Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Period Style: Tudor and Elizabethan Details

Hopefully, the last few posts have got you inspired to think about a Tudor or Elizabethan doll's house for one of your future projects. If so, I thought I'd mention some of the characteristic details of houses from this period.

Many buildings were timber framed, the beams weren't usually evenly cut, in simple cottages, but in finer buildings more care would have been taken. Don't forget that beams were not really blackened with tar until much later, so it's ok to use natural wood and leave it with a simple wax finish. Oak was usually used, and this would turn silvery grey over time.

This picture shows the wattle and daub that was used to fill in the timber frame. wattle are the wooden laths that you see on the left, woven over each other. the daub could be made from various ingredients including clay or lime or chalk, straw of hair and sand, chalk or earth. Animal dung was also often added to the mixture. Once dried it was usually painted with whitewash to help keep it watertight.

Brick, flint or stone was sometimes used to fill in the timber frames too, like this house above. Roofs were either thatched, with reeds, grasses or straw, or in clay rich areas of the county, roof tiles were often used. Tyler Hill near Canterbury, Kent, was named after the tile works built there, which made many of the decorative floor tiles used in the cathedral. Recent archaeological research has found remains of the original kilns along with some of the tiles made there.

Another characteristic of timber framed buildings is the jetty. the upper storey of the building projects beyond the storey below, resting on the beams and joists of the lower storey. Where a jetty projects on more than one side a 'dragon beam' would be set diagonally at the corners.

Carved detail and figures were often used on buildings too, particularly those of higher status, like the corbel pictured above.

Barge boards might also have been highly decorated on high status buildings, this comes from Little Moreton Hall.

Windows were often simple timber mullions running vertically, and only filled with glass by those with means to afford it, wooden shutters and animal skins were more common in poorer house holds. The Gothic tracery above is a nice detail.

When glass was used it was only available in small pieces, so a window would be held together with lead, these windows are known as leaded lights. (note the carved detail on the sides of the window frame).

Bay windows were often used in larger houses, both those built with a timber frame and stone buildings. Where a building is projecting out on one storey only it is known as an oriel window.

Here is an example of an oriel window in a stone building. looks like it mat have replaced an earlier Norman arched window judging by the carved detail above the oriel window, which demonstrates how buildings can change over many years!

Tudor chimneys were tall and highly decorative. Made of red brick and twisted and turned to create a variety of styles. The second picture shows chimneys from Hampton Court Palace.

The decorative brick work above is often seen on buildings from this period. It is known as diaper work, were dark coloured bricks create a lozenge shape in red brickwork, sometimes the pattern is criss-crossed in straight lines.

Before we move on to more Elizabethan details, let's just take a look at Tudor plumbing!

OK, so Tudors didn't really go in much for bathing, though wooden tubs were used, there were NO bathrooms in Tudor houses (or many other houses in Britain until the 19th century!). You might, if you were wealthy enough, and had a moat handy outside, install one of these - known as a guarderobe - a Tudor loo! Really the last word in luxury! Yes, it just went straight down into the moat below.

The Elizabethan era saw greater use of stone on the larger houses. Renaissance details such as string coursing and pilasters were used in a haphazard way on buildings, and combined with decorative details from other parts of Europe too.

Dutch gables were popular features on many Elizabethan buildings. The windows also gt larger, with a frame work of stone mullions and transoms, but still with small leaded lights inserted.

Open work balustrades were popular too, sometimes with the owner's initials included, as with Hardwick Hall above.

This elevation of Somerset House ( not the one there now!!) shows how classical elements were being used, but purely for decorative effect, rather than in a strict following of classical building tradition. Note the flat roof.

Roofs on grand houses were becoming less steeply pitched, another feature of Italian architecture. these roofs used lead. Note the chimneys too, no longer red brick, stone was more resistant to damage from heat and smoke, and matched the stone used for the rest of the house.

Ogee shaped roofs on turrets feature on many Elizabethan houses. What with these, the tall chimneys and open work balustrades, Elizabethan roof lines could be quite busy looking affairs. But why have turrets and other rooms on the roof? Well, the custom was, after dinner, to take desert on the roof; flat lead roofs made this possible, and the little turrets and rooms made this more pleasant for the diners. This little custom was known as 'taking the leads', and would lead to the banqueting halls, garden rooms and follies built in the future


  1. Another interesting post, Andy. I appreciate the time you take to put it all together. I love all the detailed corbels and carved stonework.

    No "taking the leads" for us up here tonight - it's raining!

    1. It's been a bit dull and wet here the past few days! Surprised you've missed the snow, I have a friend in Durham who said it was snowing up there today.

      I enjoy putting these features together, it's an interest of mine and works well with my dolls house interests too.

      Speaking of which!! Netherton! WOW! what a project!! I hadn't expected anything quite so large! Can't wait to see more soon!

      much love
      Andy x

  2. Great Post, thanks Andy. I agree with Irene, it must take you a while to compile it but it's SO worth it. I love the sunny pictures too.
    take care

    1. Hi Simon, I hoped you were enjoying these posts, as I know you like to visit country houses in the summer. It takes a little research, but I have PLENTY of books on the history of architecture, and enjoy hunting for good pictures too!

      i am pleased you have reinstated your hall, I love what you have done! I have trouble remembering what you have renamed the house now, it's not Clarence Place anymore if I am right?

      Hopefully we shall see some sunshine soon!!


    2. Hey Andy
      Sorry fore the late reply. I appreciate it's all rather confusing (that's me really!). It's the Bellamy (not to be confused with the other kind of bellamy...) Mansion, situated on Clarence Place. Coudl any of this be more complicated LOL

    3. Right I get that now! thanks Si!


  3. A new and great post Andy! I started ahce time a Tudor-style house, but it is a project that takes too much time parked. Watching these post yours makes me want to retake it, but I think that what he was doing I won't much, I was not anything documented at the time...

    A big hug!!!

    1. Thanks Pedrete, I think it would be great if you began work on your Tudor project again one day, if you ever got time to do it!!

      big hug to you too!!


  4. Hi Andy! Definitely want to to an Elizabethan house, someday, and your posts whet the appetite! I had never heard that about 'taking the leads,' before.

    And what's this about Irene? Sorry, gotta go...!

    1. Hi John, hope you're enjoying your holiday! You should deffo do an Elizabethan mansion one day, it would look great!

  5. Another great post Andy!

    Its great to learn about the details too. I just love the lead lights, they look so pretty. I think that even in Australia that loo would be considered draughty, it must have been freezing to bare your rear end!!

    You know I look at these beautiful buildings and I think Elizabethan is my favourite and the I think no Tudor????

    Fi xx

    1. Hi Fi!

      Notice that you're the first to mention the loo!!! ;)

      Yes, must have been freezing, but the alternative would be a hole in the ground, so I know which I'd prefer out of the two!!

      I think an Elizabethan mansion would make a great dolls house project, but a tudor cottage would be lovely too!

  6. Thanks Andy, some day I still want to do a Tudor house. I just love that oriel window!!!!

    And thanks for your comment on my sewing table.

    1. Hi Elga, I like oriel windows too, hope you do build a Tudor house in the future, look forward to seeing it.

      You're welcome about the sewing table by the way, great stuff, and like the way you show the progress too!

  7. Hi Andy,
    Again, great post. Your blog trully is a wonderful reference point. It's a great collection of information for those familiar with the style, and wonderful inspiration for those just discovering.
    Thanks again Andy, your posts are always a great pleasure to read.
    All the best,

    1. Thank you Giac, pleased you've enjoyed these posts, more to come!


  8. Wonderful details, Andy! I Love the carvings.... love the windows.... love the chimneys... Especially Love the Gargoyle! I Didn't know about the roof walks! But why would you need a balustrade if you weren't walking up there? Makes sense!
    So, are you planning on building a Tudor Palace? What a Lot of inspiring material!

  9. I have thought of building a Tudor house at some point, I have a Tudor shop already (though set in early 20th century inside) but David's dad actually built it, so would liek to try one of my own, or maybe my own Elizabethan mansion, but got to finish my new project before I do any more houses!!

    Hope there's some inspiration for you too!

  10. What a wonderful read! So much information and inspiration. I wish I had found you a couple of years ago. The picture of the loo is fascinating as I've seen drawings but the stark reality is... stark!