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Elizabethan England

Elizabethan Architecture

by Valerie Kamhi

For many people today, houses are not only places to live; they are status symbols. This is the same way homes in the Elizabethan period were looked upon and judged: as signs of social class and personal status.

There were several types of homes in this period: royal works, great houses, smaller country homes, and farmhouses. As in modern day times, much of a person's choice of a home depended on his income and the social class with which he was associated. The kings and queens had the royal works, which were usually spread for miles, as far as the human eye could see. The upper-class, usually doctors or business men, had what was known as great homes. These were not as outlandish and extraordinary as the royal works but were definitely very large and quite nice. The smaller country homes were usually owned by the merchants and craftsmen (tradesmen). Lastly, there were the farmhouses, which most of the time were occupied by farmers and their families.

As the royalty of the Elizabethan period grew, so did their homes, not only in size and magnitude, but also in greatness and volume. These homes had glorious stone foundations with several levels and too many rooms to count. Many of these houses contained numerous halls, chapels, great rooms, parlors, large bay windows, and several flying buttresses. The courtyards had miles of beautiful vegetation and extraordinary stone gardens and walls. These homes were not commonplace for this period, but they were nothing less than absolutely remarkable.

The great homes of this period contained many of the same features as the royal works, but on a lesser scale. These homes were by no means shabby or small; they were large, and in some cases, just as beautiful as the royal homes. These homes were usually built for members of the upper social class. Many times these elegant homes were complimented with beautiful gardens, lots of land, and beautiful countryside scenery. These homes contained several well-renowned great rooms, parlors, and dining areas.

The smaller country homes were most commonly under the ownership of crafts men and tradesmen. These homes were not only nice and cozy, but were also very inexpensive to build because they often were built from materials that the owners already had. These homes were usually two stories with a kitchen, family room, and several bedrooms. Some people feel that the small country homes are just as beautiful as the large royal works of the century. These houses were by far much more commonplace than the huge and extravagant homes of the royalty and the others who were solely concerned with the social status shown by their houses.

Lastly, the farmhouses were mainly owned by the farmers and lower or middle class people such as merchants and others involved with market trade. These homes were much like the small country homes but had a few differences in the structure and makeup of the interior. These farm houses weren't used as social symbols; instead, they served simply as a nice place to just live.

See also "A History of Elizabethan Architecture"

Works Consulted

Dodd, A.H. Elizabethan England. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974.

This book is a very good resource for large scale homes and castles or palaces. Though there is little information on the average middle class home which was much more common place in this period. Also, the book had very nice pictures that of the popular castles in England during this period. This was an excellent source for large scale homes, but not the best for the everyday home.

Fletcher, Banister. A History of Architecture. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938.

This book contains very good information on a wide variety of home-types. The book shows how architecture developed throughout several eras and many revolutions of the world. Several of the pictures are of the large parlors, great rooms, and halls of many homes. Also, the book was helpful with the descriptions of the constructions of the timber frame homes as well as the great houses of the period.

*Ford, Boris. The Cambridge Cultural History of Britain. New York: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1988.

This book has an excellent breakdown of the different kinds of homes according to social classes and status. This includes farmhouses, small country homes, the great house, and the royal works. This book is a perfect combination of important and useful facts, along with glorious pictures of the homes in those times.

Hart, Roger. English Life in Tudor Times. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.

This book is mainly concentrated on the Tudor homes and how they shaped this era of architecture. Though this book is quite useful init's information about the Tudor home, there is very little information on any other types of houses. A wonderful array of pictures off sets the lack of information about the construction of the homes.

Williams, Penry. Life in Tudor England. New York: G.P.Putnam's Sons, 1964.

Though this book is a very good source on large castles and palaces, there is little information on middle-class and smaller modern homes. There is some information on the timber frame home which was common for an upper or middle class family. The book has several pictures of palaces and castles, including, gardens, great rooms, halls, and chapels.

*Source for visuals.


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