top of page

Brick Houses

History of the usage of bricks in building houses in England

What type of building material comes to mind when you think of traditional English houses? Stone? Cob? Timber and wattle-and-daub? What about brick?

In A Spark of Romance Isobel travels away from home for the first time and encounters more redbrick buildings than she’s seen in her life.

Unsurprising, the material preferred for housing varies by location, as they would only use what was local and affordable, at least when it came to the homes of commoners. This is the reason each area has similarly built homes, such as the Cotswolds’ limestone, the north Devon’s cob, and the Sussex Weald’s timber, etc. Obviously other factors were considered, such as the region’s weather, and so forth.

Brick is not usually what comes to mind when we think of English houses. However, brick was popular in the Tudor era as an accent material for herringbone or diapering patterns. Since bricks were first imported from Holland, they were only accessible by the wealthy.

It was the Great Fire in 1666 that popularized bricks for home construction in London. Once the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century brought about the mass production of bricks and the opening of the canals, it was smooth sailing, moving a rare, expensive material into “poor man’s stone” category.

Regionally, it is the colour of the local clay that determined the shade of the brick, such as the yellowish London stock brick vs the red brick of the Midlands.

This boom of brick usage continues until 1784 when a brick tax was imposed (of course). Popularity dipped until the tax was abolished in the Victorian era.

Does it surprise you that it is the Georgia era when we see the mass emergence of brick housing for the middle class?

Enjoy this exploration of brick history in these articles:

Heritage Calling: A Guide to Traditional English Building

England's Puzzle: English Bricks

Heritage Calling: The History of Brick Building in England

Clive Fewins' The Rich History of Bricks

bottom of page