Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830

Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830

Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830

Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830

Excerpt

The thirty years preceding Queen Elizabeth's accession were, for architecture in Britain at large, fallow years. The people who were later to plant the counties so richly with halls, manor-houses, and mansions were either unborn or in their cradles. Their fathers, living in the strenuous course of a social revolution, bent themselves rather to the getting and keeping of land than to the raising of buildings on it. The landlords, for instance, who were enclosing commons, the new purchasers of monastic properties, had a more lively concern with husbandry and the law than with any of the arts; the land-surveyor and the lawyer were more vital to the Tudor revolution than the highly skilled artificer in wood, stone, or brick.

In the decades which are our concern in this chapter architectural interest converges emphatically on one point -- the Court. Here, as in greater issues, Wolsey's fall marks a beginning. The Cardinal had been scarcely less than royal in his building works and Henry, then in his late thirties and turning from a life of civil pleasures and occasional generalship to one ruled by genuine monarchical ambition, took over from his minister not only estates and buildings themselves but the idea of rulership extravagantly housed. From 1529 till the end of his reign palace-building proceeded energetically, and here is the first and chief thread to be followed.

The Mid-Tudor Palace Style

In 1530 no royal palace was more recent than that which Henry's father, the first Tudor, had built at Sheen and called Richmond Palace on its completion in 1501. That building, one of the frugal King's few extravagances, was a great brick palace-castle on the French model, built round a courtyard and exhibiting exteriorly many tall, narrow towers, each with a lead crown flaring up from its summit; the walls were pierced liberally with unfortresslike windows. Of the precise plan and architectural treatment we know nothing; but the tower at Windsor which bears the King's name and the glorious chapel he built at Westminster help us to understand something of its character. Richmond may well have been the fount of several important features which penetrate into the architecture of much later times.

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