Tudor Architecture 1500-1550

Between 1500-50, vast changes took place in English architecture, and the following sources agree to varying lengths about the impact of Henry V111. Source A is from a publication by William Harrison c1577, which highly flatters Henrys impact on English architecture, and is based on expert opinion, suggesting authenticity and reliability. Harrison lived during Henrys reign, and could give a broader overview of changes he made to building: a quote from the source emphasises Henrys building change “Those that were builded before the time of Henry V111 retain to these days and show the image of ancient workmanship”.

Harrison’s extract states that Henry V111 was a more dominant force in architecture than the renaissance artists (e. g. Adrian the Emperor and Justinian the Lawgiver). Harrison focuses solely on the Kings impact, suggesting that the King set the “precedent” or mark for building standards and that his buildings were “perpetual” or everlasting compared to the ancient workmanship mentioned above. Harrison also said that the use of masonry “did never flourish in England better than this time” showing his innovative impact.

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This makes us think that Henry had an unrivalled impact on architecture, but Source B disagrees with this Source B is a letter (c1526) sent from John London to Mr Larke. A letter provides a private document, and is probably more honest as was not for publication and more reliable as it offers an uncontroversial and frank account. London deals with Cardinal Wolseys construction of Cardinal College. In this account, he uses similar phrases as Harrison in Source A, but to compliment Wolseys architectural prowess rather than Henrys.

Not once does this letter speak of Henrys “perpetual buildings” but describes Wolseys buildings as “Meritorious and perpetual to enjoy”. This letter also states how Wolsey had a great impact on change, especially with the new style “upper lodgings” as an innovative way of providing privacy in society. We can infer from Sources A ; B that other influences apart from the King were involved in changing architecture, with Wolsey being the other main contributor. Source C is a graph from the book “Royal Palaces of Tudor England ” by Simon Thurley, and shows the rate at which Henry V111 acquired buildings.

The graph shows that between 1534-47, the most building acquisition took place – this period coincides with the dissolution of the monastries showing how Henry V111 could exercise more power after the downfall and death of Wolsey in 1529. As Simon Thurley is a highly regarded historian, we should accept the source to be accurate and useful in regard to the task. Graphs have drawbacks, like they may be biased to cater for the audience; here we can say that Thurley is writing for the general public and not for a royal consort and so the graph can be regarded to show accurate, unbiased information.

This graph produces an agreement between Sources A ; B, suggesting most of Wolseys building would have been before 1530 and Henry V111s ability to change them after Wolseys death. Source A, c1577, would have put more emphasis on Henrys building anyway, because Henry would have altered most buildings which Wolsey had constructed in the early years of Henry’s reign. Source B, c1526 was before Henrys influence took hold hence emphasising Wolseys building.

After 1529, Henrys extra buildings and land was structured into an increased input of his own designs as shown in Sources D & E. Source D provides us with an 18th century engraving, depicting an interpretation of a 16th century building (Henry V111s house at Beaulieu, Essex) where today only the South Entrance and Central Coat of Arms remains. The engraving doesn’t show us many significant signs of Henry’s changes to Wolseys original building. Also, it is only an interpretation, and we don’t know who it was produced by or who it was for, which casts doubt over its reliability.

The fact its an 18th century engraving means that the building could have been added to over time, which limiots how much we can learn of Henrys impact, however the accompanying text states the engraving shows ” a view of the palace of Beaulieu, commonly called New hall in Essex built by Henry V111″, which implies Henry V111 made an impact on the structure. This source gives us a visual angle of the ideas shown in Sources A ; C. Source e provides the same effect as “D” and is another exert from Simon Thurleys book, showing authenticity from a reputable historian, which depicts the main floor plan of Nonsuch Palace built by Henry in the 1540s.

Like Source D, “E” is based on problematic evidence (archaeological and documentary evidence) and it is regarded that such evidence has drawbacks, as the floor plan will only be as accurate as the depth of investigation. However, because it is based on scientific investigation, such drawbacks may not be a problem as geophysics could be used to determine what the layout of the house was and the materials it used, and this evidence, along with design plans, is all we have to determine the layout, and so we have to consider it reliable.

Provenance is not a problem as this plan was produced in 1993 and it is probable that little evidence has been found since then. There are also pros and cons with floor plans – they allow us to see the size, status and function of each room, and in this source suggests Henry introduced vast changes, although we can’t see the interior of each room. A notable absence from the floor plan is the great hall, which was common of medieval times.

This shows Henry is changing building to a more privacy orientated design with the increased useof smaller rooms like the Privy Chamber & Privy Gallery. Despite the pros and cons of the source, it clearly shows (like in Sources A, C & D) Henry’s architectural impact increased since 1529 in the period that Nonsuch Palace was built. Source F puts into words the results shown in Source C, that Henry had a profound effect on architectural changes, as Thurley says Henry was “an active participant in the design of his buildings”” showing he was very innovative e.g. the new lodgings at Greenwich.

The Source, like Source E says Henrys changes were mainly based on social changes like the need for privacy. The source says at Hampton Court “privy conceits were devised by his grace”. The idea that Henry had an increased impact after 1530 in the other sources is also shown in Source F as Thurley states “Henrys ability, or perhaps inclination to design or influence the design of his residences did not develop until after 1530” and adding that “the king was dominated architecturally by Cardinal Wolsey” before 1530.

In conclusion, the sources agree that Henrys involvement changed over time between 1500-50. Wolseys achievements came prior to 1530 (Sources B,C & F). Henrys major impact on architecture came after 1530 (Sources A, C, D, E & F). Overall, we need to acknowledge Wolseys and Henrys power and influence in English architecture 1500-50 to understand the changes that took place, and how the two influences are interlinked.