Tudor Architecture, Explained: History and Characteristics

Tudor architecture originated in England and Wales during the Tudor period of 1485 to 1603. Tudor-style homes feature half-timbered frames that contrast their white stucco exterior, making them easy to identify.

The Tudor architectural style made its way to the United States in the 1900s. But, because the materials were expensive, Tudor homes only populated wealthy U.S. neighborhoods and earned the nickname “stockbroker Tudors.”

The History of Tudor Architecture

Tudor House Style

Tudor architecture developed in Britain during the rule of the Tudor Monarchs. It’s a medieval style combining elements from Renaissance and Gothic architecture. 

Tudor architecture has castle-like features, although homes built for the wealthy had different characteristics than those inhabited by the lower class.

During the Tudor era, lower-class British citizens built their homes using a timber frame and filled the gaps with wattle and daub, a mixture of soil, clay, straw, and other additives. While wattle and daub gave these early Tudor-style homes the look of stucco, the material was short-lasting.

Some common characteristics of early lower-class homes included square or rectangular shapes, flagstone or dirt floors, Inglenook fireplaces, steep roofs, and tall windows and doors. 

While many upper-class British residents also built Tudor-style homes, their versions looked different. These houses were large, bearing an “E” or “H” shaped floor plan, and had brick or stone facades, sometimes with half-timbering. They also featured elaborate gable roofs, massive fireplaces, and extensive brick chimneys.

Like all architectural types, the Tudor style fell out of favor as architects explored new designs. In the 17th century, Elizabethan architecture took the spotlight, followed by Baroque and then Georgian styles.

Tudor Revival Architecture

Tudor Revival architecture refers to the revitalization of the Tudor style, which happened in England and the United States from about 1860 to 1940. 

In 1860, British architect, Norman Shaw, built a Tudor Style mansion called Craigside. Shaw envisioned a “future fairy palace” with many authentic Tudor features. The style caught on in England, and architects used it for public buildings such as libraries.

Tudor Revival Style made its way to the U.S. in 1895. These homes peaked in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s. The American version drew inspiration from the traditional English Tudor homes but often used red brick on the facade and more ornate designs around windows and doors. 

Variations of the American style of Tudor Revival homes are sometimes called storybook homes, English cottage Tudors, and picturesque cottages.

But, because the materials used to build Tudor homes were expensive, wealthy residents were more likely to own them. In 1945, Tudor Revival homes lost popularity as many Americans struggled with finances and needed cost-effective housing.

Defining The Tudor Arch

The Tudor arch is a design feature from original Tudor-style homes in Britain. It’s a four-centered arch with the inner curves having a larger radius than the outer curves. The Tudor arch is most common for doorways. In grand styles, architects use the Tudor arch over some windows.

Exterior Characteristics of Tudor Styles House

Tudor houses have evolved over the years. Here are the main exterior characteristics of American Tudor-style homes:

  • Half-timbered frame. One of the most identifying characteristics of a Tudor-style home is the vertical wooden beams that run up the exterior.
  • Steeply pitched roofs. Tudor homes feature steep roofs with multiple gables.
  • Brick or stucco exterior. Older Tudor-style homes may feature a brick facade, while versions built during the Tudor revival period often have white stucco siding.
  • Prominent chimneys. Tudor homes are typical in cold climates and feature at least one large brick chimney.
  • Oriel windows. Projecting windows like oriel, bay, or bow are common in Tudor-style homes.
  • Off-center front door. Tudor-style front doors are prominent but off-center.

Interior Characteristics of Tudor-Style Homes

The interiors of Tudor-style homes reflect the exterior. Here’s what you’ll find.

  • Custom layouts. Tudor-style homes feature asymmetrical floor plans and often have a custom layout.
  • Stained wood trim. The home’s inside will feature decorative wood trim, often stained dark.
  • Wooden ceiling beams. There may be ceiling beams in one or many rooms.
  • Neutral color schemes. The use of white, creams, tans, and browns is common for the interior and exterior.
  • Arched doorways. Doorways may feature a curved or Tudor arch.

Famous Examples of Tudor-Style Architecture

Compton Wynyates House

The Compton Wynyates House is an early example of upper-class Tudor architecture from the late 15th century. The house features a brick facade, four wings, and a central courtyard. 

Even though this country-style Tudor mansion is over 500 years old, it has been restored to keep its original authenticity.

Handforth Hall

Handforth Hall

Built in 1562, Handforth Hall was a manor house for Sir Urian Brereton. It sits in Handforth, Cheshire, England, and features two stories, half-timbering, and five bays.

The white sandstone and wood timbering show how this historical Tudor example inspired many of the Tudor Revival designs.

Eastlake Golf Club

Eastlake Golf Club

The Eastlake Golf Club in Atalanta, GA, demonstrates the Tudor Revival style in the United States. Built in 1904, this Tudor mansion features white stucco, half-timbering, and a sprawling layout.

The Eastlake Golf Club and Tudor “clubhouse” is still operating today.