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Elizabethan Houses & Jacobean Homes

Description with images and pictures of the style of Elizabethan houses and Jacobean homes and mansions in the late 16th century and early 17th century in England.

Next come the Elizabethan and Jacobean styles, which together form a transitional type of art connecting the style of Tudor houses with the Anglo Classic art of Inigo Jones belonging the early English Renaissance. The Elizabethan style coincides with the final settlement of the Reformation by Elizabeth, the patriotic outburst caused by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in A.D. 1588, and the literary period of Spenser, Shakespeare, Burleigh and Sir Philip Sidney.

The settlement of foreign craftsmen in England, caused by the massacre of St. Bartholomew (A.D. 1572), also helped to introduce the new form of architectural art as practised for some time previously in France.

The first English book on the new style of architecture, as it was called, was published in A.D. 1563 by John Shute on his return from Italy.

Country Mansions

The period is specially remarkable for the erection of a large number of country residences in which many Gothic features, such as mullioned windows, towers, oriels and large chimney stacks, were retained, but were ornamented with Renaissance detail.

Two general types of plan were in use. The smaller type, derived from the simple mediaeval manor house, consisted as before of a Hall placed centrally with kitchen and offices at one end and family apartments at the other. The larger type was evolved from the quadrangular mediaeval plan, which the Elizabethan and Jacobean architects modified by omitting one side. This resulted in an E shaped plan, securing sunlight and a freer circulation of air into the Court, as at Hatfield House (see diagrams).

Hatfield House
Hatfield House.

The H shaped plan was evolved by extending the wings as at Holland House, London. Other fanciful plans showing extreme originality were also employed, as, e.g., Longford Castle, a triangular house attributed to John Thorpe.

Hatfield House
Hatfield House.


The Great Hall was not universal in this period, and even when found does not occupy such a disproportionate space as formerly, being, in fact, retained from the mediaeval period in order to give a certain state and dignity to the house, although the spirit and meaning of its old character had departed.

The old college halls of the universities and the Inns of Court of London still retain the old arrangement with dais and high table, but these would appear to have had their origin in early monastic institutions and not in the feudal system which produced the hall of the mediaeval period.

The hall was usually lined to a height of eight or ten feet with oak panelling, while above were arranged the trophies of the chase, armour, ancestral portraits, family relics and heirlooms.

Holland House
Plans and elevation of Holland House, Kensington.

The carved oak screen and minstrels' gallery, the raised dais and lofty bay windows, the imposing fireplace richly carved with the owner's coat-of-arms, and the ornamental plaster ceiling are well-known features.


Staircases are important because the chief living rooms, which were frequently on the first floor, demanded an easy means of approach, and they are numerous because the hall was frequently two stories in height, thus dividing the upper floors into two parts, access to which was only obtained by separate staircases. They are generally placed in connection with the hall, and with their heavily carved newels, pierced balustrading and rich carving give an air of spaciousness and dignity to the interior.

The Long Gallery

There is no feature more characteristic of the Elizabethan period, and the Jacobean, than the Long Gallery from which the modern term picture gallery appears to be derived. Their origin is doubtful, but they may have been used for exercise or for the display of objects of art; for the fashionable pastime of "collecting" seems to have commenced about this period. They undoubtedly sometimes served as a means of communication between the wings of the upper floors of the house, when the hall was two stories in height. They were situated on the upper floor, and often extended the whole length of the house. The proportions of the long gallery vary from those of the Great Hall, in being comparatively low and narrow in proportion to their length. This effect, however, was frequently relieved by projecting room-like bays, like those at Haddon Hall, which are as much as fifteen feet by twelve feet.

The walls usually had oak panelling for their full height, and the plaster ceilings were richly modelled.

Family Rooms

The dining, withdrawing room, chapel, bedrooms and offices were based on those of the mediaeval period, but arranged with greater regard to convenience.


The oak furniture, chairs, tables, sideboards, chests and bedsteads of the period form very important features of the house, being constructed in the prevailing architectural style, and therefore adding to the unity and completeness of the general design. See more on Elizabethan furniture and Jacobean furniture.

Carpets appear to have been imported from Turkey and to have come into general use in the reign of Elizabeth.

The Formal Garden

The art of Italian landscape gardening now made its influence felt in the planning of the Formal Garden. This was set as a frame round the more important houses, and with its series of forecourts, parterres, arcades, fountains and terraces it gave a complete and finished appearance to the house.

Where to See

Amongst well known examples of Elizabethan and Jacobean houses are Kirby (Northants), A.D. 1570-5 ; Knole (Kent), A.D. 1570; Burghley (Northants), A.D. 1575-89; Hardwick Hall (Derbyshire), A.D. 1576-97; Longleat (Wilts), A.D. 1567; Bramshill (Hants), A.D. 1607-12 ; and Hatfield House (Herts), A.D. 1611. Try Late Tudor English Homes for some pictures.

The Charterhouse and the Inns of Court in London, the Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge are also good examples. Sir Paul Pindar's house, the front of which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a fine specimen of a small town facade.

Next: Palladian Architecture.

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