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English Renaissance - Elizabethan Architecture

( Originally Published 1921 )


The Early Renaissance was heralded by a number of smaller monuments and fittings erected in existing churches, as in other countries (pp. 758, 761 M).

The Culpepper Tomb, Goudhurst (p. 758 c), the wall tablets at Peter-house College, Cambridge (p. 758 J), and All Hallows, Barking, London (p. 758 G), the pulpit, North Cray (p. 758 A), and the chapel screen, Charterhouse (p. 758 B), are examples of monuments to be found in churches throughout the country, while the stalls, King's College, Cam-bridge (A.D. 1531-35), (p. 761 M), are amongst the earliest examples of the newly introduced style.

The Tomb of Henry VII (A.D. 1512-18), (p. 350), in Westminster Abbey, by Torrigiano, is an early and exquisite example of Renaissance art. It is a black marble table tomb, with angle Corinthian pilasters, between which are the royal arms, while above are winged cherubs and recumbent life-like effigies of Henry VII and his queen.


The best-known Elizabethan mansions are : Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire (A.D. 1559) (p. 699 A) ; Charlecote, Warwickshire (A.D. 1558) ; Loseley Park, Surrey (A.D. 1562) ; Longleat House, Wilts (A.D. 156780) (p. 696 D) ; Kirby Hall, Northants (A.D. 1570) (pp. 699 B, 716), by John Thorpe ; Penshurst Place, Kent (portion) (A.D. 157085) (p.370) ; Eurghley House, Northants (A.D. 157787) (pp. 696 A, 752 B), perhaps by John Thorpe; Montacute House, Somerset (A.D. 1580160i) (p. 696 B) ; Wollaton Hall, Notts (A.D. 158o88) (p. 696 c), by John Thorpe and Robert Smithson ; Longford Castle, Wilts (A.D. 1591) (pp. 695 A, 696 E), by John Thorpe ; Haddon Hall, Derbyshire (long gallery) (A.D. 156784) (p. 379)

Westwood House, Worcester (A.D.. 1590) ; Bramhall Hall, Cheshire (A.D. 15901600) ; Hinchingbrooke Hall (A.D. 1602) (p. 752 c) ; Sizergh Castle, Westmorland (A.D. 155875) (p. 694 B), which was enlarged in this period, and Lower Walterstone, Dorset (A.D. 1586).

These mansions show a genera] similarity in their arrangement with those of the Jacobean period, and so we give here detailed descriptions of the plan and usual features, which were evolved from those of the Tudor period (p. 379). The smaller houses had a central hall flanked at one end by kitchen and offices, and at the other by withdrawing- and living-rooms ; while the larger type was quadrangular with similar accommodation, but with additional rooms grouped round the court, and with a gatehouse in the centre of the entrance side, as at Oxburgh Hall (P. 371 K), Compton Wynyates (P. 376 c), and Sutton Place (p. 376 G). Elizabethan architects adhered to the Tudor plan for smaller houses, but they evolved the E-shaped plan from the quadrangular plan by omitting one side, as at Hatfield, thus admitting sunlight and allowing freer circulation of air (p. 696 B). It is even recorded that, with this object in view, one side of the " quad " at Caius College, Cambridge, was removed.

The gatehouse often became a detached building, as at Burton Agnes, Yorkshire ; Cranborne, Dorset, and Stanway, Gloucestershire. Certain features, such as the great hall, grand staircase, and long gallery, are common to the typical houses mentioned above, many of which were framed in extensive formal gardens, as at Longford Castle and Hatfield House (p. 695).

I. The Great Hall (pp. 696, 700 D) still retained its central position, but became more than ever a hall of state, connecting the various parts of the mansion. The walls were cased internally in oak panelling to a height of 8 or 10 ft., surmounted by ancestral portraits, armour, and trophies of the chase. The fireplace, with its huge dog-grate, was an elaborate feature flanked by columns, while above were ranged heraldic devices of the owners. The hall was covered either by an open timber roof, as that over the Middle Temple Hall (p. 409 H), or with elaborately moulded plaster panels (p. 693 A). At the entrance end the carved oak screen supported the minstrels' gallery and screened off the kitchen department beyond ; while at the other end of the hall was the lofty bay window and raised dais, from which were reached the living-rooms of the family. The same general arrangement of hall plan was adopted in the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and the Inns of Court, London.

II. The Grand Staircase, as at Knole House (p. 693 B) and Blickling Hall (p. 755 B, c), with carved newels and pierced balustrades, and usually adjacent to the hall, forms a spacious and dignified approach to the rooms above, and its prominence as a feature is in marked contrast with the inconvenient corkscrew stairs of the Mediaeval period.

III. The Long Gallery (pp. 693 C, 696, 700) is perhaps the most striking feature of an Elizabethan mansion, with ornamental chimney-pieces, panelled or tapestried walls, large mullioned windows, and modelled plaster ceiling. Long, low, and narrow, though varied as at Haddon by room-like bays (p. 693 c), the gallery often ran the whole length of the upper floor of the house and connected the wings on either side of the central hall (p. 696 F). Its original purpose is somewhat doubtful ; it may have been designed merely as a connecting corridor, as a covered promenade, or as a " picture gallery " which was also used to display the art treasures which it had now become the fashion to collect ; or it may even have been designed to serve all three purposes. It would almost seem as if the aristocracy of Elizabethan times in England rivalled one another in the length of their galleries, even as did the noble families of Mediaeval Italy in the height of their towers. Some of the finest of these galleries are : Little Moreton Hall (A.D. 1559), 75 ft. by 12 ft. 6 ins. ; Hardwick Hall (A.D. 1576) (p. 700 B), 166 ft. by 22 ft. ; Montacute House (A.D. 1580), 170 ft. by 20 ft., and Haddon Hall (A.D. 1589), 109 ft. by 18 ft.

IV. The Withdrawing-room or " solar" of previous times was, in addition to these pronounced and distinguishing features, now often elaborately finished with carved chimney-pieces and panelled walls, as at Crewe Hall, Cheshire (A.D. 1636) (p. 694 A), and Stockton House, Wiltshire (A.D. 1610) (p. 755 A), where it even rivalled a long gallery in treatment.

Bedrooms were multiplied and were often elaborate, as at Sizergh Castle (p. 694 B), and a private chapel was frequently incorporated in the building (p. 696 D, F).

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire (A.D. 157697) (p.700), by Robert Smithson, is somewhat unusual in plan (p. 700 B), consisting of a rectangular block with projecting bays. The exterior is famous for its large mullioned and transomed windows, giving rise to the saying " Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall," while bay-windows, carried up as towers, relieve the skyline and are terminated by open scrollwork with the initials " E.S.," for Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury, known as " Bess of Hardwick."

Castle Ashby, Northants (A.D. 1572) (p. 700), a reputed design of John Thorpe, is situated on high ground, and was originally in the form of a three-sided court, which included the great hall (6o ft. by 30 ft.), with screens, bay-window, and staircase turrets. The lettered balustrade contains the words "Nisi Dominus aedificaverit," etc. (Ps. cxxvii). Inigo Jones added a fourth side (A.D. 1624), with the long gallery (91 ft. by 15 ft. 6 ins.), and this addition illustrates the difference between the Elizabethan and Anglo-Classic styles (p. 700 c).


During the Mediaeval period many colleges had been founded at the universities (p. 391), and as the day of the pious founder had not yet passed, new colleges were still endowed both at Oxford and Cambridge. These were, of course, built in the Elizabethan style, which retained many Gothic features ; while additions were also made to Mediaeval colleges. Thus revival of learning and Renaissance in architecture went hand in hand in our old universities. At Cambridge there was Emmanuel College (A.D. 1584), with its dignified facade ; the beautiful little Gate of Honour, Caius College (A.D. 156574) (p. 706 B), probably designed by Theodore Havens of Cleves ; Nevill's Court, Trinity College (A.D. 15931615), and new quadrangles to Sidney Sussex College (A.D. 1595) and S. John's College (A.D. 1598) (p. 391), by Ralph Simons. At Oxford there is a fine example of Renaissance work in Jesus College (A.D. 1571) by Holt. Other colleges and additions at both universities belong to the later periods (pp. 714, 744). Among the Inns of Court, London, Gray's Inn Hall (A.D. 1555-60), and the famous Hall of the Middle Temple, with its magnificent hammer-beam roof (A.D. 156272) (p. 409 H), partly date from this period.


The reign of Elizabeth saw the beginning of many schools, such as Repton (A.D. 1557), Merchant Taylors (A.D. 1561), Highgate (A.D. 1565), Rugby (A.D. 1567), Harrow (A.D. 1571), and Uppingham (A.D. 1584), and some were the product of joint founders, as at Wakefield, Ashbourne, and Sandwich. The Charterhouse (A.D. 1611) and Dulwich School (A.D. 1619) both started under James I. The Commonwealth fostered old schools and established new ones, notably in Wales, at Cardiff, Carnarvon, and Denbigh ; while the Restoration period proved anti-educational, and it was not until the nineteenth century that a new stimulus was given to education. Subsequent to the Restoration period, education saw a new development in the increase of elementary schools for the poor, and over one hundred such schools were established in London in Queen Anne's reign ; the Blue Coat School was founded at Hertford (A.D. 1683) on the model of Christ's Hospital, London, while the Foundling Hospital, London, received its charter in A.D. 1739.


Many interesting houses were built, not only in London, but also in country towns ; for in days of slow, and difficult travelling by coach, many of the landed gentry, especially in parts remote from London, found it convenient to have their town residences close at hand. York, Chester, Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Coventry, Canterbury, Exeter, Truro, and many another town bear testimony to the artistic design and craftsman-ship of the houses of this period. In London itself there remain, in spite of the Great Fire, the notable half-timber building of Staple Inn (A.D. 1581), with its fine hall and hammer-beam roof, and portions of the Charterhouse, including the great hall (A.D. 1571), added by the Duke of Norfolk ; while the facade of Sir Paul Pindar's House (A.D. 1600) is now preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum, as is also a panelled room from the Palace of Bromley-by-Bow (A.D. 16o6), which, with its plaster ceiling (p. 761 B), recalls the glories of such palatial buildings although it actually dates from the Jacobean period.

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