Power and Politics of Architecture in Tudor England

Changes in Tudor Architecture

The architecture of the Tudor period was markedly different from that of previous eras in that the homes were not primarily fortresses. There came about an archetypal Tudor palace, that was perfected by the second Tudor King. Though the palaces may not have looked the same on the outside or the inside, there was a consistent formula that went into the construction. Each of the features that went into the formula contributed to the projection of power, being aspects that portray dominance. “[Tudor Palaces] were built of brick and laid out on a symmetrical courtyard plan. Turreted gatehouses were the dominant architectural feature, octagonal or rectangular towers marked the corners of the courtyards, rectangular windows were divided by mullions and transoms, and battlements topped the ranges around each court.”[1] The desire for privacy extended into this exterior formula; each courtyard provided for more and more of a screen from the public. One can see from the plans of Hampton Court exactly how the courtyard were used as a sort of filter. After Henry VIII built improvements upon the palace, there were three different courtyards between the entrance and the royal lodgings. As one went further and further in the parts of the palace became more exclusive. This is an example of Henry VIII using architecture as a tool to provide privacy and in turn exercise his power. 

The Gatehouse was also an important part of the construction, creating a formal separation of the palace and the outside world. The gate house pictured above was that of Hampton Court Palace, and the gate house pictured here was at Richmond Palace. These gate houses are both quite dominating to an arriving visitor. There is a low wide arch with large walls on either side; the owner of the home's arms were almost always displayed above the arch. In a time when not everyone could read, heraldry was almost universally understood; therefore seeing a family coat of arms upon entrance to a home would show the visitor exactly who lived their and possessed the power to construct such lodgings.

This is there period where leisure and comfort came into consideration when designing and constructing a palace or prodigy house. This plays into the politics of the age because prior to this there was not much accommodation for leisure in homes and the homes were generally small fortresses or barracks. Prodigy homes and palaces would be primarily for housing the Lord, his household, and many retainers and servants. Having to accommodate so many people, did not leave much room for leisure spaces and private spaces. There was no change in the need to accommodate numerous people, but there was a change in what was prioritized and how the rooms were organized. Just as in the royal palaces, the arrangement of prodigy houses became more private and intimate as one went further in. This was for the same reason as the monarchs did it, they wanted to control the flow of access to the lord. The builders started making interior, private rooms as nicely appointed as the great hall and chapel, which had not been done in the fortress like homes. Another major reason the homes moved away from fortress characteristics is simple, there was a relatively long period of domestic peace in England and there was not really a need any more to protect one’s home from siege or invasion.
[1] Barras, A Wealth of Buildings, 264

This page has paths:

This page references: