Architecture and Housing


The year was 1550, the place was England, and the transformation of Elizabethan England architecture had begun. Not only was it the building material that also dramatically but also the style (Andrews 19). For example, walls were not so thick anymore and the windows had greatly increased in width from their narrow slits that they used to be(20). Now more than ever houses became a reflection of wealth(20). Houses were no longer just a place to live but now a reflection of someones social status, their job, and a persons income. A persons house was their ranking in society. In architecture back then, there were three main ways to look at it. There was the poor and middle class houses, including town houses, the building material and what was used where, and the rich estates and manors.

Poor and middle class houses, including town houses

The poorest families would occupy a one-room house with a dirt floor and a thatch roof. Poor houses were generally built with the most abundant materials from the area. Since tha- Seth_davidson_3.jpgtch was so common and easy to make it was used for nearly every roof, but was made of straw, which meant that it could harbor vermin. It was for that reason thatch roofing was no longer used (Singman 74). If the peasant was lucky enough he could have a two-room cottage (75) and a few windows covered by wooden shutters (Olsen 33). Glass was not used in these windows mainly because of its high value (32). That leads into the middle, average class housing. In the typical middle class cottage there would be about two floors and a brick chimney in the center of the house (30). Cobb walls would seal off a few rooms, usually five (31).
seth_davidson_2.jpg Sitting beneath the house there would be a stone foundation and wooded floors (Singman 73). Town houses, on the other hand, were very different in their construction. It was common to find houses that were three or four stories high (Olsen 36). Once that thatch was banned for the hazardous health reasons various types of stone shingling roofing took thatch's place (Singman 77). The bottom floors of a town house were usually converted into a shop for the merchants who lived there (Andrews 21). Jutting out about twelve feet off of the house was a long wooden porch where the merchant would display his goods. The remaining space in the town house was used for bedchambers and other living spaces (20). The styles of these houses did not have dramatic changes in their style; it was all about the building materials the house was made from.

Building materials

The material that made up the building determined where that person ranked on the scale of wealth. One example of this can be seen in stone. Primarily the rich used stone at first to decorate their houses (20). The amount of stone that was used was a direct reflection of the owner’s wealth. Eventually stone and brick become the new standards for all types of homes (20). Frames were another vital part of a homes construction, because of its strength and its abundance Oak was used frequently for frames (20). These large bulky logs would then be cut at the ends and be put together like Lincoln Logs (Singman 73). Later on these wooden frames would be replaced with brick (Olsen 30). Then brick chimneys would be put in place as opposed to the old style of smoke removal, just having a whole cut in the roof (26). Although architecture did display a lot of Elizabethan art (Lace 87), a few ideas were borrowed from other countries architecture, like Rome or Greece (Peterson). Before the Elizabethan era a good deal of buildings were copied from Italy (87). Which leads into the estates and manners owned only by the richest of the rich.


Even the rich were changing the way they wanted their houses to be built. To start off their estates were surrounded with massive stonewalls, and if it was the case the whole town was enclosed by the wall (Olsen 122). If the walls did surround the town, people had to ask for the estates owners’ permission to construct a house (Plott 14). Either way, contained by that stonewall there were still various Seth_davidson_1.jpgtypes of shops and maintenance buildings set up for the estate (Olsen 122). In many cases there was housing for the servants and storage areas, there were even armories enclosed in this estate (122). Inside of the usually four story manors (Andrews 21) there were dozens of rooms and even a nursery (Olsen 36). Throughout the years countless innovations were add to the castles for added protection.


Of course, architecture has incredibly evolved since Elizabethan times but the purpose of buildings has remained the same, shelter. It is easy to see that architecture played a huge part of society back then, one must remember though, the type of house a person lived in was that person's wealth as a building. Clearly today the poor and middle class houses have in a way merged into one, while as the building materials still make the building, and the rich still love showing they are rich with their houses.