After the Norman invasion more consistent forms of building design began to appear in England. William I and his law lords built numerous castles and garrisons to uphold their authority. Initially these were made of readily available timber - speed of construction was of greater importance than appearance. However during the following two centuries of the Norman period substantial castles and churches in stone, rather than timber, wattle and daub were built.
In Medieval England there were no great country houses but rather manor houses that were owned by local lords and landowners. In strict architectural terms a manor house was a late Medieval country house that had its architectural roots in the Saxon hall - a simple rectangular building that acted as a communal gathering place for eating, sleeping, and transacting business. This layout was incorporated into early Norman castles, with the hall occupying the first floor of the castle keep. The Medieval house had an asymmetrical layout and appearance because it evolved from use and function rather than from design.
By the 13th century the fortified manor house emerged. Not quite a castle, yet more advanced than the Saxon hall. These buildings were built in brick or stone with a timber roof. But these had run their course by the early 15th century when more settled conditions meant that defence was no longer the highest priority, and more time and energy could be spent creating comfortable houses. These structures were often built in half-timber, stone, brick, and flint.
Lower status timber-frame houses in England date back at least to the 13th century. The country had an abundant supply of oak and the timber frame was made from halved or cleft timbers. The gaps between the timbers were filled with decorative or plain wattle and daub panels that followed the pattern of the timber frame to produce the familiar black and white look.
From the 12th century a new style of architecture and decoration had emerged from France. At the time it was called simply The French Style. But later it came to be known as Gothic - a reference to the Goths, who had ransacked Rome at the end of the Roman Empire.
Gothic architecture was light, spacious, and graceful. Advances in architectural technique learned from contacts with the Arab world during the Crusades led to innovations such as the pointed arch, ribbed vault, and the buttress. Slender clusters of columns replaced heavy Norman piers and window sizes grew enormously, as did the height of vaults and spires.
By the end of the Medieval period learning was no longer the sole province of the monasteries. Courtiers were acquiring a taste of the classics and a classical education - gradually Renaissance principles of symmetry, balance and decoration were inspiring them. These ideas would fashion English building design during the coming Tudor age.