The Characteristics That Define an English Tudor Home

The style of a home depends on where it is and in which period it is built. There are significant differences between homes from different periods in terms of their external appearance, the materials used, and the internal characteristics of a property. One interesting architectural period and style is English Tudor houses. Here is an overview of the main characteristics of English Tudor houses.

What is an English Tudor House?

English Tudor houses are houses that were built in Medieval England during an era called the Tudor period. This period lasted between 1485 and 1603. However, houses that were built in what is now referred to as the Tudor architectural style were generally built between 1500 and 1560, which is a period that begins after and extends beyond the official Tudor period. Although Tudor houses, strictly speaking, are only the ones that were built during these periods, the term ‘Tudor style’ is often used to refer to any houses that have the characteristics of the homes built during this period, such as the exposed external beams, says Wikipedia.

What Materials Were Used to Build English Tudor Houses and How Were They Built?

Tudor houses were considered a big step forward in construction and architecture because prior to these, houses from mud or cob. Despite the move forward, people today would consider many of the materials and methods used as rather primitive. However, it is important to remember the limitations, says Self-Build. The builders were limited to using materials that were available locally due to limited transportation options. Also, all the work was done manually because they did not have the machinery and tools available to them that are used by builders today.

The main frames of the houses were made from wood, usually oak. The builders preferred to use green timber because this was softer and lighter. This made it easy to work with and to position in place. The pieces of the wooden frames were fitted together with hand-carved joints and connected with wooden pegs. The spaces between the frames were filled using a technique called wattle and daub. This involved creating a panel buy fitting thin upright staves of oak and then weaving them with hazel strips. The panels were then covered with a mixture of clay, dung, and straw. This was then whitewashed to protect it from the weather.

The Main Characteristics That Define an English Tudor Home

There are many interesting characteristics of an English Tudor house that identify its style and age. The following is an overview of some of the most notable characteristics of this type of house.

  • Tudor House Roofs – English Tudor houses always have a steeply pitched roof. These were covered in either thatch, tiles, slate, or clay. Even some of the townhouses had thatch roofs, although these were banned in London in the 1660s.
  • Tudor House Beams – From the exterior of the property, the most notable feature of an English Tudor house is the exposed external beams. These are usually a dark color with the walls in between whitewashed. Unlike modern replicas, the beams of genuine English Tudor houses had an important purpose to the construction of the building rather than simply serving decorative purposes. Some Tudor houses have beams from the ground to the ceiling, while others have bricks or other materials on the lower levels and then a beam construction for the upper level.
  • Tudor House Floors – Originally, the floors of Tudor homes had stone or dirt floors. While those with stone floors have usually retained the stone, the houses with dirt floors have replaced the floor with stone or wood at a later date.
  • Rooms in Tudor Houses – The floorplans of Tudor houses in cities were often a simple square or rectangle with regularly shaped rooms. In the country, some of the houses had an H-shape. The ceilings inside Tudor houses were much lower than those in modern buildings.
  • Tudor House Windows and Doors – Typically, the windows and doors in Tudor houses are tall and narrow. The doors are usually made from wood, while the windows have small, diamond-shaped panes held together with lead casings and set in a wooden window frame. The Tudor period was the time when glass was first used for windows in homes. The reason why they used these small panels of glass with lead is that it was too difficult to make and fit larger panes. Poorer people could not afford glass windows. Instead, they would use paper, cloth, or polished horn. Tudor windows were casement windows that opened outwards to let in the air. Later in the period, some of the Tudor houses were built with dormer windows. Both the leaded window design and the dormer windows are features that many modern replicas of English Tudor houses include.
  • Tudor Fireplaces and Chimneys – Modern houses often do not have a chimney, and this is because fireplaces are rare in homes constructed in the last three decades. During the Tudor period, fireplaces were a necessity. Not only was this the only source of heat in the house to keep the occupants warm, but it was also how they heated water and was often how they cooked their food. Inglenook fireplaces are a distinctive feature of the interior of a Tudor home, and there would often be a fireplace in the living area and another in the kitchen. The latter would often have hooks around them for hanging kitchen equipment. The necessity for fireplaces means that traditional Tudor homes usually have at least one chimney, if not more. However, some of the earlier examples of the homes of poor people just had a simple hole for the smoke to escape, says Tudor Stuff. Typical Tudor chimneys are tall and thin. The homes of rich Tudors often had ornate, symmetrical patterns that were made from cut or molded bricks. Modern houses that have replicated the Tudor style may vary in how closely they have kept to the traditional appearance. Although they may not include a fireplace as people now expect central heating, they may include a chimney for aesthetic purposes.
  • The Jetty of English Tudor Houses – Another of the most notable features of English Tudor houses is the way that the upper level is larger than the lower level, creating an overhang. This overhang is called the jetty, and there were several reasons that the houses were designed in this way. The first reason is that contraception was almost non-existent in Tudor times and this led to larger families who needed more sleeping space. In towns, crowding and overbuilding meant that builders used the creation of a jetty in a home to create extra living space as the upper level could overhand the road or footpaths.

Additional Features of Wealthy Tudor Homes

The homes of the wealthy differed from regular English Tudor homes in several ways, and many of the best examples of these remain in England with many of their original features intact. Here are some points about the homes of the wealthy English Tudors:

  • Wealthy Tudors usually lived in large country mansions or grand townhouses.
  • The houses had a symmetrical floorplan, and E or H-shaped buildings were popular designs.
  • There were multiple rooms in country mansions to accommodate the homeowners’ guests.
  • The rooms were large and symmetrical.
  • Glass was used as a symbol of wealth, so the homes of the wealthy usually had many windows. These usually retained the traditional Tudor style of glass panels in lead casings. However, there are also examples of latticed stone windows.
  • Country mansions were often built of brick, stone, or tile, rather than from wooden frames.
  • Only the richest people could afford to have a home built entirely from brick. The bricks were often made on site by specialist craftsmen and they were thinner than modern bricks. Some bricks were deliberately discolored so that the builders could create elaborate patterns.
  • Wealthy landowners often owned larger versions of the traditional Tudor home and these houses often had accommodation for servants.
  • Wealthy homes often had multiple fireplaces to heat the home, plus large kitchen fires for the servants to use for cooking and boiling water. The homes also had ornate chimneys that were tall and thin.

Tudor House Gardens

Whether a Tudor house had a garden depended on its location. For example, many houses in towns had no garden at all, but most country Tudor gardens had some form of a garden. However, this was not always the case. Poorer people often had a small dwelling on someone else’s land for which they were paying a tenancy and they did not have any rights to the land surrounding the house. For those houses that did have a garden, the size was an indicator of the owner’s social and financial status in society. In most cases, there was very little garden to the rear of the property, with most of the garden to the front or the side. The major legacy of Tudor garden design is the Knot garden, says The English Garden. This style of garden features symmetry and control. Hedges were a major feature of Tudor gardens. The gardens were often aromatic as they grew herbs for both practical and aesthetic purposes.

Replica Tudor Homes: Old vs. New

There are many houses that have the appearance of a Tudor house but were built significantly later than the Tudor period, but that boast the main characteristics of Tudor properties. This means that the house is built in the Tudor style rather than being an actual English Tudor house. There are examples of these houses built at various points throughout history, including modern houses built over the last few decades. It is not only the English that has replicated the style of English Tudor houses, as people from across the globe enjoy the various aesthetic qualities of this style. They are particularly popular in the United States where many Tudor style homes were built between 1890 and 1940, says Wentworth Studio.

There are some simple ways to tell if a house is a genuine English Tudor house or simply a replica. The first thing to look at is the external beams. In real Tudor houses, the wooden beams were an integral part of the building, with half-timbering on the upper story that was filled in with a material such as a stucco. The beams were hand cut, and this means that they have irregularities. A house that has replicated the Tudor style has beams that are added onto the exterior of the property for decorative purposes only, says Study.com. The external beams are usually very straight as they are machine cut.

The beams are not the only differences between genuine and replica Tudor houses. You should also look at the pitch of the roof, the type of bricks used in the lower portion of the building, and how even the house is generally. A true Tudor house is unlikely to have many straight lines.

English Tudor Homes – The Final Verdict

Traditional English Tudor Homes were built in the Tudor period and for several decades that followed. They have a distinctive architectural style with many characteristics that define them. Some of these include the exposed external beams, the pitched roofs, and the jetty overhangs. The exact characteristics of a Tudor home depend on the location, the year it was built, and the status and wealth of the homeowner. Due to the distinctive style of Tudor homes, it is one of the most popular architectural styles for modern builders to replicate. However, many of the characteristics that are replicated are purely for decorative purposes and it is easy to identify the differences. There are many examples of traditional homes that still exist in England that have retained their original features, and some of these are open to the public.


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