Tudorbethan

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Ascott House, Buckinghamshire designed circa 1876 by George Devey. An early example of Tudorbethan
The Tudorbethan style first manifested itself in domestic architecture in the United Kingdom in the mid to late 19th century. It later became an influence in some other countries, especially the British colonies such as New Zealand where the architect Francis Petre adapted the style for the local climate. The earliest examples of the style originate from the 1850's when the architect George Devey designed entire new villages, such as Mentmore, in what late become known as the Tudorbethan style.

The Tudorbethan style was a reaction to the Victorian ornate Gothic revival of the second half of the 19th century. Rejecting mass production that was beginning to be introduced by industry at that time, the Arts and Crafts movement, closely related to Tudorbethan, drew on simple design inherent in aspects of its more ancient styles, Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean. One of the earliest country houses in this style is Ascott House in Buckinghamshire. This was designed by Devey for the Rothschild family who were among the earliest patrons and promoters of this style.

Tudorbethan revived certain architectural elements of these styles, imitating the medieval cottages or country houses. Though it follows their characteristics, Tudorbethan cannot really be likened to the timber-framed structures of the originals in which the frame supported the whole weight of the house. Their modern counterparts consist more likely of bricks or blocks of various materials with a look-alike frame added on the outside which is really then deprived of its functional and structural weight-bearing role.

Steeply pitched roofs, half-timbering often infilled with herringbone brickwork, tall mullioned windows, high chimneys, jettied (overhanging) first floors above pillared porches, dormer windows supported by consoles, and even at times thatched roofs: all these if not always present together, were certainly part of the style.

Tudorbethan became popular in the interwar periods of the 1920s and 1930s and again in a modified version in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the period of its revival is far from over even now, as examples of recently-completed Tudorbethan-style warden-assisted housing for the elderly in certain areas of the United Kingdom has shown.

Earliest among the exponents who developed the style was Edwin Lutyens (1864–1944). Later came Mackey Hugh Baillie Scott (1865–1945) and Blair Imrie who made their names as Tudorbethans.

Many London outer suburbs had developments of houses in the style, all reflecting the taste for nostalgia for rural values. It was also copied in many areas of the world, including the United States and Canada.

Tudorbethan is not popular with modernist architects and is frequently reviled as pastiche or indeed non-architecture. However it is much more popular than modern styles with much of the British public, and this split can be seen as evidence of the estrangement of the architectural establishment from public taste.

In the early years of the 21st century a very high proportion of new housing in the United Kingdom still displays a Tudorbethan influence, although this is often perfunctory in its execution. Even traditionalists who approve of the use of historical styles in contemporary architecture regret that most Tudorbethan architecture these days is adulterated with other styles and therefore flawed. However they would argue that the intellectual intimidation of those who demand traditional styles from the architectural establishment, and the resultant marginalisation of architects who are interested in them, is itself one of the principal causes of the tendency towards banality which is derided by modernists. Even though the architectural establishment has been attempting to suppress the popular preference for traditional styles for several generations, it has had little success to date, and there is little reason to suppose that it will be more successful in the future. This standoff is not conducive to the construction of quality housing because commercial housebuilders are obliged to respond to public taste that is often conditioned by a romantic backward-looking cottage style idealism, and therefore houses are completed largely without the participation of high calibre architects.

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