As King Henry VIII was so strongly established on the English throne he was able to involve himself heavily in foreign affairs. His glittering summit with the French king, Francis I, on the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 attracted many continental artists to Henry’s court and these helped establish the Renaissance style in sculpture, painting and architecture in England from this time. But Henry VIII was not the only one who brought continental influence to English architecture. Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor, built palaces, patronised art and helped to introduce foreign crafts into England. Thus the Tudor period saw the increasing use of Renaissance style and the final flowering of Perpendicular Gothic.
The Renaissance movement that began in Italy was rather slow to influence English architecture. But increasingly English craft workers copied Italian ornamental features, and books of engravings of the Orders of Architecture and other Roman architectural details - produced mainly in Germany and the Netherlands - were studied by builders in England. Their contents would eventually dominate English architecture.
From about 1540 church building had virtually ceased in England, owing to religious turmoil and to a surplus of Medieval churches. Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, nunneries and friaries, with the result that a great deal of land was sold to the gentry and those that could trade political favours. Large areas of land were exploited by the newly wealthy gentry class. New farms were built upon former monastic lands, and cottages built for tenants who worked the land.
The Tudor period saw a great boom and revolution in the building of houses and of grammar schools and colleges. But the changes in architectural style also resulted in smaller buildings. Tudor architecture focused on detail. Windows and doors were smaller, but more ornately decorated. The sharply pointed arch of the Gothic period gave way to the flattened Tudor arch. The most striking window treatment to emerge in the Tudor period was the oriel, a projecting, multi-sided window cantilevered out from an upper floor, and supported on a bracket or corbel from beneath.
Chimneys and enclosed fireplaces became common for the first time - brought on by the widespread adoption of coal as fuel. Chimneystacks were often clustered in groups, and the individual chimney columns were curved, twisted, and decorated with chequer-board patterns of polychromatic brickwork. Brick was another characteristic of Tudor architecture. Its use spread from East Anglia, where it had been introduced from the Low Countries in the late Medieval period. Initially however brick was a luxury commodity that only the wealthy could afford.
The most notable feature of interior decoration was oak paneling that often reached from floor to ceiling. The most common motif used in paneling during the Tudor period was the linen-fold, a raised carving imitating folds of cloth. The term, linen-fold, is a 19th century one; at the time this pattern was termed lignum undulatum, or wavy woodwork.