Jacobean and early Stuart (1603-1649) & Stuart and Queen Anne (1660-1714)

The reign of James I (VI of Scotland, 1603-1625) is often known as Jacobean, but socially and economically it is a continuation of the Elizabethan era.

The lofty Elizabethan hall which was an essential feature of most country houses was replaced by a number of smaller rooms, the pattern was set for the traditional domestic house layout.

James I was concerned about overcrowding in London and in 1619 he set about improving the standards of those who had previously lived in poor housing conditions. The origins of the London Building Act, in operation today, stem from James I, and he laid down rules on minimum standards for height of rooms, construction and thickness of outer walls and the size of windows. This period could be regarded as the beginning of town planning as we know it today.

An architect who was to have a lasting influence on English architecture was Inigo Jones. Influenced by continental trends for groups of houses being built into squares, his greatest achievements were Covent Garden, Lincoln’s Inn Field and St James’s square.

Charles I was executed in 1649 and during his reign little advances were made due to civil wars and general unrest.

Stuart and Queen Anne (1660-1714)

The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 should have heralded a new creative period, but in 1665 the bubonic plague was at its height claiming three to four thousand deaths a week.

The plague was halted by the great fire of London 1666, and this provided a great opportunity to rebuild London improving cramped and unsanitary conditions. It was decided to re-plan the City with wide thoroughfares, brick buildings and at least a rudimentary drainage system.

Christopher Wren undertook the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral, and was also responsible for designing Buckingham Palace and parts of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. In 1668 the first systematic attempt was made to light the streets of London, and regular stage-coach routes were established from London to York, Chester, Exeter, Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1697 the window tax was introduced and this was to continue until 1851 when it was replaced by House Duty. The amount levied depended on the number of glass windows in the building, and it induced owners to brick up windows to reduce their tax liability. Blank window openings were also a feature rather than an avoidance of tax to keep the uniformity in the fenestration on the front elevation of a building.

The building of country houses continued during the Stuart period, but towards the end of the 17 century, the universal terrace house plan was developed. This consisted of a lobby and staircase against the two rooms on each floor, and this plan remained popular throughout the 18th and 19th century.

The Building Act of 1707 laid down the thickness of party walls in terraces, and required these walls to continue up through the roof space and protrude two feet above the roof, thus avoiding fire spreading from one house to another. A further Act of 1709 introduced a more aesthetic regulation that door frames and windows should be set back by four inches. This had the effect of making walls look thicker and gave a sturdier appearance to the whole structure.

About this time a Dutch invention of a new type of window was introduced in large numbers into this country. This window was very popular with new town houses, and even earlier casement windows were removed and replaced by the more fashionable sash. The Stuart era saw the beginning of the trend to move whole families from their country houses into fashionable towns for certain parts of the year.

Although ‘Queen Anne’ is said to be a definite period of architecture, it was more a progression in house design that was developed before the explosion of development during the Georgian and Regency eras.

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