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Bricks and Construction Materials During the Reign of Edward VI

This article delves into the reign of Edward VI, exploring the use of bricks and other construction materials prevalent during his short but significant rule from 1547 to 1553. This period saw a continuation of Tudor architectural styles and the use of bricks in construction. The era also saw the emergence of new ideas in architecture and engineering that would shape the future of construction in England.

Population and Lifestyle During Edward VI’s Reign

Although the exact population of England during the reign of Edward VI is not precisely known, it was likely between 2.5 and 3 million. The majority of the populace lived in rural areas, but towns and cities were growing. Life in this era was largely influenced by the king’s Protestant beliefs, which had a profound impact on society and, consequently, the built environment.

Types of Dwelling and Construction Materials

The reign of Edward VI saw the continued use of bricks in building construction, a trend that began during the reign of his father, Henry VIII. Bricks, produced locally and varying in colour depending on the clay used, were predominantly used in the construction of houses for the wealthy, royal palaces, and fortifications. However, for the majority, homes were still typically timber-framed, with wattle and daub, and roofed with thatch.

Bricks were used extensively during Edward VI's reign, especially in constructing residences of the wealthy and royal palaces. They were a popular building material, often produced locally. The colour of the bricks varied depending on the type of clay used in their production. Red bricks, in particular, were a common sight in Tudor architecture, which dominated the period.

However, it's important to note that brick buildings were mostly restricted to the upper echelons of society. For the vast majority of the populace, homes were still typically constructed using more readily available and less expensive materials. The common folk lived in timber-framed houses, which used a wattle and daub technique for the walls. The 'wattle' was made by weaving thin branches or slats between upright stakes and the 'daub' was a mixture of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung, and straw. This was applied to the woven wattle and left to dry, creating a hard, protective wall. Thatch, made from dry vegetation like straw, water reed, sedge, or rushes, was commonly used for roofing these houses.

Hence, the reign of Edward VI witnessed a dichotomy in construction materials and dwelling types, largely based on the social class. The use of bricks was becoming more prevalent but was still a marker of wealth and status, while the majority continued to live in timber-framed and wattle and daub houses.

Notable Buildings Constructed During the Era

While Edward VI’s reign was brief, a few significant architectural feats took place. One of the era’s notable constructions was the expansion of the royal residence of Hampton Court Palace. The bricks used were red in colour, in line with the Tudor style of the previous era.

Notable Engineering Achievements

The sixteenth century did not particularly stand out for specific engineers, but it was a period of significant advancements in architecture and construction. This was largely driven by the Renaissance, which had brought about new ideas in symmetry, proportion, and design.

Castles Constructed During Edward VI’s Reign

The reign of Edward VI marked the end of castle building in England, as advancements in artillery rendered traditional castle defenses obsolete. Fortifications were beginning to evolve, with artillery forts such as the Device Forts built by Henry VIII marking this transition.

Society and Dwelling from a Housing Perspective

Edward VI’s reign saw the continuation of societal and architectural trends established during the reign of his father. The increased use of bricks symbolised status and wealth. However, for the majority of the population, dwelling characteristics remained largely unchanged, with timber-framed houses dominating rural and urban landscapes.