The Evolution of British Architecture

Architecture is all about evolution over time. The way that we have been designing buildings is always changing, and this is extremely true on the cloudy isle of Great Britain, and can even be found through many examples from historical
 architects Cheshire. We can see this in the Segontium structure on the outskirts of Chester. It is thought that when the roman empire withdrew from Britain in the fifth century, they left behind their villas, carefully-planned towns and engineering wonders like Hadrian’s wall to fall into decay and ruin. The dark ages were upon us. It took the Normans invading in 1066 to bring it all back to a dynamic design rejuvenation.

Cut forward to the middle ages, the white tower in the heart of London was constructed by bishop Gundulf in 1078 upon the orders of William the conqueror the structure was completed in 1097, providing a colonial stronghold and a powerful symbol of Norman dominance.

Durham Cathedral was begun construction by Bishop William de St Carlief in 1093 and was completed in around 1175. The cathedral was extended in the gothic style between 1242 and 1280, reflecting changing styles over time.

These pillars made Durham one of the most imposing norman buildings in all of England.

The Tudors of the 16th century, domestic architecture was built to reflect status and wealth, as William Harrison noted in his seminal ‘Description of England’ (1577): ‘Each one desireth to set his house aloft on the hill, to be seen afar off, and cast forth his beams of stately and curious workmanship into every quarter of the country.’

This stately and impressive workmanship showed itself in various ways. A greater sense of security led to more outward-looking buildings, as opposed to the medieval arrangement where the need of defence created buildings and large homes. It was more about attractive and balanced exteriors.

In the 17th century, with the exception of the famous Inigo Jones (1573 - 1652) who stands apart from all other architects of the time, most tended to take an innocent exuberance of late Tudor work a step further. Traditional work was pasted over by a myriad of little details. 

Many nobles fled to continental Europe after the civil wall of the 1640s and 50s to escape the fighting or to follow Charles II into exile. They came into contact with many foreign influences here and when Charles was restored they brought back these new European styles into the British way.

If we zoom ahead to the Victorian times, we know that the French Revolution served as to what could happen if the ruling class lost control. As such people held onto their class-based system with ideals of chivalry and code of honour and respect. The gigantic Crystal Palace was made to house the great exhibition of 1851, and shoes another strand of 19th-century architecture - one that made the most of Britain's industrial prowess. It was a big shift as the individual craftsman no longer had an important role in building.

Reformers like John Ruskin and William Morris made a concerted effort to return to handcrafted pre-industrialisation manufacturing. 

The houses of parliament were burnt to the ground in 1834, in 1840 construction of the new Westminster palace began which took 20 years, with gothic-inspired architecture.

In the 21st century, we have amazing constructions like London’s Gherkin, Shard and Walkie Talkie which dominate the skyline and central city district.