flats (De Beauvoir Estate) or ‘cottage estates’ (such as the Downham Estate). Originally these properties were for rent only, though they are now available for tenants to purchase, following the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme.
Bungalows: During the 1920s bungalows, though they had been in England for over a hundred years, bungalows grew in popularity as it became possible to purchase a kit form bungalow for £100.
From 1930 onwards there have been certain booms, beginning with a boom in the 1930s housing market, fed by peoples desire to own their own home. This period saw the creation of 25% of our current housing stock (excluding flats).
Semi-detached homes: Private builders and developers at the turn of the century continued the trend of redbrick houses with a bay window and a porch under a hipped roof, casement windows, and a garden. During the 1930’s this plan was developed and was consequently responsible for the boom in the semi-detached home.
Highrise Developments: Inner city housing in England often comprised of the strings of Victorian terraces. However, these often made for cramped living conditions and had become known as the slums. In the 1930 ‘Greenwood Act’ encouraged mass slum clearance with a view to building new homes for those living in the slums. However, communities, who had occupied the same street for generations were divided. Residents found themselves relocated on the opposite side of the city to their job.
After the Second World War approximately one third of homes had been destroyed or damaged, making the government responsible for replenishing the countries diminished housing stock. The solution was pre-fabricated high rise towerblocks, usually built in the inner cities were the population was increasing rapidly.
The replacement buildings needed to be erected quickly and cheaply, were not only poorly designed and badly built, with thin walls etc., but, worse, they were poorly maintained. Lifts broke, rubbish chutes were blocked up and the government were criticised for poor living conditions.
New Builds: The term ‘new build’ refers primarily to a property built as part of a wider development, in a largely uniform style. They provide affordable housing and have become popular over the past decade.
Regeneration: In many areas, regeneration then became the key message, areas such as the Isle of Dogs, east London (famous for Canary Wharf) have been redeveloped, converting warehouses and other industrial buildings into homes.