Buying a tudor property

Quaint, romantic and full of historical character, Tudor homes conjure up images of days gone by - family meals at huge wooden tables and a fire forever roaring in the hearth. UK homeowners rate Tudor properties as one of the cosiest homes to live in and with their distinctive wooden beams, white plaster work and thatched roofs they are an important part of our national heritage. Buying a Tudor home can be a difficult business however and there are a lot of things you need to look out for. From Tudor to Tudorbeathen, from Medieval to Mock Tudor, thatched roofs to gables, chimneys, wattle and daub - this guide to buying a Tudor property is an invaluable source of information to those considering a home with character. To make a big topic simple, we have split this article into several easy to read sections as follows:
  • What is a Tudor property
  • Tudor versus Mock Tudor and Tudorbeathan
  • How to spot a Tudor property
  • How to buy a Tudor property
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of buying a Tudor property

What is a Tudor Property?

To really understand what defines a Tudor house it is necessary to take a brief look at English architectural history. Tudor is the name given the historical period 1485 - 1603 at the end of the Medieval period. At this point radical changes came about in the style of building in England and new features and innovations were added to buildings both public and private. What we today refer to as Tudor style architecture however actually mimics a style of house that predates this period. When we refer to a Tudor house we generally have an image in our mind of a rustic, timber framed country farmhouse - rather than a gothic medieval construction. It is important to note that the vast majority of Tudor houses available for purchase do not date from the 1600s (although there are some examples still in existence) but from a relatively much closer point in time - the 19th century, when the style itself was a fashionable revival!

Tudor versus Mock Tudor

What we often know as a Tudor house therefore is not from the Tudor period at all and from a historical point of view is not ‘Tudor’. Indeed the style of residential architecture typified with wooden beams and whitewashed exterior but built in the 19th century is correctly denominated Mock Tudor or Tudorbeathen. Neither of these two terms exactly roll of the tongue however so for the sake of this guide, for the mutual understanding between homeowner, buyer, estate agents and basically everyone except architectural historians we can continue to refer to the Tudorbeathan style in the most popular and generic of terms, regardless of any academic inaccuracy - as Tudor. The main difference between Tudor and Mock Tudor built after the 19th century is that the wooden beams of the latter are not part of the supporting structure, they are for purely decorative purposes - this is known as half-timbering.

How to spot a Tudor Property

Tudor architecture bears a number of differentiating features. To help you in your historic home hunting we have compiled this handy checklist of Tudor house must haves. Check the list below to ascertain whether the house you are interested is Tudor or not.
  • Think about the location. Is this area (or indeed this country) known for its Tudor architecture?
  • Try to determine the date of construction. Was the house built after the late nineteenth century or long before?
  • Examine the external walls of the house. Is it made from brick, stucco or stone?
  • Always look out for that classic timbering or half-timbering. This is strips of wood framing arranged to form vertical, diagonal and horizontal patterns on the masonry (in the medieval houses that the Tudor style imitates, this timbering was actually the frame of the house).
  • Look at the chimneys. Tudor style often means more than one. In comparison to many Victorian houses built at around the same time, Tudor chimneys seem unusually tall and wide. They are often topped with round decorative chimney pots.
  • The roof is an important feature in the Tudor style - it will be steeply pitched with gables.
  • Alternatively if the roof is not steeply pitched it may be going for a thatched look - low, sloping and curved with a roof material of thatch, or in more modern constructions - made to resemble thatch.
  • Tudor windows are often tall and narrow with multiple small panes often made of leaded glass.
  • Tudor doorways are lower than normal and arched rather than rectangular.
Before you cast absolute judgement on a home, remember the following:
  • A house may possess features of several different styles, combining Tudor with other styles fashionable at the time. It’s up to you if it works or not.
  • Modern finishing and later construction work may be obscuring original identifying Tudor features. You may be able to reverse this process - at a cost.
  • The Tudor period in architecture was as diverse as any other. Some Tudor houses imitate humble Medieval cottages with low thatched roofs and plaster exteriors. Others mimic Medieval palaces with patterned brickwork and steep roofs - all can be said to be Tudor.
To give you a better idea of the Tudor style have a look at pictures of Tudor Buildings in Chester and Tudor Houses in Surrey.

Buying a Tudor property

If you buy a Tudor house you may be buying a listed building. The notion of listing buildings began in Britain in 1947 as a response to the loss of many important buildings during the aerial bombardments of World War Two. These days the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is in charge of compiling a list of some five hundred thousand buildings thought to be of special value or interest. Meanwhile, English Heritage takes care of the daily administration of this list and provides guidance to the public and the government. The regulations governing the listing process are in the stages of review and have been since 2005 to which end English Heritage want to make the listing process more user-friendly and visible to the public - as it is mostly the public that highlight buildings for inclusion. In order to be listed, a building has to be somehow unique - in architectural terms or via its previous inhabitants and Tudor properties from various eras may qualify. Therefore you need to know that if you live in a listed building, it is illegal to change, extend or alter the character of it unless you obtain listed building consent. You must apply for this from the local planning authority and failure to do so can result in a heavy fine - it is even an imprisonable offence. In the England listed buildings are divided into three main categories as follows:
  • Grade I listed buildings - are considered to be of exceptional interest.
  • Grade II listed buildings - are considered to be of special interest and this the most common categorisation.
  • Grade III listed buildings - refers to other buildings of special interest.
  • In Northern Ireland and Scotland categories of grade, roman numerals are substituted with the letters A, B and C.
For information about buying a listed building read our article 'Do listed properties make the grade? article here.
For more information on listed buildings and how the regulations affect you at the UK Government website here. They also provide a handy tool for finding out about listed buildings in any particular area, access this tool here. In addition to listed buildings your local council may also have a list of local buildings of importance and character. While this does not allow these buildings special legal protection it is a public record of their special status and this may be taken into account when an application for planning permission is made. Buying a listed Tudor home requires homeowners to understand and adapt to a variety of strange construction techniques and materials so that you can preserve your home in its original style - without compromising important pieces of national heritage. There are special insurance policies on offer for listed buildings and there are even grants available to help homeowners preserve their homes’ historical features. You can find out more about insurance for listed properties here.

Advantages and disadvantages of buying a Tudor property

Buying a listed Tudor property is not cheap nor will it be the easiest type of home to maintain. If you are really considering this option then first of all you need to consider the many advantages and the disadvantages. Advantages
  • Buying a listed Tudor property means that you are living in, and by taking good care of it - preserving a piece of our national heritage.
  • By its very definition as listed, it will be a home of rare beauty and original character.
  • Unlike the prefabricated constructions of modern days this construction has stood the test of time already.
  • These days land is at a premium and cramped conditions inside reflect this, Tudor homes on the other hand include expansive rooms made to accommodate large families and in many cases servants too.
  • Modern construction methods simply don’t reflect the attention to detail and craftsmanship that went into producing ornate features typical of the Tudor style.
  • Buying a listed Tudor home means a big financial outlay. Make sure that you can really afford not only the asking price of the house but the further renovation work and upkeep that will certainly be required.
  • Old building materials used in the original construction of your Tudor home may not be readily available or cheap. Additionally you will need workmen specialised in the care of Tudor properties.
  • Due to the general increase in building and changes in our daily lifestyle (increased water consumption for example) Tudor buildings of the older variety may suffer from insufficient drainage.
  • Timber framing used in the construction of old Tudor homes pre-dates modern treatment techniques and so is vulnerable to warping and infestations. From time to time this may need to be assessed and treated.
  • Thatched roofs - a classic feature of Tudor houses which require extra special care and attention. Straw thatching may need to be completely renewed every 25 years while a combed wheat thatch can last up to 50. Thatching must be done by an expert to minimise the chance of infestation by birds and insects.
  • Thatching and timber frames means a greatly increased risk of fire - there are measures you can take to protect against this however such as a fireboard underneath the roof which will delay the spread of fire by around 30 minutes.
  • Tudor homes of the older variety were not built with electricity, shower rooms and multiple bathrooms in mind. To make the house more comfortable for modern living may require planning permission that is hard to come by - make sure that you are willing to endure without all the luxuries to live in a listed property.
  • If you suffer from severe allergic reactions, consider the fact that old houses harbour more spores, mould and pollen in their aged timbers - this could make life unbearable for the sensitive.
Luckily for you there is lots of help available on-line for those living in and caring for historic properties such as Tudor style houses. Here are a few websites that you will find useful: You can find Tudor homes for sale on Period and Country Homes

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