From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture


One of Britain's most iconic traits is its architecture. There is no other country in the world with anything similar to its churches, its stately homes, its houses and famous landmarks. 

London has some of the world's oldest, most iconic, charismatic and innovative, from the ultra-modern, super-famous Shard in central London to our lesser-known manor houses like Manor by the Lake in the Cotswolds. It is one of the reasons why many people come to visit the UK.

Architecture tells us a story; it is a moment in time. It can teach us about attitudes, infrastructure and major moments in history. It can also teach us about personal stories - about those who have lived and died, fallen in love, and been passionate about other things. 

British architecture is like a visual history book that is open for anyone and everyone to read if they wish to.

The White Tower - Tower of London

From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture

Tower of London - Image via Wikimedia, Bernard Gagnon

The White Tower at the Tower of London is one of London's most iconic pieces of architecture. Built on the order of William the Conqueror, by Bishop Gundalf, the White Tower was finished in 1097. It was built as a show of power and Norman strength but was also built for the king and his representatives to live in.

Cornmarket Street, Oxford

From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture

On 24-26 Cornmarket Street, Oxford, you will find a rare example of a timber-framed, three-story building. Built between 1386 and 1396, this is a beautifully decorated building typical of the buildings where affluent people were living at the time. It was built for a local wine merchant, but this style of timber-framed housing can be seen throughout the country, coming from different periods.

As technology improved and stone or brick became more accessible to people, these timber-framed buildings became less common.

Hampton Court Palace

From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture

Hampton Court Palace - Image via Wikimedia, Duncan Harris

Hampton Court Palace spans a history of British architecture in one building. It is one of the most iconic buildings from the Tudor era. It was first inhabited by Cardinal Wolsey and then given to Henry VIII. Its oldest parts highlight a more outward-facing society compared to the inward and defensive lives of the Middle Ages. The palace is magnificent and extravagant and buildings were added to the main structure by Christopher Wren in the 17th century. 

The baroque palace added by Wren aligns with many of the other great buildings, which he designed in the period including St Paul's Cathedral. With its somewhat 'conservative' appearance, these buildings give off notes of grandeur and nobility with a solid background - exactly the impression that the British institutions wanted to portray.

Stately Homes

From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture

Blenheim Palace - Image via Wikimedia, DeFacto

Britain is well known for its stately or country homes and these were generally built as the 'country residence' of affluent families who lived in the city. They have been slowly evolving over the past half a century. They were often built to give an impression of power and authority over the people who lived close by, but the stability of the Tudor period meant that the rich owners were happy to fortify them a little less.

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is owned by the Duke of Marlborough and was built between 1705 and 1722. This fine example of English Baroque architecture was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. Just like many other buildings designed at the time, Blenheim Palace was all about magnificence - with less importance placed on convenience and comfort. It was designed to be looked at and marvelled from afar, and details show signs of strong national pride.

Modern Architecture

From London to the Cotswolds: Exploring British Architecture

Belvue School by Studio Weave

Looking at the newest buildings that are being designed, we are seeing a strong link to nature and the outside world. Whether it is something as obvious as the use of glass to 'let the outside in', the use of more natural materials, the use of the shapes and colours of nature, or attention being paid to creating natural eco-friendly buildings, this is certainly a theme we are seeing today.

The Belvue School in London uses wood and glass sides to integrate the school with nature, as well as skylights to let in air and natural light.

The stone-clad Oxford College auditorium also uses wood to help to bring the idea of nature to the building. Its vertical fins are designed to let as much natural light in as possible.

British architecture across the country spans hundreds, if not thousands of years. And it all has a story to tell, from its humble tower blocks to grand mansions.

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Comments (1)

mathew, Commercial Builder/Developer • Apr 4

I like this european architecture very much