2011 September – Research board – Tudor period

The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII (1457 – 1509). The term can be used more broadly to include Elizabeth I‘s reign (1558 – 1603), although this is often treated separately as the Elizabethan era.

The Tudor architectural style is the final development of medieval architecture during the Tudor period (1485–1603) and even beyond, for conservative college patrons. It followed the Perpendicular style and, although superseded by Elizabethan architecture in domestic building of any pretensions to fashion, the Tudor style still retained its hold on English taste, portions of the additions to the various colleges of Oxford and Cambridge being still carried out in the Tudor style which overlaps with the first stirrings of the Gothic Revival.

The four-centred arch, now known as the Tudor arch, was a defining feature; some of the most remarkable oriel windows belong to this period; the mouldings are more spread out and the foliage becomes more naturalistic. 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.

Homes and dwellings

The majority of the population lived in small villages. Their homes were, as in earlier centuries, thatched huts with one or two rooms, although later on during this period, roofs were also tiled. Furniture was basic, with stools being commonplace rather than chairs.The walls of Tudor houses were often made from timber and wattle and daub, or brick, stone and tiles in the wealthier part of the population’s case. The daub was usually then painted with limewash, making it white, and the wood was painted with black tar to prevent rotting. The bricks were handmade and thinner than modern bricks. The wooden beams were cut by hand, which makes telling the difference between Tudor houses and Tudor-style houses easy, as the original beams are not straight. The upper floors of Tudor houses were often larger than the ground floors, which would create an overhang (Or jetty). This would create more floor-surface above while also keeping maximum street width. During the Tudor period, the use of glass when building houses was first used, and became widespread. It was very expensive and difficult to make, so the panes were made small and held together with a lead lattice, in casement windows. People who couldn’t afford glass often used polished horn, cloth or even paper. Tudor chimneys were tall, thin, and often decorated with symmetrical patterns of moulded or cut brick. Early Tudor houses, and the homes of poorer people, did not have chimneys. The smoke in these cases would be let out through a simple hole in the roof.

Mansions had many chimneys for the many fireplaces required to keep the vast rooms warm. These fires were also the only way of cooking food. Wealthy Tudor homes needed many rooms, where a large number of guests and servants could be accommodated, fed and entertained. Wealth was demonstrated by the extensive use of glass. Windows became the main feature of Tudor mansions, and were often a fashion statement. Mansions were often designed to a symmetrical plan – “E” and “H” shapes were popular.


Anne Hathaway’s house

Queen Elizabeth I

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