Terraced housing at Lipson
A brief introduction to Housing Listed places Post-War Architecture

A Brief Introduction to Terraced Housing

The terrace is one of the most recognisable styles of housing in England.

The terrace is one of the most recognisable styles of housing in England.

A photograph of terraced housing.
33-42 Brunswick Terrace in Brighton, East Sussex. © Historic England Archive. DP017943.

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.

A photograph of terraced housing.
New Ash Green in Kent. © Historic England Archive. DP138199.

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.

A photograph of terraced houses.
52-55 Newington Green, London’s oldest surviving terrace. © Charles Watson.

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.

A black and white photograph of terraced houses.
Terraced houses in London in the 1960s. © Historic England Archive. AA072838.

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.

A photograph of sash windows.
Sash windows on terraced houses in Liverpool. © Historic England Archive. DP136126.

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.

A photograph of curved terraced houses.
The Royal Crescent in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. © Historic England Archive. DP236013.

The grandest late Georgian and Regency terraces faced onto a square or garden.

A detail photograph of the doors and windows on brick terraced houses.
Houses on Seel Street in Liverpool. © Historic England Archive. DP136132.

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.

A photograph of brick terraced houses.
Houses on Amwell Street in Islington, London. © Historic England Archive. AA056209.

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.

A photograph of brick terraced hoses with people walking in front.
Houses on Roupell Street in London. © Historic England Archive. DP183520.

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.

A photograph of brick houses on the corner of 2 roads.
Houses in Saltaire, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. DP033510.

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.

A photograph of red brick terraced houses with lots of satellite dishes.
Houses in Noel Park Conservation Area, Haringey, London. © Historic England Archive. DP075216.

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.

A black and white photograph of terraced houses seen from above.
Silvertown in London in 1965 © Historic England Archive. AA065117.

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.

A photograph of red brick terraced houses.
Terraced houses in Battersea, London. © Historic England Archive. DP149082.

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.

A photograph of terraced houses taken from a rooftop balcony.
A view from the footbridge above the balcony linking back-to-back houses in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, between 1962 and 1972. © Historic England Archive. AA083873.

Terraced houses in the 20th Century

In the early 20th century, the popularity of the terrace continued, but new architectural styles emerged.

A photograph of red brick terraced houses.
Terraced houses in Acton, London. © Historic England Archive. DP067415.

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.

A photograph of terraced houses with a green space in front.
Houses in Sunray Estate, Dulwich, London. © Historic England Archive. DP186810.

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.

A black and white photograph of 20th century terraced houses.
Houses at 85, 87, 89 and 91 Genesta Road in London. © RIBA Collections.

Lubetkin’s used new construction techniques to radically reinvent the traditional terrace, while Goldfinger used brick in his ‘adaptation of the 18th Century style’ with Classical proportions.

A photograph of 20th century terraced houses.
1-3 Willow Road in Hampstead, London. © Steve Cadman.

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.

A photograph of a 20th century housing estate.
Keeling House in London. © Historic England Archive. DP138156.

In 1951, England’s first residential tower block opened in Harlow, Essex, setting a new trend for post-war social housing.

A photograph of 20th century terraced houses.
Glebelands in Harlow, Essex. © Historic England Archive. DP159910.

However, tower blocks declined in popularity amongst architects and the public alike in the aftermath of the partial collapse of Ronan Point.

A photograph of a 20th century housing estate.
Alexandra Road Estate in London. © Historic England Archive. DP147528.

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.

A photograph of single storey, 20th century red brick terraced houses.
Davy Place in Loddon, Norfolk. © Historic England Archive. DP162730.

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.

St Mark’s Road and Cowper Terrace in London. © Historic England Archive. DP195618.

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.

A photograph of 20th century terraced houses.
1-12 Grand Union Walk in London. © Historic England Archive. DP251183.

Further reading

9 comments on “A Brief Introduction to Terraced Housing

  1. Well done Charlotte. A concise digest of English terrace housing. Excellent picture examples too. Good to see New Ash Green included, which I studied as a Landscape Architecture student back in ’74.

  2. Michael Munroe

    What an enjoyable piece very informative.
    Thanks Mike

  3. Mary Walden-Till

    There is a very good crescent at Buxton too, currently undergoing restoration.

  4. I love the feature picture of the terraced houses

  5. Robert Bilbie

    Excellent resume of housing through the ages.

  6. Thank you very much for sharing about a brief introduction toterraced housing here… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article. Great post I must admit, keep sharing more… Do check out this https://roofquip.co.nz/ it has some great and nice ideas to look for.

  7. Great read and great article

  8. Roupell St is late Georgian. 1820s. So it’s in the wrong section of the article.

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