English cottage house plans originate from the old Anglo-Saxon hall where a principle hall was used for eating and sleeping and the fireplace was in the middle of the room. The English half-timbered or timber frame plan has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon halls built before the Norman conquest (1066). Many farmhouses and large cottages are built around the central hall plan.
The cottage plans of the yeoman of the sixteenth century are based on the mediaeval manor house it still has the central hall but is more elaborate than the poorer farmer’s cottage. A yeoman is a member of a former class of small holders who cultivate their own land of thirty to a hundred and twenty acres and would be armed and trained to protect the nobility.
English cottage house plans began to take shape during the reign of Elizabeth I (1559-1603) and England’s great building time (1550-1650). Before Elizabeth I, during the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) a cottage was defined “as a house without land attached to it” but because of the rush of building during Elizabeth’s time an new enactment was needed and country cottages were defined as “a house with four acres of land attached to it”.
Exempt from this rule were cottages for towns, craftsmen, under keepers, fishermen and seamen and any other trade that does not require four acres of land.
English cottage house plans are not just two rooms like the Scottish ‘wee butt and ben’ cottage. As England became wealthier during the reign of Elizabeth I, farmhouses were demoted to cottages, and old cottages were given to the poorer labourer while the owner built a new cottage for himself.
The cottage as we know it today has most properly been added onto. Back in the sixteenth century most cottages were a rectangle shape with a lower and upper story. Bread ovens for baking bread came late in the sixteenth century as an addition behind the fireplace. At one time houses in England were measured in bays. Houses were sold and rented by the bays or baies. A bay was a measurement of about sixteen feet and was the required length in farm buildings for a pair of oxen to stand.
With the hall as the central design, additions would be added on as necessary. As the cottager’s lot improved extra rooms would be built. With the central hall established the English cottage house plans simply evolved into a H, T or L shaped plan. Some cottage house plans ramble on with additions from each generation as needed.
The gentry looking for a taste of the simple life also built larger cottages.
Cottage stairs began as a rude ladder to the upper story. Old stairs were carved out from a solid balk of oak. Later straight stairs were added and you can date a cottage later than 1600 if the stairs are straight.
Benefits of Cottage Living
There are numerous benefits of cottage living, not the least of which, as Wright observed, is affordability.
Low construction cost Low property taxes Easy to clean, cuts down on housework, gives more leisure time. Easy to heat - low utility costs (add solar heat and electricity for greater benefit) Encourages a life of simplicity and freedom from accumulated possessions. Easy to maintain, less stuff to break down or wear out. Handy - everything is right there Cozy. Very cozy. Encourages social relationships among inhabitants.