The Periodical – Part 1
Wattle and Daub: The Tudor Style
It can be overlooked, with a viewpoint too laser-focused on percentage increases and smart investments, that our homes can be a reflection of ourselves. That is not to say that realistic and strategic consideration of the housing market, as seen here, is not worthwhile. Quite the opposite. It can and has been a booster of prosperity for many. But the value of reading into the character between the brick and mortar cannot be overstated. And so, to investigate how homes can prove a marker for cultural outlook, or changing day-to-day considerations, I will be periodically providing retrospective accounts of changing house styles throughout the decades. Starting today with the perhaps-not-so-terrifying-Tudors.
Said to be the oldest surviving style of houses in England that exist in large enough numbers to warrant categorisation, Tudor homes are iconic Olde England. Instantly recognisable for their contrasting black and white woodwork, it is interesting to consider what that striking exterior represented internally. To begin with, the material (daub) that was filled in between the timber frames was not naturally that colour. The daub was painted white with limewash after being filled in between the wooden strips and sticks that held it in place. Its original appearance was more earthen, being made from clay and sand, and of course, animal dung. The ingenuity in using readily available materials, being measured against the added effort of increasing its aesthetic appeal, suggests a growing compromise between what was practical and what was socially attractive.
This brings us to windows. Tudor-style houses have small-paned casement windows. They are often tall and narrow. These textures help add to the character of the houses, but they were born out of practical considerations too. Glass in the period, the 1480s – 1603, was still expensive to produce. The panes helped limit its use but having windows at all, therefore, signified wealth. They were such an investment that homeowners commonly took their windows with them when they moved. How extravagant the skyscrapers of today, behemoths of glassware such as they are, might appear to a Tudor time-traveler. And how strange it is to conceptualize windows, which appear as static and fundamental aspects of any given house, as movable objects in the vein of any other furniture.
If you happened to peek into a Tudor window in their heyday, however, you would have found dirt floors sparsely covered in rush. Rush was threads of twine sewn together into covering, but reputedly inefficient at holding back the spread of dirt. Because of this, while carpets existed, they were often found hung on the walls. Stripped of their function, I would venture to say their purpose was, then, as yet another marker of wealth. Their chimneys too meant more than just their intended use. They were a relatively modern technology and allowed for more rooms that served different functions by lessening the importance of a single, central source of warmth. And so, to a Tudor, chimneys might have been their modern equivalent, status-wise, of heated flooring or voice-controlled appliances.
Due to their visual appeal, there have been attempts to revive the Tudor style. Principally, in Roaring 20s America, it was brought back with modern techniques: stone walls with faux timber. Slate roofs instead of thatch. But the Great Depression brought an end to that trend because its laborious and expensive construction made it cost-prohibitive. And so, just as England had abandoned the style for being laborious and time-consuming, America abandoned its revival. Still, despite cost and impracticalities, I am glad Tudor originals and Revivals are still around. If not to live in, but to admire from afar.
Luiz De Souza | Administrator