Style History- Elizabethan architecture

8 Jun

Elizabethan architecture is the term given to early Renaissance architecture in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Historically the period responds to the Cinquecento in Italy, the Early Renaissance in France, and the Plateresque style in Spain.

Stylistically it followed Tudor architecture and was succeeded in the 17th century by Palladian architecture introduced by Inigo Jones.

English Renaissance: Hardwick Hall (1590-1597). The numerous and large mullioned windows are typically English Renaissance, while the loggia is Italian.


Burghley House, completed 1587.


Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, England completed in 1588 for Sir Francis Willoughby by the Elizabethan architect, Robert Smythson.

Renaissance architecture arrived in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, having first spread through the Low countries where among other features it acquired versions of the Dutch gable, and Flemish strapwork in geometric designs adorning the walls. Both of these features can be seen on the towers of Wollaton Hall and again at Montacute House. It was also at this time that English houses adopted the Italian concept of a long gallery being the chief reception room. In England the Renaissance tended to manifest itself in large square tall houses such as Longleat House. Often these buildings had symmetrical towers which hint at the evolution from medieval fortified architecture. The trademark of this style is that the towers are in a shape of the letter “E” for “Elizabeth” This is particularly evident at Hatfield House built between 1607 and 1611, where medieval towers jostle the eye with a large Italian cupola. Hatfield House built in its entirety by Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, between 1607 and 1611, is a perfect example of the transition period from the gabled turreted style of the previous era. One can clearly see the turreted Tudor style wings at each end with their mullioned windows, however, the whole is achieving a symmetry and the two wings are linked by an Italianate Renaissance facade. This central facade, originally an open loggia, has been attributed to Inigo Jones himself, however, the central porch carries a heavier Jacobean influence than Jones would have used, so the attribution is probably false. Inside the house the elaborately carved staircase demonstrates the Italian renaissance impression on English ornament.

Sutton Place (old print)
Sutton Place (old print)

During the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI many Italian artists came over, who carried out various decorative features at

Hampton Court
Layer Marney Tower, Essex (1522-1525)
Sutton Place, Surrey (1529)
Nonsuch Palace
and elsewhere. Later in the century Flemish craftsmen succeeded the Italians, and the Royal Exchange in London (1566-1570) is one of the first important buildings designed by Henri de Paschen, an architect from Antwerp.


Longford Castle

Places showing the style introduced by Flemish workmen:

Longford Castle
Wollaton
Hatfield House
Blickling
Audley End
Charterhouse (London)

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