Essex Character

Pre-18th Century Pattern

A surprisingly large proportion of the core areas of historic settlements is made up of structures and layouts dating from before the 18th century.

Generally, buildings are joined together and directly front the street without front gardens. Building elements are shallow in plan – no more than 5m – and roofed at 50° pitch, with the skyline enlivened by chimneys and dormers. Typically, the flank of the building is presented to the street, but gables and jetties project at intervals.

Buildings of this period are usually timber-framed and rendered in smooth lime plaster, roofed with hand-made plain clay tiles. White-painted weatherboarding is sometimes found, particularly in coastal areas, and black-painted weatherboarding and clay pantiles on outbuildings and barns.

18th and 19th Century Pattern

Eighteenth and 19th century buildings are generally deeper in plan, typically two rooms deep, and have shallower pitched roofs, down to 30°. 

In the 18th century, these buildings tend to appear as incidents within the historic townscape. They are typically of orange-red brick with tiled or slate roofs and vertically proportioned sliding sash windows. Many older buildings were re-fronted in this style during the same period, but their origins are betrayed by their shallower plans and original roofs. 

In the 19th century, buildings also appear as incidents in the historic townscape, but entire streets of usually terraced but sometimes semi-detached houses start to be developed. Sometimes houses are built up to the street frontage and sometimes they have enclosed front gardens. They have vertically proportioned sash windows and substantial, centrally placed chimney stacks. In addition to red brick and tiled roofs, slate roofs are very common. Gault and Suffolk white bricks are found in the north of the county, with yellow London stock bricks in the south.

20th Century

While the 19th century disciplines survive up to 1914, the rest of the 20th century is characterised by a fragmentation of built form, much of which has largely failed to relate to the townscape of previous centuries.

Houses tend to be detached or semi-detached, sit on individual plots and set back from the road. This type of development is referred to as suburban, and is found in all parts of the country. The format of such housing can be handled successfully in design terms, but only at densities below 20 houses per hectare (eight dwellings per acre). At higher densities, the aim should be to create urban streets typical of pre-20th century development.

Page updated: 9/02/2018

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