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Tudor Architecture: History, Facts, and Characteristics

Tudor Architecture: History, Facts, and Characteristics

Tudor architecture is easy to spot because of its striking features. But do you know that it is more than 500 years old? This, and some interesting characteristics, history, and facts about Tudor style architecture follows.
Akshay Chavan
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2018
Did You Know?
In Tudor England, people wanted to show off their chimneys, which is one of the reasons why they made them so big. Building chimneys was a new technique in those days.
Tudor style architecture is characterized by incomplete timber beams, slanting roofs, and overhangs. This style originated in Medieval England, and under the patronage of the emperors and royals, it became popular among the masses. It spread rapidly for a couple hundred years, before receding away into the past. It finally made it back in a 'revival' phase, first in England, and then in America, where it has been popular since.

One of the most striking aspect of this architectural style is its 'Fairy Tale Cottage' look, that has even been labeled as too overbearing. But whatever may be the case, this style surely has grabbed its share of eyeballs, and has architects and prospective home buyers talking about it even today in America.
Tudor Architecture
English Tudor Architecture
Tudor architecture was the Medieval architectural style developed in the early part of the Tudor Dynasty in England between the time period of 1485 to 1603. This phase had 6 rulers―Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. When Henry VIII ascended the throne, he declared himself the Head of the Church in England, after a fallout with the Vatican. This started a period of suppression of monasteries. The loss of importance of the monasteries meant that the elite channeled their wealth toward construction. Stone, as a result being used less by the churches, became more widely available. Also, the Tudor era, being peaceful, people could devote more of their attention to construction.

Depending on the ruling monarch, Tudor architecture is made up of different styles, such as Elizabethan, Jacobean, and so on. This perpendicular style was different from the early Gothic style architecture, and had some Renaissance elements. In the initial phase of the Tudor Dynasty, the architectural style was not completely free of Gothic elements, and this initial style was called the Tudor Gothic style of architecture. There was a shift from large-sized spacious structures to smaller, more intricately designed features. Church artisans still stuck to the old Gothic architecture, while adopting certain elements of the Renaissance Period. 
Tudor Architecture Revival
There was a revival of Tudor architecture in the second half of the 19th century, and it made its way into America during the end of the 19th century. It was also called Jacobethan architecture, based on the combination of the words Elizabeth and Jacob from the same periods of English history. This revival phase went on till the advent of the Second World War, when patriotic feelings favored American-style buildings, and the Tudor style was pushed to the brink. Other factors that led to its decline were that the houses required expensive materials, and were difficult to upkeep and replicate. In fact, another secondary Tudor revival occurred in the late 20th century, and the houses built in this phase were called Mock Tudor houses.
  • Tudor houses built in the revival phase came to be called 'Stock broker' houses, owing to the fact that many of America's rich had made their wealth in the successful stock market of the early 20th century.
  • Tudor architecture was also popular due to Henry VIII's support of his royals, who on becoming powerful, constructed large Tudor manor houses.
  • They were made with 'noble', strong materials that were long-lasting. Many are still standing today.
  • In the Tudor era, the focus shifted from large, opulent castles to better residential structures for the common people.
  • Tudor houses have a Medieval cottage look.
  • The basic architectural structure involved a timber-framed house built on a strong stone foundation.
  • The houses of the Tudor Period offered more privacy, and had specific rooms for purposes like studying, dining, and so on.
  • In this style of architecture, there were no facilities for sanitary disposal, and human waste was thrown out of the windows.
  • Huge chimneys, sometimes made of stucco or brick, with decorative chimney pots.
  • Tall, narrow, and mullioned windows (called oriel) with small panes and a copper hood, plus highly decorated glass-work.
  • Large doorways with four centered arches lined with brick and elaborately decorated doors.
  • Use of incomplete wooden beams that were exposed from the outside.
  • Huge fireplaces.
  • Oak-lined inner walls.
  • Sharp-pitched roofs with cross gable and dormer windows.
  • A general black and white look.
  • Asymmetrical construction features with sharp edges throughout the structure.
  • Overhanging top floors.
  • Wavy woodwork or plasterwork, giving a folded-cloth look.
  • The house timber frames were plastered with wattle (inter-meshed branches) and daub (mud), and then whitewashed with lime.
  • Low ceilings.
  • Roofs covered with slate tiles or thatch (slate became difficult later on).
  • Use of brickwork for filling between wooden beams (brick was considered a luxury).
  • The middle class and poor used plaster for filling purposes, instead of brick. 
One distinctive feature of Tudor architecture was that it permeated right down to the lower sections of society in Medieval England. While in America, such houses built in the Revival Period can be seen in deep-rooted communities.