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Kings College Chapel outside view

The Tudor style in architecture is the final development of medieval architecture during the Tudor period (1485–1603) and even beyond, for conservative college patrons. It followed the Perpendicular style and, although superseded by Elizabethan architecture in domestic building of any pretensions to fashion, the Tudor style still retained its hold on English taste, portions of the additions to the various colleges of Oxford and Cambridge being still carried out in the Tudor style which overlaps with the first stirrings of the Gothic Revival.

The four-centred arch, now known as the Tudor arch, was a defining feature; some of the most remarkable oriel windows belong to this period; the mouldings are more spread out and the foliage becomes more naturalistic. Nevertheless, "Tudor style" is an awkward style-designation, with its implied suggestions of continuity through the period of the Tudor dynasty and the misleading impression that there was a style break at the accession of Stuart James I in 1603.

There are also examples of Tudor architecture in Scotland, too, such as King's College, Aberdeen.


Church architecture

In church architecture the principal examples are:

Domestic buildings

During this period the arrival of the chimney stack, and enclosed hearths resulted in the decline of the great hall based around an open hearth which was typical of earlier medieval architecture. Instead, fireplaces could now be placed upstairs and it became possible to have a second storey that ran the whole length of the house[1]. Tudor chimney-pieces were made large and elaborate to draw attention to the owner's adoption of this new technology, and the jetty appeared, as a way to show off the modernity of having a complete, full-length upper floor[2].

The style of large houses moved away from the defensive architecture of earlier moated manor houses, and started to be built more for aesthetics. For example, quadrangular, 'H' or 'E' shaped plans became more common[3]. It was also fashionable for these larger buidlings to incorporate "devices", or riddles, designed into the building, which served to demonstrate the owner's wit and to delight vistors. Occasionally these were Catholic symbols, for example, subtle or not so subtle references to the trinity, seen in three sided, triangular, or 'Y' shaped plans, designs or motifs[4].

The houses and buildings of ordinary people were typically timber framed, the frame usually filled with wattle and daub but occasionally with brick[2]. These houses were also slower to adopt latest trends and the great hall continued to prevail[1]. The Dissolution of the Monasteries provided surplus land, resulting in a small building boom, as well as a source of stone[2].

Domestic examples

Typical features

Tudor style buildings have six distinctive features -

roof detail including chimneys - Hampton Court Palace
  • Decorative half-timbering
  • Steeply pitched roof
  • Prominent cross gables
  • Tall, narrow doors and windows
  • Small window panes
  • Large chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots

As a modern term

In the 19th century a free mix of these late Gothic elements and Elizabethan were combined for hotels and railway stations, in revival styles known as Jacobethan and Tudorbethan.

As a modern residential style, what is usually referred to as Tudor (or sometimes Mock Tudor) is more akin to the rustic Tudorbethan architecture.


  1. ^ a b Quiney, Anthony (1989). Period Houses, a guide to authentic architectural features. London: George Phillip. ISBN 0540011738.  
  2. ^ a b c Picard, Liza (2003). Elizabeth's London. London: phoenix. ISBN 0753817578.  
  3. ^ Pragnall, Hubert (1984). Styles of English Architecture. Frome: Batsford. ISBN 0713437685.  
  4. ^ Airs, Malcolm (1982). Tudor and Jacobean. The Buildings of Britain. London: Barrie and Jenkins. ISBN 0091478308.  

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