Medieval Architecture: What are the Different Styles in England?

Medieval architecture in England is known for its grandeur, sophistication, and attention to detail.


During the Middle Ages, several architectural styles emerged, each with their unique characteristics, features, and building techniques.

In this article, we’ll explore the most popular medieval architectural styles in England.

Romanesque Architecture (Normans)

Romanesque architecture was the first architectural style that emerged in England after the Norman Conquest in 1066.

It was characterized by round arches, thick walls, and small windows with decorative features like zigzag patterns, sculptures, and carved capitals. Examples of Romanesque architecture in England include Durham Cathedral, Tewkesbury Abbey, and the nave of Winchester Cathedral.

The Romanesque architectural style, popular from the 10th to the 12th centuries, left a lasting impact on England’s architectural heritage. Here are five of the most famous buildings in England that exhibit Romanesque features:

Durham Cathedral

Located in Durham, this magnificent cathedral is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman (a subset of Romanesque) architecture in England. It was constructed between 1093 and 1133 and features massive stone walls, rounded arches, and a striking central tower.

durham ge497e77ae 640

Canterbury Cathedral

Situated in Canterbury, Kent, this iconic cathedral combines elements of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The original cathedral, founded in 597, was rebuilt in the Romanesque style after a devastating fire in 1067. The crypt and the massive crossing tower reflect the Romanesque influence.

cathedral 1596046 640

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral, located in Norwich, Norfolk, is another notable example of Romanesque architecture in England. It was built between 1096 and 1145 and exhibits traditional Romanesque features such as rounded arches, thick walls, and decorative motifs. The cathedral’s stunning cloister is particularly renowned.

norwich cathedral g127d25913 640

Tewkesbury Abbey

Situated in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, this abbey is renowned for its impressive Norman tower and Romanesque elements. The abbey dates back to the 11th century and boasts a striking exterior featuring rounded arches and robust stone construction.

tewkesbury g6db848e6a 640

St Bartholomew’s Church, Smithfield

Located in the City of London, St Bartholomew’s Church is one of the oldest churches in London and showcases Romanesque architectural elements. Dating back to the 12th century, it features rounded arches, thick stone walls, and a distinctive Norman tower.

800px St Bartholomew the Great Altar%2C London%2C UK Diliff

These five buildings exemplify the Romanesque architectural style in England and continue to be celebrated for their historical and aesthetic significance.

Gothic Architecture (Renaissance)

Gothic architecture emerged in the 12th century and became the dominant architectural style in England until the Renaissance. It was characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, and large stained glass windows.

Gothic architecture can be further divided into three periods: Early Gothic (1190-1250), Decorated Gothic (1250-1350), and Perpendicular Gothic (1350-1520). Examples of Gothic architecture in England include Westminster Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, and York Minster.

Westminster Abbey

Located in London, Westminster Abbey is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with significant Renaissance influences. Originally built in the 11th century, it underwent extensive renovations in the 13th and 14th centuries, incorporating Gothic elements such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and intricate tracery.

westminster gc669588b4 640

York Minster

Situated in the city of York, York Minster is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe. Construction began in the 13th century and continued for several centuries. It features soaring spires, stunning stained glass windows, and elaborate stone carvings, characteristic of Gothic architecture.

york minster ga8d835066 640

King’s College Chapel

Located in Cambridge, King’s College Chapel is an iconic example of late Gothic architecture with Renaissance influences. Constructed between the 15th and 16th centuries, it showcases intricate fan vaulting, large stained glass windows, and a magnificent wooden roof.

architecture g2e884e3a8 640

Salisbury Cathedral

Situated in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Salisbury Cathedral is a remarkable example of Early English Gothic architecture. Built in the 13th century, it is known for its elegant spire, intricate tracery, and soaring nave. The cathedral also houses one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta.

salisbury gdb51ce151 640

St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Located within the grounds of Windsor Castle, St. George’s Chapel is an outstanding example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. Constructed from the 15th to the 16th century, it features a stunning fan vaulted ceiling, elaborate stone carvings, and exquisite stained glass windows.

windsor castle g7b5d24b54 640

These five buildings showcase the richness and diversity of Gothic architecture, particularly during the Renaissance period, in England. They are celebrated for their architectural grandeur, intricate details, and historical significance.

Tudor Architecture (Tudor)

Tudor architecture started to emerge towards the end of the medieval period and was characterized by decorative half-timbered houses, brick chimneys, and large windows.

It was a style that was popular during the reign of the Tudor monarchs from 1485-1603. Examples of Tudor architecture in England include Hampton Court Palace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, and the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn in Nottingham.

Here are five of the most famous buildings in England that exhibit Tudor architecture:

Hampton Court Palace

Located in East Molesey, Surrey, Hampton Court Palace is a magnificent example of Tudor architecture. Originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the early 16th century, it was later expanded and renovated by King Henry VIII. The palace features distinctive Tudor brickwork, ornate chimneys, and grand Tudor-style gatehouses.

hampton gbebb61c1d 640

Hatfield House

Situated in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Hatfield House is a stately home that showcases Tudor architecture. Built in the early 17th century, it features a symmetrical facade, mullioned windows, and decorative half-timbering. The Great Hall, with its intricately carved wooden ceiling, is a notable highlight.

arhitecture g23dd052d6 640

St. James’s Palace

Located in the City of Westminster, London, St. James’s Palace is another significant Tudor building. Constructed in the 16th century, it served as the primary residence of the British monarch until the reign of Queen Victoria. The palace displays Tudor-style brickwork, large windows, and imposing gateways.

uk g63a755e4c 640

Oxburgh Hall

Situated in Oxborough, Norfolk, Oxburgh Hall is a moated country house renowned for its Tudor architecture. Built in the late 15th century, it features a combination of red brick and stone, ornamental gables, and intricate carved woodwork. The hall retains its original medieval kitchen, chapel, and beautiful gardens.


Layer Marney Tower

Located in Layer Marney, Essex, Layer Marney Tower is an impressive Tudor gatehouse tower. Constructed in the early 16th century, it boasts a distinctive Tudor brick facade, tall arched windows, and an intricately decorated interior. The tower offers panoramic views from its rooftop platform.

800px Layer marney2

These five buildings represent the charm and grandeur of Tudor architecture in England. They showcase the unique characteristics of the period, including decorative brickwork, large windows, and ornate details, contributing to their historical and architectural significance.

Vernacular Architecture (Common Buildings)

Vernacular architecture was the most common type of medieval architecture in England. It refers to the traditional building styles of the common people using local materials and techniques. It includes simple buildings such as farmhouses, cottages, and barns. Examples of vernacular architecture in England include the Wealden Hall House, Cruck Frame Houses, and the Thatched Cottage.

In England, there are numerous examples of vernacular architecture that vary across different regions. Here are five types of common buildings in England that represent vernacular architecture:

Thatched Cottages

Thatched cottages are charming and iconic examples of vernacular architecture found in rural areas throughout England. These traditional dwellings are characterized by their roofs made from locally sourced thatch, typically wheat straw or reeds.

The walls are often constructed from stone, timber, or cob (a mixture of clay, sand, and straw). The village of Bibury in the Cotswolds is particularly known for its picturesque rows of thatched cottages.

house g24b6171b0 640

Tudor Half-timbered Houses

Half-timbered houses are a distinctive feature of Tudor-era vernacular architecture. These buildings have exposed wooden frames (timber) filled with wattle and daub (a mixture of woven sticks and clay).

The framework is often adorned with intricate patterns and decorative details. Historic towns like Chester, Shrewsbury, and Stratford-upon-Avon have well-preserved examples of Tudor half-timbered houses.

Historic Tudor houses along Mill Street in Warwick

Stone Cottages

Stone cottages are prevalent in regions with abundant local stone, such as the Cotswolds, Yorkshire Dales, and Cornwall. These cottages are constructed using local stone, often with thick walls to provide insulation.

The roofs are typically made of slate or stone tiles. Stone cottages exhibit a rustic and traditional charm and blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscapes.

cottage g2687047d8 640

Fisherman’s Huts

Along the coastlines of England, you can find fisherman’s huts, also known as fisherman’s cottages or net lofts. These small structures were historically used by fishermen for storing nets, equipment, and sometimes as temporary shelters.

They are often built close to the water’s edge and designed to withstand the harsh coastal environment. They vary in construction materials, ranging from timber to stone or a combination of both.

clovelly g526fef91e 640

Yorkshire Dales Farms

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, traditional stone farmhouses and barns are prevalent. These buildings are constructed from local stone, often with thick walls and sturdy structures to withstand the rugged landscape.

The farmhouses feature distinctive Yorkshire stone roofs and small windows to protect against harsh weather conditions. The barns are often characterized by their large entrances for agricultural machinery and livestock.

yorkshire dales national park g3e43560ed 640

These examples represent the rich diversity of vernacular architecture in England. They reflect the traditions, materials, and craftsmanship of local communities, preserving the cultural and historical identity of different regions.


In conclusion, medieval architecture in England was a reflection of the cultural and historical changes that took place during the Middle Ages. Each architectural style had its unique characteristics, features, and building techniques, which reflected the needs, aspirations, and beliefs of the people who built them.