History of a British home

In the dictionary a home is ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household’ and of course there are the famous quotes ‘there is no place like home and ‘home is where the heart is’.

Houses are a basic necessity for survival; they are a place for storage of our belongings and food, there is equipment to enable us to cook, eat and keep ourselves clean. The shelter protects us and make us feel safe and comfortable.

During the Stone Age some people lived in caves and attempts were made to build huts of twigs, branches and animal skins.

When the Romans invaded Britain they brought concrete construction with jointing mortar so strong it created walls which became a mass of stone.

Iron Age settlements featured houses built using posts which were driven into the earth and the gaps filled by wattle and daub.

The Anglo-Saxon buildings were also constructed of wood with wattle and daub walls, with monasteries and churches being the only buildings constructed from stone. Domestic homes were mainly square or rectangular and had a central fire with a hole in the roof to let the smoke escape. Roofing materials were mainly thatch although turf and wooden shingles were occasional used.

By the 13th Century thatch was barred from new homes in London due to risk of fire. Walls were constructed of stone but the roof was timber and clay tiles soon became common.

During Tudor times, buildings shrank and became more intimate, chimneys and fireplaces became common. Wood was used to create a skeleton which was filled with brick or plaster. If brick was too expensive then plaster was chosen, resulting in the black and white effect. Windows and doors became smaller and more ornate. Often the upper stories of the houses projected over the ground floor as space was at a premium.

Elizabethan houses evolved slowly from the Tudor homes with staircases featuring more prominently and windows becoming larger.

The first terraced housing was introduced in the late seventeenth century in London’s Grosvenor Square (1727) and in Bath’s Queen Square (1729). Terraced houses became commonplace although they weren’t built for people of limited means, merely the opposite, as some of the richest people in the country owned terraced houses in locations such as Belgrave Square. By the Victorian period terraced homes were built for workers in industrial towns following and became the usual form for high density residential housing.

Flats emerged in the 1860s. The concept was slow to catch in London, as everyone who could afford it occupied an entire house, but an increase in population meant that if the middle and upper classes wanted a second home in the capital an imaginative housing concept needed to be designed. The idea of renting a modern mansion flat became popular and so Albert Mansions was built, which was technically 19 separate houses with each having a staircase serving one flat per floor. Albert Hall Mansions were built in 1876 and the scheme of mansion flats were a success.

During the nineteenth century the very first semi-detached houses were designed and built in London, but it wasn’t until the housing boom of the 1920s and 1930s that semi-detached homes were built in suburbs across the country. They were popular with the middle classes who preferred them to terraced houses. Semi-detached homes are the most popular home in England.

Tower blocks were designed as an answer to the housing crisis after World War II. The first residential tower block was constructed in Harlow, Essex 1951 and what followed was a tower block building boom from the 1950s to the 1970s. Initially these were welcomed as they appeared futuristic and signified post war progression with new amenities such as running water and fixed baths, however their cheap construction methods and quick deterioration led to the tower blocks becoming undesirable places to live. However, in recent years these ex council high rises have become popular with young professionals.

Another solution to the housing shortage was the government built pre-fabricated homes (pre-fabs). These were mass produced and came built as a complete home with all fittings and could be distributed to anywhere in the country. These were meant to be a temporary solution but many were resided in for decades.

New towns were created under the Greater London Plan of 1944 to relieve the over populated London, demolish the Victorian slums and build a semi-rural architecturally planned self-contained development. Eight new towns were built including Harlow, Stevenage and Milton Keynes, green belts were created to protect the surrounding land and restrict the growth of the new towns.

In March 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF) was introduced by the Government in order to assist local planning authorities to identify and deliver a five year housing land supply. A new supply of homes is needed as we, as a population, live longer and the economy currently recovers, reawakening the housing market.

The Government has set aside funding to build three new garden cities with prospects to build 15,000 new homes at each location. So far Ebbsfleet and Bicester have been chosen with Bicester producing a flagship scheme to be the first eco town in the UK.

Every new home will be at the cutting edge of house building featuring a range of environmentally friendly features as the industry pushes towards the zero carbon home. From natural ventilation to rainwater harvesting to ground source heat pumps, the 21st Century house bears little relation to its predecessors other than the most important thing of all: providing a home

What the future holds remains to be seen but with time and space is running out and projects such as Mars One where a group of people are being sent into space to build a habitable colony, who knows how, where or what we will be living in.

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