Tudor architecture

The Tudor architectural style is the final development of Medieval architecture in England, during the Tudor period (1485–1603) and even beyond, and also the tentative introduction of Renaissance architecture to England. It is generally not used to refer to the whole period of the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603), but to the style used in buildings of some prestige in the period roughly between 1500 and 1560. It followed the Late Gothic Perpendicular style and was superseded by Elizabethan architecture from about 1560 in domestic building of any pretensions to fashion. In the much more slow-moving styles of vernacular architecture “Tudor” has become a designation for styles like half-timbering that characterise the few buildings surviving from before 1485 and others from the Stuart period. In this form the Tudor style long retained its hold on English taste. Nevertheless, ‘Tudor style’ is an awkward style-designation, with its implied suggestions of continuity through the period of the Tudor dynasty and the misleading impression that there was a style break at the accession of Stuart James I in 1603.

The low Tudor arch was a defining feature. Some of the most remarkable oriel windows belong to this period. Mouldings are more spread out and the foliage becomes more naturalistic. During the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, many Italian artists arrived in England; their decorative features can be seen at Hampton Court Palace, Layer Marney Tower, Sutton Place, and elsewhere. However, in the following reign of Elizabeth I, the influence of Northern Mannerism, mainly derived from books, was greater. Courtiers and other wealthy Elizabethans competed to build prodigy houses that proclaimed their status.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries redistributed large amounts of land to the wealthy, resulting in a secular building boom, as well as a source of stone. The building of churches had already slowed somewhat before the English Reformation, after a great boom in the previous century, but was brought to a nearly complete stop by the Reformation. Civic and university buildings became steadily more numerous in the period, which saw general increasing prosperity. Brick was something of an exotic and expensive rarity at the beginning of the period, but during it became very widely used in many parts of England, even for modest buildings, gradually restricting traditional methods such as wood framed daub and wattle and half-timbering to the lower classes by the end of the period.

Scotland was a different country throughout the period, and is not covered here, but early Renaissance architecture in Scotland was influenced by close contacts between the French and Scottish courts, and there are a number of buildings from before 1560 that show a more thorough adoption of continental Renaissance styles than their English equivalents.

Typical features
Tudor style buildings have several features that separate them from Medieval and later 17th-century design.

Nobility, upper classes, and clerical
The Early Years
Prior to 1485, many wealthy and noble landowners lived in homes that were not necessarily comfortable but built to withstand sieges, though manor houses that were only lightly fortified, if at all, had been increasingly built. Castles and smaller manor houses often had moats, portcullises and crenelations designed for archers to stand guard and pick off approaching enemies.

However, with the arrival of gunpowder and cannons by the time of Henry VI, fortifications like castles became increasingly obsolete. The autumn of 1485 marked the ascension of Henry VII to the throne. Until Henry’s accession, England had been engaged in the Wars of the Roses that had left the royal coffers in deep trouble-Yorkists had raided the treasury just after the death of Edward IV. Therefore, in 1487, Henry Tudor passed laws against livery and maintenance, which checked the nobility’s ability to raise armies independent of the crown, and raised taxes on the nobility through a trusted advisor, John Morton. Henry Tudor was hellbent on repairing the damage done by decades of war, and that meant increasing financial security. During his rule he also made some savvy business investments in the alum trade and made vast improvements to the waterborne infrastructure of the country: the site of his dry dock in Portsmouth still is used today.

The combination of new laws, government reform, and a much modernized exchequer opened the door to wealthy homes being built for material comfort and aesthetics rather than as imposing stone citadels and for arts and humanities to take more precedence over battle axes. Though this period is better known for the luxuries and excesses of his son and granddaughter, it was actually under Henry VII that the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance began. In the early part of his reign, Henry Tudor favored a site at Sheen, someway down river from London and now known as Richmond Palace, as his primary residence. This had been one of the royal palaces since the reign of Edward II, with the most recent additions as at 1496 being by Henry V in 1414. The building was largely wooden with cloisters and several medieval features, such as a grand central banqueting hall, and the Privy Chambers facing the river very much resembling a 15th-century castle.

This burnt to the ground at Christmas 1497, with the royal family in residence, and Henry began a new palace in a version of Renaissance style. This, called Richmond Palace and now completely lost, has been described as the first prodigy house, a term for the ostentatious mansions of Elizabeth’s courtiers and others, and was influential on other great houses for decades to come.

Henry VIII and later
Henry VII was succeeded by his second son, Henry VIII, a man of a very different character of his father, who spent enormous amounts on building many palaces, most now vanished, as well as other expensive forms of display. In a courtyard of Hampton Court Palace he installed a fountain that for celebrations flowed with wine. He also built military installations all along the southern coast of England and the border with Scotland, then a separate nation.

Henry VIII’s most ambitious palace was Nonsuch Palace, south of London and now disappeared, an attempt to rival the spectacular French royal palaces of the age and, like them, using imported Italian artists, though the architecture is northern European in inspiration. Much of the Tudor palace survives at Hampton Court Palace, which Henry took over from his disgraced minister Cardinal Wolsey and expanded, and this is now the surviving Tudor royal palace that best shows the style.

As time wore on, quadrangular, ‘H’ or ‘E’ shaped floor plans became more common, with the H shape coming to fruition during the reign of Henry VII’s son and successor. It was also fashionable for these larger buildings to incorporate ‘devices’, or riddles, designed into the building, which served to demonstrate the owner’s wit and to delight visitors. Occasionally these were Catholic symbols, for example, subtle or not so subtle references to the trinity, seen in three-sided, triangular, or ‘Y’ shaped plans, designs or motifs. Earlier clerical buildings would have had a cross shape so as to honour Christ, such as in Old St Paul’s and the surviving York Cathedral, but as with all clerical buildings, this was a time of great upheaval catalyzed by Henry VIII’s Reformation.

A part of his policy was the suppression of the monasteries and several examples of the Middle Ages today lie in ruins because of the nobility raiding the properties for building materials, gold, and anything of monetary value. One of the most famous examples of this lies in East Anglia, near the village of Walsingham. Predating the Norman Conquest, this area of the present day United Kingdom was a major site of pilgrimage dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ. Over the centuries an Augustinian priory was erected upon the site that grew wealthy from pilgrims’ donations and for its era this one of the most popular shrines in all of England: Monarchs from Henry III-Henry VII had worshipped at the place by 1510, and even men as famous as Erasmus visited. During Henry VIII’s Reformation, however, the records show that the monks at Walsingham were turned out into the streets, the priory chapel was desecrated, the gold and silver ornamentations of the architecture were looted, illuminated manuscripts were burned, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham at the center of the shrine was brought back to London as a trophy to be destroyed, and the property itself was turned over to a man in the king’s favour whereafter it was mined for its stone.

The great majority of images, and elements of church furniture disapproved of by the Protestants, were destroyed in waves under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and later during the English Commonwealth. For example, during the reign of Edward VI parishioners witnessed a royal decree ripping out the rood screen in every single church: none of these now survive and in addition many altarpieces were burned. While Henry VIII was still alive, many statues and shrine objects were smashed or burnt: they were considered “abused images” and a form of idolatry by many aligning with the king. Building of new churches became much less frequent, and as a result England actually has larger numbers of medieval churches whose main fabric has survived than most parts of Europe.

During this period the arrival of the chimney stack and enclosed hearths resulted in the decline of the great hall based around an open hearth that was typical of earlier Medieval architecture. Instead, fireplaces could now be placed upstairs and it became possible to have a second story that ran the whole length of the house. Tudor chimney-pieces were made large and elaborate to draw attention to the owner’s adoption of this new technology. The jetty appeared, as a way to show off the modernity of having a complete, full-length upper floor.

Buildings constructed by the wealthy had these common characteristics:

An ‘E’ or ‘H’ shaped floor plan
Brick and stone masonry, sometimes with half timbers on upper floors in grand houses earlier in the period
Recycling of older medieval stone, especially after Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some reuse of monetary buildings as houses.
Curvilinear gables, an influence taken from Dutch designs, from the mid-century
Large displays of glass in very large windows several feet long; glass was expensive so only the rich could afford numerous large windows
Depressed arches in clerical and aristocratic design, especially in the early-middle portion of the period
Hammerbeam roofs still in use for great halls from Medieval period under Henry VII until 1603; were built more decoratively, often with geometric-patterned beams and corbels carved into beasts
Most windows, except large ones, are rectangular, and drip moulds common above them.
Classical accents such as round-headed arches over doors and alcoves, plus prominent balustrades from time of Henry VIII to Elizabeth I
Large brick chimneys, often topped with narrow decorative chimney pots in the homes of the upper middle class and higher. Ordinary medieval village houses were often made much more pleasant to live in by the addition of brick fireplaces and chimneys, replacing an open hearth.
Wide, enormous stone fireplaces with very large hearths meant to accommodate larger scale entertaining; in aristocratic homes the formal rooms may have large chimneypieces in stone, sometimes with the family’s heraldry.
Enormous ironwork for spit roasting located inside cooking fireplaces. In the homes of the upper class and nobility it was fashionable to show off wealth by being able to roast all manner of beasts weighing less than 500 grams on up to a full grown bull; in the case of royalty it would be seen as dishonor if the monarch’s table could not provide equal to that of the Continental powers of France and Spain. Managing the flames would be the job of either a spit boy (Henry VII’s reign) or later on a new invention where a turnspit dog ran on a treadmill (Elizabeth I’s reign.)
Long galleries
Tapestries serving a triple purpose of keeping out chill, decorating the interior, and displaying wealth. In the wealthiest homes these may contain gold or silver thread.
Gilt detailing inside and outside the home
Geometric landscaping in the back of the home: large gardens and enclosed courtyards were a feature of the very wealthy. Fountains begin to appear in the reign of Henry VIII.
Commoner classes

The houses and buildings of ordinary people were typically timber framed. The frame was usually filled with wattle and daub but occasionally with brick. These houses were also slower to adopt the latest trends, and the great hall continued to prevail.

Smaller Tudor-style houses display the following characteristics:

Simpler square or rectangular floor plans in market towns or cities
Farmhouses retain a small fat ‘H’ shape and traces of late Medieval architecture; modification was less expensive than entirely rebuilding
Steeply pitched roof, with thatching or tiles of slate or more rarely clay (London did not ban thatched roofs within the city until the 1660s)
Cruck framing in use throughout the period
Hammerbeam roofs retained for sake of utility (remained common in barns)
Prominent cross gables
Tall, narrow doors and windows
Small diamond-shaped window panes, typically with lead casings to hold them together
Dormer windows, late in the period
Flagstone or dirt floors rather than all stone and wood
Half-timbers make of oak, with wattle and daub walls painted white
Brickwork in homes of gentry, especially Elizabethan. As with upper classes, conformed to a set size of 210–250 mm (8.3–9.8 in) × 100–120 mm (3.9–4.7 in) × 40–50 mm (1.6–2.0 in), bonded by mortar with a high lime content
Jettied top floor to increase interior space; very common in market town high streets and larger cities like London
Extremely narrow to nonexistent space between buildings in towns
Inglenook fireplaces. Open floor fireplaces were a feature during the time of Henry VII but had declined in use by the 1560s for all but the poor as the growing middle classes were becoming more able to build them into their homes. Fireplace would be approximately 138 cm (4.5 ft) wide × 91 cm (3 ft) tall × at least 100 cm (3.3 ft) deep. The largest fireplace – in the kitchen – had a hook nailed into the wall for hanging a cooking cauldron rather than the tripod of an open plan. Many chimneys were coated with lime or plaster inside to the misfortune of the owner: when heated these would decompose and thus the very first fire codes were implemented during the reign of Elizabeth I, as many lost their homes because of faulty installation.
Oven not separated from apparatus used in fireplace, especially after the reign of Edward VI; middle-class homes had no use for such enormous ovens nor money to build them.
More emphasis on wooden staircases in homes of the middle class and gentry
Outhouses in the back of the home, especially beyond cities in market towns
Little landscaping behind the home, but rather small herb gardens.
The poorest classes lived in hovels, a building with a slightly different definition than today: it was a one room wattle-and-daub hut. Most did not have the copyhold on the land they occupied and were tenants on another man’s land; amenities were very basic in that there was a place to sleep, a place to eat, and a place to cook.


In church architecture the principal examples, all still essentially Perpendicular Gothic, are:

The final stages of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (1446–1515)
St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle (1475–1528)
Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey (1503-1509)
The chapel at Hampton Court Palace
Tudor architecture remained popular for conservative college patrons, even after it had been replaced in domestic building. Portions of the additions to the various colleges of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge were still carried out in the Tudor style, overlapping with the first stirrings of the Gothic Revival.

There are also examples of Tudor architecture in Scotland, such as King’s College, Aberdeen.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire: typical 16th-century farmhouse; contains many original features of the house as it would have been in the 1580s.
Athelhampton House, Dorchester, Dorset – early Tudor
The Barbican, Devon, Plymouth
Bishop Percy House, Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire
Castle Lodge, Ludlow, Shropshire
Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire
Conquest House, Canterbury, Kent
East Barsham Manor, Norfolk
Eastbury Manor House, London
Eltham Palace, Greenwich, London
Ford’s Hospital, Coventry
The Guildhall in Thaxted, Essex
Hampton Court Palace, London
Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, 1525-1538
Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire-historic district of the entire town, includes the birthplace of William Shakespeare, a large Tudor edifice constructed c. 1570’s.
Hunsdon House, Hertfordshire
Kenilworth Castle, Kenilworth, Warwickshire – retains many elements from Robert Dudley’s 1570s design
Layer Marney Tower, Essex
Mill Street, Warwick, Warwickshire
Mapledurham House, Mapledurham, Oxfordshire
Montacute House, Somerset – late Tudor
Nonsuch Palace – perhaps the grandest of Henry VIII’s building projects
Old Market Hall, Shrewsbury
Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire
Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
Prysten House, Plymouth, Devon c. 1490
Gatehouse of Richmond Palace, London – early Tudor
Rainthorpe Hall, Tasburgh, Norfolk
Shaw House, Newbury, Berkshire
Sir Thomas Herbert’s House, Pavement, York
Southover Grange, Lewes, East Sussex – c. 1572
Sutton House, London Borough of Hackney
Sutton Place, Surrey – c. 1525
Tudor Barn Eltham, London
Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire – late Tudor

Tudor Revival
In the 19th century a free mix of late Gothic elements, Tudor, and Elizabethan were combined for public buildings, such as hotels and railway stations, as well as for residences. The popularity continued into the 20th century for residential building. This type of Renaissance Revival architecture is called ‘Tudor,’ ‘Mock Tudor,’ ‘Tudor Revival,’ and ‘Jacobethan.’

Source From Wikipedia