Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yes - This IS a Tudor Home

I happened to come across this story about an old, original Tudor-period home in Surrey [UK] that was about to receive a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for restoration.

The money is set to be used for updating the building so that it can continue to preserve local heritage and attract more visitors. The scheduled repair work will involve solving problems with dampness, removing modern fixtures and restoring the home’s original features.

As I looked at the photo of the house, I wondered if some of those original features would include half-timbering, which may very well be hidden underneath the white clapboard exterior of the present house. In some regions, a number of original Tudor homes were clad in wooden clapboards during later centuries, so their appearance on an actual Tudor house is not entirely out of context. In some cases, it may even be preferable to leave them in place, since it’s often good preservation practice to recognize some of the changes and alterations that have been made to a building over the years.

In any case, it struck me that most people wouldn’t even recognize this as a Tudor house at all, since it lacks the half-timber work that most Americans associate with the style. Most realtors I know would call it a Colonial; indeed, exchange the house’s white color for gray and it would be very reminiscent of the well-known House of The Seven Gables in Salem, MA, or even the “Witches’ House, also located there.  That is certainly “colonial” – but what those houses represent is an older, vernacular Tudor timber structure, clad in the clapboard that we associate with “colonial” homes.

In overall shape, structure and massing—the high-pitched roof, the jettied porch over the front door, the leaded casement windows—these houses can’t be anything but Tudor. The house in Surrey is a great example of this.

My own home (see photo at left) is an example of this as well. Aside from some faux half-timber work in the gable, it’s entirely clad in clapboard-style siding. But it also retains the high pitched roof and the jettied porch over the front door, supported by large corbels at each side. It’s a more modern interpretation to be sure (including the garage) but it is probably more “Tudor” in form than the brick-and-half timber “contemporary” house across the street, which most Americans would probably think of as “Tudor” –if asked to identify the style. To avoid any confusion, I often identify the style of my house as “Olde English” rather than Tudor-Revival, in recognition of the cladding materials and the fact that it was inspired by older forms, rather than attempting to copy them.

For the knowledgeable, this is no great obstacle, but for the casual observer, it’s important to see past the cover and look more thoughtfully at the book. The renovation of the Surrey house is a good story. And a good lesson.

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