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Toward the end of Henry VIII's reign very little buildings were

built in England. The debts run up by him pushed the country into

bankruptcy. The wool trade, which had supported the economic life of the

kingdom in the late medieval era, was no longer as rich as it had been and

there were less non-refundable wealth for architectural projects. But under

Elizabeth I the county's economy began to recover. The new monarch

encouraged a return to farming, and the resulting recovery placed a

reasonable amount of wealth into the hands of a large number of people.

This new wealth stated itself in two coinciding construction explosions; a

great number of small houses were built, and at the same time numerous

country mansions were constructed. Many of the earlier medieval or Tudor

manors were modified and modernised during Elizabeth's reign.

Renaissance architecture arrived in England during the reign of

Elizabeth I, having first spread through the Low Countries where among

other features it developed versions of the Dutch gable, and Flemish strap

work in geometric designs decorating the walls. Both of these features can

be seen on the towers of Wollaston Hall. It was also at this time that English

houses adopted the Italian concept of a long gallery being the chief reception

During the Elizabethan period, homes were looked upon as a

sign of social class and personal status. There were several different types of

homes during this period: Royal Works, Great Houses, Smaller Country

Homes and Farmhouses. Royal Works were usually owned by Kings and

Queens. Royal Works made up of many miles of courtyards, great stonewalls

and gardens. These obtained enormous stone foundations and many levels.

Compared to the Royal Works, the Great Homes shared many of the same

characteristics but were smaller on the grand scale. Great Homes were

usually owned by the upper class, usually doctors or businessmen.

Merchants and craftsmen at most times occupied the smaller country homes.

Smaller Country homes were very cheap because they were made of

materials the trade men or craftsmen already owned. These homes were

usually 2 stories with a kitchen, family room, and several bedrooms. Finally

the Farmhouses were usually owned by farmers. As royalty in this time

period grew, so did their homes and buildings. Farmhouses included basic

minimum features. These were the main house types and architectural


Upper Class houses of the rich followed a similar renaissance

style of Elizabethan architecture. Stone and expensive bricks were used for

permanency and exterior. Classic Greek and Roman architecture was well-

regarded by the Elizabethans and sometimes great columns outlined the

entrances of many great Elizabethan houses and mansions. One of the most
a remarkable houses, or mansions, built during the Elizabethan era which

made use of column, The Hardwick Hall, luxurious building was built by the

Countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick (1527 - 1608). Bess was

the second most powerful woman in England, next to Queen Elizabeth.

Hardwick Hall was truly outstanding, four storeys tall with prolific plaster

work. One of its major features was many glass windows.

The smaller Elizabethan houses were less influenced by

Renaissance styles. They continued to develop slowly from the Tudor style;

fireplaces and chimneys were more common. Half-timbering was common,

particularly in regions where stone was rare or expensive. The timbers were

spaced more widely separate than Tudor years, allowing more elaborated

decoration. The overall plan of the small Elizabethan house was simple; a

central hall, floored in halfway to the roof, creating an upper floor. On either

side of the hall were the living area and the kitchen. The lower class lived in

small shelters made of cheap materials. They were usually made of willow

and oak woods. Bundles of reeds were used to make roofs. The bundle was

about half meter in width and 3 meters in length. The roof was the only place

for animals to get warm. So, the pets, such as dogs, cats lived in the

thatched roof. Bricks were expensive for lower class to build their house. So,

when the roof rained, it becomes slippery and sometimes the pets would fall
off. An English proverb “It’s raining cats and dogs.” derives from this


The style adopted by the country house builders was a mixture

of Italian Renaissance with large amounts of Dutch influence. Actually many

builders depended heavily on books showing Dutch building plans and

architectural facts. This impact is most eagerly seen in the curved gables.

The gatehouse, if it was used at all, was purely attractive. The common

mansion plan was an E shape, with the vertical line of the E belongs to the

main hall, and the smaller parallel end lines were the kitchens and living

rooms. The shorter central line was entrance. There is likely little truth in the

old proverb that the E-plan was an honour to Elizabeth; the earlier courtyard

design has started to progress from this time. On the upper floor of the main

hall a new architectural feature made its appearance; the long gallery. Used

for charming, as a family area, for exercise on cloudy days, and as a portrait

gallery, the long gallery was an almost universal feature of Elizabethan

manors. It featured windows on three sides and fireplaces beside the

quarter, and it usually ran the entire length of the floor. Windows were

usually big, made up of many small four-sided panes detached by thin

mullions. At the beginning of the centuries windows didn’t show any arching,

but used a simple classical hood decoration.

The most important thing in manor design is that the hall and

the living areas had replaced status; the hall was just slighter used, while the

long gallery and other living areas were now the centre of family life. The

main entries became the most affected and elaborate part of the manor

house; it was here that the wealthy man felt most free to lavish his wealth.

Entrances were often a mix of classical columns, carvings and rich

decoration. The material of choice for those who could afford it was once

more stone and bricks. Elizabethan chimney stacks reflect this influence;

they were often built to look like classical columns and were square in

section, as opposite to the twisting, spiral patterns of the Tudor years. These

chimneys were often collected in groups of two or three. The most common

decorative theme of this period is strap work, used both inside and outside.

The strap work creates symmetrical geometric patterns that are the unique

characteristic of the Elizabethan era.

Elizabethan architecture is the forefather of the modern

architecture. Many Elizabethan architecture are still presenting the glory of

Elizabethan era. The resulting architecture during the Elizabethan era was

different in stylishness, strong in structure and gorgeous to look at. Those

architectures become the part of England’s heritage.