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Architecture of England



Architecture of England


Architecture of England

Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' (2004) rises above the thirteenth century church St Helen's Bishopsgate in London

The architecture of England has a long and diverse history from beyond Stonehenge to the designs of Norman Foster and the present day. Below are listed some architects and examples of their work typical of the era in which they were created. The evolution of English architecture can be traced through these building Pre-Roman architecture

The earliest known examples of architecture in England are the many neolithic monuments such as those at Stonehenge and Avebury. Very few examples of pre-Roman architecture remain extant and are limited to defensive earthworks such as Maiden Castle and Cadbury Castle but archaeological evidence suggests that British Iron Age domestic architecture had a tendency to circular forms over the rectangular forms more common in comparable European Iron Age architecture

Roman architecture

The earliest domestic architecture is that bequeathed to the country by the Romans, who occupied Britain from 43 until 406. The Romans built the first cities and towns, which included Chester, St. Albans, London and Bath. Many fine examples of Roman architecture remain: of special note are the ruins of the Roman Baths in Bath, Hadrian's Wall near the Scotland-England border, Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex and the London Wall. Following the Roman's departure architecture seems to have regressed and little remains of the period immediately after the Roman withdrawal.

Anglo-Saxon architecture

Main article: Anglo-Saxon architecture




Following the battle of Mons Badonicus in 500, and the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon period a few isolated examples of architecture begin to appear; most notably some Saxon churches such as those at Stewkley and Wing both in Buckinghamshire.

Medieval architecture

Norman architecture

Main article: Norman architecture


Norwich Castle, begun by William the Conqueror. Its round arches are characteristic of the Romanesque style, called Norman in England

Norman architecture, or 'English Romanesque', arrived with the Norman invasion of 1066, and was prevalent until the end of the 12th Century when Gothic architecture arrived[1]. The Norman invasion brought with it more consistent forms of design. William I and his law lords built numerous motte-and-bailey castles and garrisons to uphold their authority. Often these were built initially of wood, speed of erection being of greater concern than design or appearance; the best-known of these is the Tower of London. However during the following two centuries of the Norman period many of these were rebuilt with stone keeps and defensive walls. Further even larger castles such as Caernarfon Castle in Wales and Carrickfergus Castle in Ireland were built to suppress the natives. Many castles remain from these medieval times.

City walls were erected in place of the earlier wooden pallisades of the motte-and-bailey castle. In some cities these followed the line of earlier Roman defenses, for example at York 2], and others such as London wall incorporate Roman brickwork. City walls continued to be maintained throughout the medieval period.

In most towns and villages the parish church is an indication of the age of the settlement, built as it was from stone rather than the traditional wattle and daub. The Normans also built many cathedrals. Many of these were rebuilt in Gothic style over the centuries, although some still preserve Norman features (e.g. Durham Cathedral, Ely Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral, St Alban's cathedral)[3].

There are also a very small number of domestic Norman buildings still standing, for example Jew's House, Lincoln; manor houses at Saltford and Boothby Pagnall; and fortified manor houses such as Oakham Castle [4].

Gothic architecture


Salisbury Cathedral

Whilst the Crown busied itself with the construction of defensive structures, the clergy, and indeed most of society, was dedicated to the glorification of God through the erection of Gothic cathedrals.


Vernacular architecture

Very little survives of the vernacular architecture of the early medieval period due to these buildings being constructed from wood, wattle and daub, clay or turf[4]. As early as the 12th century, the cruck frame was introduced, increasing the size of timber framed vernacular buildings [4]. Typically, houses of this period were based around a great hall open from floor to roof. One bay at each end would be split into two storeys and used for service rooms and private rooms for the owner[5]. Buildings surviving this period included moated manor houses of which Ightham Mote is a notable late medieval example, and Wealden hall houses such as Alfriston Clergy House.

Tudor architecture


Montacute House, near Yeovil, Somerset. Built 1598 One of the first unfortified houses to be built completely from new

Large houses continued to be fortified until the Tudor period, when the first of the large gracious unfortified mansions such as the Elizabethan Montacute House and Hatfield House were built. The Tudor arch was a defining feature Stuart architecture

The Civil War 1642—49 proved to be the last time in British history that houses had to survive a siege. Corfe Castle was destroyed following an attack by Oliver Cromwell's army, but Compton Wynyates survived a similar event. After this date houses were built purely for living, and design and appearance were for ever more important than defence.

Just prior to the Civil War, Inigo Jones, who is regarded as the first significant British architect, came to prominence. He was responsible for importing the Palladian manner of architecture from Italy; the Queen's House at Greenwich is perhaps his best surviving work.

The dome of St. Paul's cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the Great Fire of London in 1666 an opportunity was missed in London to create a new metropolitan city, featuring modern architectural styles. Although one of the best known British architects, Sir Christopher Wren, was employed to design and rebuild many of the ruined ancient churches of London, his master plan for rebuilding London as a whole was rejected. It was in this period that he designed the building that he is perhaps best known for, St Paul's Cathedral.

In the early 18th century baroque architecture, a style exemplified by heavy embellishment and mass, popular in Europe, was introduced, the first baroque house in England was Chatsworth House by William Talman in the 1690. However, it is usually Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor who are considered the masters of English Baroque. Castle Howard of 1699 is arguably first truly baroque house in England, dominated by it cylindrical domed drum tower it would not be in out of place in Dresden or Würzburg. Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor then evolved the style to suit the more solid English taste at Blenheim Palace,Seaton Delaval Hall and Easton Neston.



Georgian architecture

The Georgian architecture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century was a development of Palladianism and is alternatively termed Neoclassical architecture in the European tradition. Many extant buildings such as Woburn Abbey and Kedleston Hall are in this style. It was during this period that comfort and style became truly popular, and many of England's old fortified houses were rebuilt or remodelled in the new taste. At the same time large sections of urban development occurred in cities, notably Bath and Bloomsbury and Mayfair in London, where new urban forms such as the crescent and the terrace brought unity and harmony to the prospering industrialising cities. Among the many architects practising in this era were Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, John Wood and James Wyatt.

Victorian architecture

The Palace of Westminster Victorian gothic completed in 1870. Designed by Sir Charles Barry and August Pugin

In the early 19th century the romantic medieval gothic style appeared as a backlash to the symmetry of Palladianism, and such buildings as Fonthill Abbey were built. By the middle of the 19th century, as a result of new technology, construction was able to develop incorporating steel as a building component; one of the greatest exponents of this was Joseph Paxton, architect of the Crystal Palace. Paxton also continued to build such houses as Mentmore Towers, in the still popular retrospective Renaissance styles. In this era of prosperity and development English architecture embraced many new methods of construction, but ironically in style, such architects as Augustus Pugin ensured it remained firmly in the past.

In Canada, Alexander Thomson was a pioneer in the use of cast iron and steel for commercial buildings, blending neo-classical conventionality with Egyptian and oriental themes to produce many truly original structures.

In the 18th century a few English architects had emigrated to the colonies, but as the British Empire became firmly established in the 19th century many architects at the start of their careers made the decision to emigrate, several chose the USA but most went to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, as opportunities arose to meet the growing demand for buildings in these countries. Normally the style of architecture they adopted was those which were fashionable when they left England, though by the latter half of the century improving transport and communications meant that even quite remote parts of the Empire had access to the many publications such as The Builder magazine that enabled colonial architects to stay abreast of current fashion. Thus the influence of English architecture spread across the world. Several prominent 19th century architects produced designs that were executed by architects in the various colonies. For example Sir George Gilbert Scott designed Bombay University (University of Mumbai) & William Butterfield designed St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide.

Twentieth century architecture

At the beginning of the 20th century a new form of design, arts and crafts became popular. The architectural form of this style, which had evolved from the 19th century designs of such architects as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and George Devey, was championed by Edwin Lutyens. Arts and crafts in architecture is symbolized by an informal, non symmetrical form, often with mullioned or lattice windows, multiple gables and tall chimneys. In the 1930s the Art Deco style influenced domestic architecture and some public buildings, for example the Hoover Building. These styles continued to evolve until World War II.

Public buildings and commercial buildings were often executed in the neo-classical style until the late 1950s. Lutyens designed new civic buildings in this style as did Herbert Baker, Reginald Blomfield, Bradshaw Gass & Hope, Edward Maufe, Albert Richardson and Percy Thomas. A notable example of the style is Manchester Central Library by Vincent Harris. With the exception of Lutyens, the reputations of these architects suffered in the later twentieth century. Some architects responded to modernism, and economic circumstances, by producing stripped down versions of traditional styles; the work of Giles Gilbert Scott illustrates this well.

Following the Second World War reconstruction went through a variety of phases, but was heavily influenced by the late work of Le Corbusier, especially from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Significant movements in this era included the British 'New Brutalist' style such as the Economist Building by Alison and Peter Smithson, the Hayward Gallery, the Barbican Arts Centre and Denys Lasdun's Royal National Theatre . Many Modernist-inspired town centres considered unappealing by some, are today in the process of being redeveloped, Bracknell town centre being a case in point.

Lloyd's Building, City of London. Designed by Richard Rogers. Late 20th century

However, it should not be forgotten that in the immediate post-War years many thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of council houses in mock-vernacular style were built, giving working class people their first experience of private gardens and indoor sanitation.

Postmodern architecture that started in the 1970s was especially fashionable in the 1980s when many shopping malls and office complexes for example Broadgate used this style, notable practitioners were James Stirling and Terry Farrell (architect), although Farrell returned modernism in the 1990s.

Modernism remained a significant force in English architecture, although its influence was felt predominantly in non-domestic buildings. The two most prominent proponents were Lord Rogers of Riverside and Lord Foster of Thames Bank. Rogers' iconic London buildings are probably Lloyd's Building and the Millennium Dome, while Foster created the Swiss Re Buildings (nicknamed The Gherkin) and the Greater London Authority H.Q. Their respective influence continues past the millennium, into the current century.

Traditional styles were never fully abandoned in the late twentieth century. In the 1980s,Prince Charles controversially made known his preference for traditional architecture and put his ideas into practice at his Poundbury development in Dorset. Architects like Raymond Erith, Francis Johnson and Quinlan Terry continued to practice in the Classical style; many of their buildings were new country houses for private clients.








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