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Characteristics of Elizabethan Architecture

Characteristics of Elizabethan Architecture

Summary: The ways homes were built for the different classes during England's Elizabethan Era. This was influenced by wars, available building materials, and the political climate.


Elizabethan architecture was well known for its huge mansions for the wealthy, the shaped structure houses for the middle class, and the extremely small, but cozy houses for the poor. (Ross, 151) Some houses were sturdier and stronger than houses owned by the wealthy and middle class today. (Andrews, 21) The architecture of Elizabethan England started to change drastically in the late 1500s due to the end of the civil wars in the late 1400s. (Andrews, 19) The material they used also changed due to the war's end. English citizens had extremely narrow windows, and in some cases, no windows, because of the war. At the war's end, however, people were freer to make their homes as they wanted without being afraid of the consequences of the war. (Andrews, 19) In Elizabethan England, the lower class used cheap wood and their homes had a very basic structure. The high class and middle class, on the other hand, had houses that used complex structures and houses made of stone. (Andrews, 21) Also, the wealthy would try to paint almost everything in and out of their house gold to distinguish themselves from the other classes. (Andrews, 21). The New Elizabethan Architecture offered the homeowner many opportunities to express pride in his surroundings, whether he was a powerful lord, a prosperous merchant, or a common laborer with a little extra money(Andrews, 22) In Elizabethan England, how much money one had impacted the way one lived life and what kind of shelter one lived in.

The lower class had small shelters made of cheap and abundant materials. (Ross, 27) They were usually made of strong oaks, light woods, and willows. (Andrews, 20) The roofs were covered with stray, sticks, and other plants woven together (roof on top left of cover page is made of brick). (Andrews, 20) They also were introduced to bricks (for the roofs) but could not use them because they were rare and expensive. (Van Weginengen, 29) The floor featured dirt, grass, sometimes flowers, and a hearth used both for cooking and heating. (Andrews, 20) The flowers were usually seeded into the ground when a big event was approaching, signifying respect to the people coming into one's home. (Andrews, 20) The windows were usually flat and had many simple arches and columns and would often have a perpendicular style on them; this idea came from a man named Florence. (Van Wageningen, 22) Cottages were very small and cozy. The people thought it was smart to have a small cottage because it was easier to heat and cook without getting any cold wind or air in the room. This usually let them cook food faster. (Starr, 25) Even though many visitors did not like the lower class style housing, the lower class tried to use all their resources to make their houses economically valuable. The most populated class in England, the lower class did not care what other people thought. (Andrews, 20) A Spanish visitor remarked on the poor appearance of the English lower class houses, "These English have their houses made of sticks and dirt."(Andrews, 20)

The Middle Class used the structure houses to honor Elizabeth, and this structure was much more complex than the lower class housing. They also used style structure to honor Henry VIII because he was the father of Elizabeth. (Ross, 26) The materials the middle class used were mainly strong wood and sometimes stiff stone. They would also fill their roofs with clay and plaster which stopped the rain from penetrating the insides of their houses, unlike the lower class homes which had constant leaks and drips. (Andrews, 20) The middle class was also introduced to a gallery which was the longest and biggest room in the whole house. Usually pictures of family, close friends and Queen Elizabeth were hung up in these rooms. (Andrews, 20) Even though the idea of a gallery came from the middle class, the upper class elaborated on the galleries of the middle class and made them much larger.(Ross, 26) People of the middle class also demolished their big walls and small windows because the war was over and they wanted to live an easier life, not a cautious one. (Andrews 21) The middle class, or the ¡§Trend-setters¡¨, of Elizabethan England, and many people cherished and used their ideas to their own advantages. (Ross, 27) The middle class was very smart, and they knew how to use their money to create a nice shelter.

An upper class home usually consisted of the best, most rare, and most expensive material ever used. They tried to make everything from great stone and tried to paint all their walls gold. (Andrews, 19) If people needed to enter the estate they had to pass through several guards who kept trespassers and beggars away. When people entered the manor they would come into a long hall which had a medieval aura. (Andrews, 20) The upper class also had the longest galleries with a background of elaborated carvings and beautiful patterns (sometimes the houses consisted of two or more galleries to show off and be flashy). (Andrews, 21) The galleries would then lead to a stairwell which would lead downstairs. The downstairs area held private chambers and rooms for work. Upstairs people would then find the kitchen, bedrooms, living room(s), game rooms which consisted of chess and other board games, many chairs and tables, and the gallery. (Andrews, 21) The backyard, which was about thousands of feet of green grass, farms, and animals was expansive so people could play American football and sometimes hurling. (Brown, 218) The upper class was very rich, wise, and most admirable out of all three classes. (Andrews, 20) Their houses were the biggest and most beautiful.

From rich to poor, wood to stone, simple to complex, and cheap paint to gold paint, the upper, middle, and lower class¡¦ homes differed in many ways. (Andrews, 20) Many Elizabethan houses today still stand strong. (Andrews, 20) Today we have many different style houses and structures and architecture is evolving everyday. (Starr, 26) There are many differences in the architecture between the lower, middle, and upper classes of Elizabethan England.

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Elijah Ivey said...

Very astonishing essay, I must say.

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