Discover the evolution of English cottage house plans and learn more about creating your own English cottage plans.
English cottage house plans began with the sixteenth century. English cottages are the symbol of the simple life, but are they are not hovels. The cots of the poorest labours are long gone, they were never built to last, a good storm or determined thief could have knocked them down easily.
The cottage plans we discuss here are of the cottages still standing today.
English cottage house plans originate from the old Anglo-Saxon hall where a principle hall was used for eating and sleeping and the fireplace was in the middle of the room. The English half-timbered or timber frame plan has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon halls built before the Norman conquest (1066). Many farmhouses and large cottages are built around the central hall plan.
The cottage plans of the yeoman of the sixteenth century are based on the mediaeval manor house it still has the central hall but is more elaborate than the poorer farmer’s cottage. A yeoman is a member of a former class of small holders who cultivate their own land of thirty to a hundred and twenty acres and would be armed and trained to protect the nobility.
English cottage house plans began to take shape during the reign of Elizabeth I (1559-1603) and England’s great building time (1550-1650). Before Elizabeth I, during the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) a cottage was defined “as a house without land attached to it” but because of the rush of building during Elizabeth’s time an new enactment was needed and country cottages were defined as “a house with four acres of land attached to it”.
Exempt from this rule were cottages for towns, craftsmen, under keepers, fishermen and seamen and any other trade that does not require four acres of land.
English cottage house plans are not just two rooms like the Scottish ‘wee butt and ben’ cottage. As England became wealthier during the reign of Elizabeth I, farmhouses were demoted to cottages, and old cottages were given to the poorer labourer while the owner built a new cottage for himself.
The cottage as we know it today has most properly been added onto. Back in the sixteenth century most cottages were a rectangle shape with a lower and upper story. Bread ovens for baking bread came late in the sixteenth century as an addition behind the fireplace. At one time houses in England were measured in bays. Houses were sold and rented by the bays or baies. A bay was a measurement of about sixteen feet and was the required length in farm buildings for a pair of oxen to stand.
With the hall as the central design, additions would be added on as necessary. As the cottager’s lot improved extra rooms would be built. With the central hall established the English cottage house plans simply evolved into a H, T or L shaped plan. Some cottage house plans ramble on with additions from each generation as needed.
The gentry looking for a taste of the simple life also built larger cottages.
Cottage stairs began as a rude ladder to the upper story. Old stairs were carved out from a solid balk of oak. Later straight stairs were added and you can date a cottage later than 1600 if the stairs are straight.
Thatched roofs would be built with a steep pitch to allow the rain to run off quickly. Thatch is the only roof you can really use with cob as the walls cannot support the weight of tiles. Generally the steeper the pitch of roof the older the cottage.
Old English cottages do not have dormer windows or gables and are extremely simple. A hipped roof is common in old cottages. The hip can continue almost down to the ground, on one or both sides.
Roof tile was manufactured in Essex and Sussex in England in the fourteenth century. Tiles were also imported from the Netherlands. Cottages in towns used tile to prevent the risk of fire from thatch. By the fifteenth century tile became popular or enforced by law in many towns.
The other type of roofing is slab called Horsham slab found in cottages in Sussex and Surry. It is a grey colour and thicker than slate. The pitch of the roof is flatter as the slab is heavy. It is rare to find nowadays but it is beautiful to behold.
Devonshire has its own small grey tile or slab. White slabs are used in the Cotswolds and many other areas.
An English cottage can be very small or as large as a farmhouse. English cottage plans are not a standard size as you can imagine.
English cottages are made from cob, timber or stone brick can also be used with a thatch or a tile roof. Find the type of English country cottage you love first. English cottages are also vernacular meaning built from local materials and with a local style of building. All the materials were collected nearby. If you are thinking about building a cottage see what is local and sustainable? Your cottage should grow from the landscape that surrounds it.
Once you have found the cottage style that you love consider a cottage holiday in England. Stay in a timber frame in the Heart of England or stay in a Devonshire cob and thatch cottage to experience a stone cottage go to the Cotswolds or Cumbria. Renting a holiday cottage and staying in the English countryside may be all the inspiration you need to design your own cottage house plans.
If you want to build an English cottage today look for an architect that specialises in old buildings and architecture. Or have a look at cottage plans online.
Creating an exact replica will be quite difficult as a timber frame has settled for three hundred years twisting the oak frame that has been exposed to snow, frost, rain and sun creating that wonderful silver grey colour of the oak frame. The same with stone, especially Cotswold stone which turns a different shade over time and in the sun. Cob is properly the simplest to create and have look instantly like an old English cottage but you must know how to build with cob if you want it to last. Take a cob building course before you build.
Learn about English cottage architecture and cottage building before you begin your English cottage house plan.
Timber frame Cottages
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