The terrace is one of the most recognisable styles of housing in England.
Around a quarter of the population live with a neighbour on each side of them in a set of three or more uniformly designed houses, sharing common materials and plan forms.
The style first emerged as a building type in the late 17th century and continued to develop in line with the development of towns and cities across England.
There was a style of terraced housing for everyone: from grand aristocratic compositions intended to mimic country houses to modest workers’ housing.
Georgian terraced houses, between 1714 and 1830
The Georgian terrace is often regarded as one of England’s greatest contributions to the urban form.
It defines and shapes the historic character of places like London, Bath, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Brighton, where whole districts of terraces still exist.
Georgian terraced housing was initially fashionable and expensive, and speculative builders worked quickly to put up new streets.
Technological advances made this increased level of development possible.
The glass price also fell, meaning windows could be large enough to illuminate the floor space and stairs from only two walls. This was coupled with the invention of the sash window, which allowed for improved ventilation.
As the popularity of terraces grew, builders experimented with new styles, including circuses and crescents, good examples of which exist in Brighton, Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare.
The grandest late Georgian and Regency terraces faced onto a square or garden.
Architects John Nash and Thomas Cubitt in London, Richard Grainger in Newcastle, and John Foster in Liverpool designed some of the most impressive terrace compositions.
By the late Georgian and early Victorian period, many towns nationwide, including York, Exeter, Hull, Liverpool and Leeds, had handsome streets for the wealthier urban classes lined with ordered facades of terraced development.
Victorian terraced houses, between 1837 and1901
Later on, terraced housing became a solution to demographic changes in England that saw huge urban population growth due to the Industrial Revolution.
Large terraces were built speculatively to accommodate householders further down the socio-economic scale who needed to live near their places of work.
At the same time, the terrace form was also used for model communities sponsored by enlightened mill owners and employers like Titus Salt, who constructed Saltaire for his workforce.
In the middle of the 19th century, the style became more closely associated with the aspiring middle classes as the rich looked for individual, detached houses.
During this time, the middle-class terrace typically had much more colour and decoration than its Georgian predecessor: ornate details and trims, bay windows, stained glass panes, and roof-tiling patterns were all common features.
However, these houses were often put up speculatively, so the quality could be inferior.
By the later Victorian period, the upper middle classes sought detached houses or villas, and the terrace became associated with the lower middle classes.
The Public Health Act of 1875 obliged local authorities to use byelaws to regulate terraced housing, and subsequently, construction was required to meet a certain set of standards.
The new requirements introduced improved sanitation and ventilation, requiring toilets (often built outside) to be included.
Meeting these requirements created the familiar landscape of ‘gridiron’ streets lined with 2-storey terraces serviced by back alleys seen in the inner suburbs of virtually every town and city. A large stock of Byelaw Terraced Housing still exists.
Though standardisation is a key characteristic of terraced housing, there is some regional variation.
For example, the urban mews tend to be a London style (though some examples exist in Brighton), whilst the back-to-back is more common in the North.
Terraced houses in the 20th Century
In the early 20th century, the popularity of the terrace continued, but new architectural styles emerged.
Terraces from this period are typically even more decorative than their predecessors. The Arts and Craft Movement inspired a greater focus on ornament, for example, adding greater embellishment to chimneys, windows and porches.
Following the end of the First World War and the advent of new housing legislation in 1919, Victorian terraces swiftly became associated with overcrowding and slums.
The new kind of terrace was much shorter, usually in runs of four or six, and formed part of the large new municipal estates built between the wars along Garden City lines, with private gardens front and back and set in low-density, green streetscapes.
In the private sector, the popularity of the terrace declined and gave way to the rise of the suburban semi-detached houses, as the railways and electric tramways allowed workers to move further out from city centres across England.
Modernism arrived in Britain during this time, and some architects did gentle experiments with the terrace. Berthold Lubetkin and Ernő Goldfinger both designed Modernist terraces in south and north London, respectively, but this work is fairly rare.
During the Second World War, 200,000 houses were destroyed, 250,000 made uninhabitable, and 3 million damaged. A radical rethink of housing design was desperately needed, and architects began to look up.
In 1951, England’s first residential tower block opened in Harlow, Essex, setting a new trend for post-war social housing.
However, tower blocks declined in popularity amongst architects and the public alike in the aftermath of the partial collapse of Ronan Point.
Some post-war architects continued to design terraces, citing ideas about improved social cohesion and community values. These were often high-density, low-rise terraces of flats rather than single homes as they had been previously.
Though we commonly associate contemporary housing in cities and towns with high-rise glass and steel, there has been some new terrace construction in the Post-Modern and High-Tech styles.
More recently, the Stirling Prize-winning architects Mikhail Riches have won praise for their scheme in Norwich, the terraces reflecting the much-loved housing of the Golden Triangle.