The Jacobean style refers to the second phase of Renaissance architecture in England. It is named after James I of England (James VI of Scotland) with whose reign it is associated.
The architecture of this period inherited many Elizabethan traditions. But as Roman literature became more familiar small differences crept in, and the formality and symmetry of classical columns and entablatures slowly replaced the irregularity of Elizabethan architecture, although the essence of the style in many ways remained the same over both periods.
Between the architecture of Elizabeth’s reign and that of James I there may barely be a discernible change, but there is a difference that is not just chronological. Between the two styles the Jacobean developed its own identity in plan and elevation. Although the general lines of Elizabethan design remained, the general character of the Jacobean house owed much to detailed ornamentation. This had a great deal to do with the increasing employment of Flemish carvers and other foreign craftsmen. There was, at this time, also a greater tendency for the design of new buildings to be the work of one person.
As the sixteenth century passed and the seventeenth began, the numbers of immigrants working on tombs, fireplaces, entrances and other architectural features grew and a real practical difference between Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture was revealed: in the Elizabethan era the native vernacular borrowed ornaments from foreign books. In Jacobean architecture there was a direct influence by Continental artisans that defined the new style.
These pioneering and influential artisans made much of columns and pilasters, round-arch arcades, and flat roofs with openwork parapets. With these were mixed the prismatic rustications and ornamental detail of scrolls, straps, and lozenges - also characteristic of Elizabethan design.
New buildings during the period continued to be for domestic rather than for religious use. Thus the style developed along lines that suited popular and individual needs. There was considerable latitude in detail and ornament - not only for buildings but also for fittings and furniture - that subsequently became more abundant and more decorative in quality.
As in the Elizabethan period, screens, pulpits and monuments were freely added to Medieval churches. It was here that Jacobean art found a voice in ecclesiastical architecture. Much of the human interest in English Gothic churches is due to the historical continuity added by these Jacobean monuments.
Jacobean buildings of note are Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and Knole House, near Sevenoaks in Kent.