The Architecture of Buildings and Homes in the United Kingdom

The architecture of the British Isles is broadly reflected in its glorious, bloody and rich history. From the legions of Roman conquerors under Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44BC) and Emperor Claudius (10BC - 54AD), to the invading Anglo-Saxons of continental Europe, and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the architectural heritage of United Kingdom represents a confluence of culture, history and religion.

The most prominent architectural influence in the country over the past millennia has been the Normans. Eager to impose their authority after the invasion, the William the Conqueror-led Normans ordered labourers and fledgling guilds to build massive castles with the obligatory moats, towers arrow slits, and more importantly, stark, but imposing limestone churches to enforce their right to rule through the concept of the divinity of kings. The White Tower at the Tower of London (named as such due to the original whitish finish of the French limestone) is an enduring symbol of the era. For the next few hundred years, almost every church, abbey and cathedral across the land were built in a similar style. This influence gradually spilled over to government buildings and official residences, leading to the emergence of what is now referred to as the English Romanesque architecture.

By the 13th century through, Gothic-inspired architecture, with a little medieval Christian catechism thrown in, began to manifest itself on new buildings. Elegant, graceful spires and towers, beautifully decorated with carvings and statues, along with striking painted stained-glasses, became the rage. Perhaps the most popular example from the era is the Canterbury Cathedral. Although built at the turn of the first millennia, Canterbury Cathedral underwent extensive renovations in the 13th and 14th centuries which contributed to its modern look.

The advent of gun power by the 15th century played a part in the extinction of castles. Since nobles can no longer hide from cannons behind their castle walls and moats, they began to move to manor homes built from wood and bricks out in the open. A miscalculation by giant quarries and kilns of continental Europe saw the market flooded with bricks, which enabled low-income commoners to also use bricks to build their homes.

Over time, a new local design began to surface - the Elizabethan homes. It took a great tragedy to popularise the concept though. After the devastating Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed almost 15,000 homes and scores of government buildings, commercial centres and churches, the legendary English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, spent the next half a century designing homes, schools, offices, commercial buildings, and churches in London, which quickly spread all over the country.

There was one more notable influence over the next two centuries - the English Baroque architectural style - but it merely lent the finishing touch to the establish architectural identity of the British Isles. Technology has changed the modern architectural landscape of the country, but beyond the glossy surface and the odd abstract designs, the country actually peaked architecturally about 300 years ago, and its buildings and homes haven't lost its beauty since. In fact, it would go on to influence building and homes in Europe, North America and the rest of the world.