New Home History: The Story Of The Townhouse

Today’s townhouse is a hybrid, bringing the best of both terraced housing and traditional townhouses together in one building.

Strictly speaking, in British usage the term “townhouse” refers to a home belonging to a member of the landed gentry or the English nobility, which is located in a town or city as opposed to out in the countryside.

Essentially townhouses were the second homes of the upper classes and most commonly you’d find them in London.

Grander versions of the townhouse were often referred to as “stately homes” and typically these would be detached, whereas true townhouses were row buildings like those of St James’ Square in Westminster.  
Prior to being referred to as townhouses, in the Middle Ages, these types of residences, especially within the City of London were known as “inns”, though when the first one was built is difficult to say as many early Medieval buildings, particularly wooden constructions, have been lost through history. 

The style of townhouses varies greatly from country to country and from era to era.

English town houses in the 17th century were typically three to four storeys high, with tiled rooves and brick chimneys. In the 18th century they evolved to four or five storeys high with evenly spaced sash windows and a flat fronted design.

In the 19th century the townhouse moved away from London and bay windows and dressed stonework were introduced and then in the 20th century the fashion moved towards townhouses with steeply pitched rooves and casement windows instead of the uniform sash windows and symmetrical design of the 1800s.

By comparison, in Australia townhouses are typically of Victorian or Edwardian style and heavily ornamented with filigreed balconies and railings.

In Toronto townhouses are built in the bay and gable style. In New York you’ll find the famous brown stone townhouses and in the French Quarter of New Orleans there are what’s known as Creole Townhouses. 

Creole townhouses replaced the original wooden homes that were lost in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. The new homes featured courtyards, arcades and cast iron balconies, asymmetrical arched openings, steeply pitched rooves and brick or stucco exteriors.

Once again this demonstrates the luxury and grandiose nature of the townhouse when compared to other popular house types. 

Townhouses and Terraces: What’s The Difference?

Historically, while townhouses were the second homes of the wealthy, terraced houses were the economically built homes for the working classes.

Terraced homes shared roof spaces and neighbouring walls making them quick, easy and cheap to build on mass which is one reason why we still see so many terraced houses throughout the UK today.

They also lacked the decoration and grandeur of the townhouse, often with only one room per floor and simple red brick work.

Townhouses also largely pre-date the terraced houses, which arrived alongside the industrial revolution in Victorian England, to accommodate the industrial work force.

The Townhouse of Today

Today the term townhouse is used to describe new row or terraced housing, most often over three or more floors, offering spacious family living within a smaller building foot print. While these new homes make the most of the economical use of land, which made terraced housing so popular, they also bring the best of the traditional townhouse’s luxury and grandeur to today’s housing market.

So in some ways today’s townhouse is a hybrid, bringing the best of both terraced housing and traditional townhouses together in one building.

Homebuilders are ensuring the modern townhouse offers luxury living by creating multiple storey homes finished to the highest specification with designer integrated appliances, high quality fixtures and fittings and flare and style in the overall design.

Many of the new townhouses even feature French doors, balconies and occasionally bi-fold doors on the upper floors creating light and airy living spaces perfect for enjoying on a late summer’s eve.

This elevated living also offers greater privacy from people passing by your home at street level and allows more open views across the landscape surrounding where you live.
Some of our favourite modern townhouses include the Vienna three storey townhouse by Strata Homes. The design references the townhouse typical of the Georgian period, with large, symmetrical windows and light colour brickwork. It features four double bedrooms, one of which is a master suite with its own bathroom. 

Strata Homes also have the Seville house type in a similar style to the Vienna and the Sapphire house type which is a modern take on the townhouse exterior. 


Vienna three storey townhouse by Strata Homes


Sapphire house type by Strata Homes


Publish date: 15/03/2016