Terraced house

Terraced house

In architecture and city planning, a terrace(d) or row house or townhouse (though the latter term can also refer to patio houses) is a style of housing in use since the late 17th century, where a row of identical or mirror-image houses share side walls. The first and last of these houses is called an "end terrace", often larger than those houses in the middle.

In the United Kingdom

The term "terrace" was borrowed from garden terraces by English architects of the late Georgian period to describe streets of houses whose uniform fronts and uniform height created an ensemble that was more stylish than a "row". The "row", as in the sixteenth century "Yarmouth Rows" in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, was a designation for a narrow street where the building fronts uniformly ran right to the property line.

In England, the first streets of houses with uniform fronts were built by the Huguenot entrepreneur Nicholas Barbon in the rebuilding after the Great Fire of London, but Paris had led the way in the Place des Vosges (1605 – 1612). In Parisian squares, central blocks were given discreet prominence, to relieve the façade, but the Georgian idea of treating a row of houses as if it were a palace front, giving the central houses columned fronts under a shared pediment, appeared first in London's Grosvenor Square (1727 onwards; rebuilt) and in Bath's Queen Square (1729 onwards) (Summerson 1947).

Early terraces were also built by the two John Woods in Bath and under the direction of John Nash in Regent's Park, London, and the name was picked up by speculative builders like Thomas Cubitt and soon became commonplace. It is far from being the case that terraced houses were only built for people of limited means, and this is especially true in London, where some of the richest people in the country owned terraced houses in locations such as Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.

By the early Victorian period, a "terrace" had come to designate any style of housing where individual houses repeating one design are conjoined into rows either long or short. The style was used for workers' housing in industrial districts during the great industrial boom following the industrial revolution, particularly in the houses built for workers of the expanding textile industry. The terrace style spread widely in the UK, and was the usual form of high density residential housing up to World War II, though the 19th century need for expressive individuality inspired variation of facade details and floor-plans reversed with those of each neighboring pair, to offer variety within the standardized format. Post-World War II, housing redevelopment has led to many outdated or dilapidated terraces being cleared to make room for tower blocks, which occupy a much lower area of land. Because of this land use in inner city areas could theoretically be distributed further to create greater accessibility, employment or recreational or leisure centres. However botched implementation meant in many areas (like Manchester or the London estates) the effects of wind channeling and poor follow up development led to the towerblocks offering no real improvement for rehoused residents over their prior terraced houses [DUNLEAVY, Patrick: The Politics of Mass Housing in Britain in 1945-75. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1981] .

In the UK terraced industrial district housing has enjoyed huge price rises since around 2001, with prices in most areas (outside London) having more than tripled by mid-2005. In affluent areas terraced houses are often called 'townhouses'. In the 1960s and 1970s areas of affordable terraced housing were often quickly colonised by artists, gay men and young professionals, this being the early stages of the gentrification that happened in parts of many British cities.

In 2005 the English Heritage report "Low Demand Housing and the Historic Environment" found that repairing a standard Victorian terraced house over thirty years is around sixty-percent cheaper than building and maintaining a newly-built house. In a 2003 survey for "Heritage Counts" a team of experts contrasted a Victorian terrace with a house built after 1980, and found that:

:"The research demonstrated that, contrary to earlier thinking, older housing actually costs less to maintain and occupy over the long-term life of the dwelling than more modern housing. Largely due to the quality and life-span of the materials used, the Victorian terrace house proved almost £1,000 per 100 m2 cheaper to maintain and inhabit on average each year."

In Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, the term "terrace house" refers almost exclusively to Victorian and Edwardian era terraces or replicas almost always found in the older, inner city areas of the major cities. Modern suburban versions of this style of housing are referred to as "town houses".

Terraced housing was introduced to Australia from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. Large numbers of terraced houses were built in the inner suburbs of large Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, mainly between the 1850s and the 1890s. The beginning of this period coincided with a population boom caused by the Victorian and New South Wales Gold Rushes of the 1850s and finished with an economic depression in the early 1890s. Detached housing became the popular style of housing in Australia following Federation in 1901.

Terraced housing in Australia ranged from expensive middle-class houses of three, four and five-storeys down to single-storey cottages in working-class suburbs. The most common building material used was brick, often covered with stucco. Many terraces were built in the "Filigree" style, a style distinguished through heavy use of cast iron ornament, particularly on the balconies and sometimes depicting native Australian flora. Many Melbourne terraces featured a unique style of polychrome brickwork, influenced heavily by the early work of local architect Joseph Reed.

In the first half of the twentieth-century, terraced housing in Australia fell into disfavour and the inner-city areas where they were found were often considered slums. In the 1950s, many urban renewal programs were aimed at eradicating them entirely in favour of high-rise development. In recent decades these inner-city areas and their terraced houses have been gentrified. Terrace houses are now highly sought after in Australia, and due to their proximity to the CBD of the major cities, are often expensive.

With artificial urban boundaries, new townhouse type developments often nostalgically evoking old style terraces in a post-modern style returned to the favour of local planning offices in many suburban areas.


Melbourne's flat terrain has produced regular terraced house patterns, and the wealth of the gold rush fuelled speculative housing development and also ensured that many terraces were built with ornate and elaborate details in a plethora of different styles, often collectively referred to as "boom" style. Melbourne has more decorative cast iron than any other city in the world [http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/marvellous/1880s/castiron.asp Cast Iron - a City Dressed in Lace] and much of this was used to decorate its terrace houses in the "filigree" style with decorative cast iron balconies, material which was first imported before local foundries began due to high demand.

The earliest surviving terrace house in Melbourne is "Glass Terrace", 72-74 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (1853-54). "Royal Terrace" at 50-68 Nicholson Street Fitzroy, completed three years later is only slightly younger and is the oldest surviving complete row.

Multi-storey terraced housing became prevalent in the Melbourne suburbs of Middle Park, Albert Park, East Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, St Kilda, Balaclava, Richmond, South Yarra, Cremorne, North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Port Melbourne, West Melbourne, Footscray, Hawthorn, Abbortsford, Burnley, Brunswick, Parkville, Flemington, Kensington and Elsternwick. Freestanding terraces and single storey terraces can be found elsewhere within 10 kilometres of the Melbourne city centre.

Although Melbourne retains a large number of heritage registered terraces, many rows were substantially affected by widescale slum reclamation programs for public housing during the 1950s and 60s. Later private development of walk-up flats and in-fill development has further reduced the number of complete rows. [THE GENTRIFICATION OF INNER MELBOURNE. A Political Geography of Inner City Housing by LOGAN, William Stewart. University of Queensland Press. 1985] As a result, streets and suburbs which contain large intact rows of terrace housing are now fairly rare. Suburbs such as Albert Park, Fitzroy, Carlton, Parkville and East Melbourne are now subject to strict heritage overlays to preserve what is left of these streetscapes.

Some of the more notable examples of terrace housing in Melbourne include the heritage registered "Tasma Terrace", "Canterbury", "Clarendon Terrace", "Burlington Terrace", "Cypress Terrace", "Dorset Terrace", "Nepean Terrace" and "Annerly Terrace" (East Melbourne), "Blanche Terrace", "Cobden Terrace", "Holyrood Terrace" (Fitzroy), "Rochester Terrace" and the St Vincent Gardens precinct (Albert Park), "Royal Terrace", "Holcombe Terrace", "Denver Terrace", "Dalmeny House" & "Cramond House", and "Benvenuta" (Carlton), "Marion Terrace" (St Kilda) and "Finn Barr" (South Melbourne).


Like Melbourne, Sydney also is home to a large amount of terraced housing.Suburbs where terrace housing is highly prevalent includes The Rocks, Paddington, Bondi Junction, Glebe, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Newtown and Balmain.Due to the city's higher density, it is not unusual to find terrace houses of up to three storeys and the undulating topography of the city means that many of the terraces are typically staggered up hills rather than level or uniform.

In contrast to the British practice of the day, where dozens or even hundreds of houses were constructed by a developer as a single housing estate, Sydney practice was normally to build a short run of houses, an interesting example being the "Castle Terrace" in Paddington. Consisting of five houses, the middle one has been given a distinctive treatment.

Most Sydney terraces are firmly anchored into solid sandstone, which provided an opportunity to follow the British practice of constructing a basement storey below street level, reached by a flight of stairs down from the street. Many examples of this are to be found in Paddington. In the suburb of Balmain, there are examples of houses actually constructed from local sandstone, rather than bricks covered with stucco.


In Brisbane, Queensland, stone and attached building was disfavoured outside of government buildings, and in fact legislated against by the Undue Subdivision of Land Prevention Act 1885. Enacted as a public health and anti-slum measure, this act set a minimum frontage of about 10 metres for each residential block, thus effectively ending the building of terraces, although a few terraces were built as a single rental project, were not subdivided, and managed to bypass the legislation. However only a handful of elaborate heritage listed examples remain, mostly clustered in the Central Business District ("The Mansions" and "Harris Terrace" on George Street and "Petrie Terrace" on Petrie Terrace), and a handful of singular rows in the inner suburbs ("Cook's Terrace" on Coronation Drive, Milton and Edmonstone Street in West End). Nostalgic replicas, however, are popular in Brisbane, with some notable examples, built in the 1980s and 1990s in mock Victorian style along Gregory Terrace.

Other cities

Examples of terrace housing outside of Sydney and Melbourne are less common.

For reasons given above, terraces are extremely rare in Brisbane.

The planned city of Adelaide, South Australia has perhaps the most terrace houses of any other capital city, "Marine Apartments" in the suburb of Grange, is particularly notable, as it is a large three storey filigree terrace.

In Perth, Western Australia there are a handful of examples in the inner city and Fremantle's Point Street.

Tasmania, being one of the oldest European settlements has a number of good examples despite the relative size of its major cities in comparison to mainland cities. Inner Hobart has some good examples of terrace housing. Launceston has some great examples as well (mostly in the Central Business District and East Launceston), including "Alpha Terrace", which has striking similarities to many of the terraces in Sydney's hilly suburbs.

Outside of Melbourne in Victoria, Ballarat has some scattered existing terrace houses and semi-detached houses, as do the older cities of Geelong, Queenscliff, Portland and Port Fairy.

Outside of Sydney in New South Wales, Newcastle has a fine collection of 1890s terraces. Almost all of them be found in a conservation area just east of the Central Business District on The Terrace, Wolfe Street, Tyrell Street, Bull Street and Watts Street, including "Buchanans Terrace" (c1890). Surprisingly, the Western New South Wales city of Dubbo has examples of Victorian terraces and semi-detached houses close to the city centre, mostly in the Darling Street area.

Terrace houses are much rarer in New Zealand. Some examples can be found in the older suburbs of Auckland, such as Parnell and occasional one off examples such as "Hyland House" in Dunedin.

Some other smaller provincial Australian cities also have rare pockets of terrace housing.

In the United States

The first row houses in the United States, were Carstairs Row in Philadelphia, designed by builder and architect Thomas Carstairs [ [http://www.philadelphiabuildings.org/pab/app/ar_display.cfm/23000 Carstairs, Thomas (1759?-1830) - Philadelphia Architects and Buildings ] ] circa 1799 through 1820, for developer William Sansom, as part of the first speculative housing developments in the United States. [ [http://www.brynmawr.edu/cities/courses/05-306/proj2/ab2/Developers.htm Untitled Document ] ] Carstairs Row was built on the southern part of the site occupied by "Morris' Folly" – Robert Morris’ unfinished mansion designed by L'Enfant. [http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/declaration/bio33.htm National Park Service - Signers of the Declaration (Robert Morris) ] ] Prior to this time houses had been built not in rows, but individually. It can be contrasted with Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously occupied road in the U.S., where all the house are of varying heights and widths, with different street lines, doorways and brickwork.

Terrace housing in American usage generally continued to be called "townhouses" in the United States, with a distinctive type found in New York City, among other cities, called a brownstone. Some newer row houses, which are especially prominent in neighborhoods like Middle Village, Woodhaven and Jackson Heights in Queens and Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Canarsie and Marine Park in Brooklyn are commonly referred to locally as "attached houses"

In Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington DC, they are simply called row houses or row homes, and are very common. Despite the narrow lots, many row houses are relatively large.

In historic Philadelphia, almost the entire city is populated with various types of row houses. Many of Philadelphia's row houses date back to colonial times. The style and type of material used in constructing Philadelphia's row houses vary throughout the city. Most homes are primarily red brick in construction, with stone and marble accent. There are some communities in the city where the homes are built of solid granite, such as Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia and Mt. Airy in Northwest Philadelphia.

In much of the Southern United States, they are referred to as "row homes". In the United States the term commonly describes a two story, owner-occupied housing unit that shares a wall with one or more neighboring units.

In the Midwest and Great Plains (and often in Georgia), they are referred to as "townhomes." The term is not terribly specific, a townhome sometimes implies one side of a duplex that is owned.

In Malaysia and Singapore

Introduced around the beginning of the twentieth century, terraced houses (also known as linear linkhouses) have been adopted in both Malaysia and Singapore since the countries' early British colonial rule. Based on British terraced home designs, the Southeast Asian variations are similar to their British counterparts (in which the living quarters are located on the front and top floor and the kitchen at the back) and were adapted to accommodate the area's tropical weather, which is primarily warm throughout the year and receives heavy rainfall. Earlier versions were more open, designed to better circulate air and features inner courtyards, with a frontal yard, rear yard, or both. A typical Malaysian and Singaporean terraced house is usually one or two floors high, but a handful of three or four storey terraced homes exist, especially newer terraced houses. Earlier variations followed traditional Western, Malay, India and Chinese architecture, as well as Art Deco and International stylings between the 1930s and 1950s.

The manner in which the buildings were designed varies by their location in an urban area. Derivatives located within city centres may also utilize their space for both commercial on the ground floor and residential use on the first floor and above (accurately known as shophouses, also similar to Lingnan buildings). Inner city terrace house design tended to lack any frontal yard at all, with narrow street frontages, hence the building's structure directly erected in front of the road. One of the reasons behind this was the taxing according to street frontage rather than total area, thereby creating an economic motivation to build narrow and deeply.Fact|date=February 2007 A five foot way porch was usually laid out at the ground floor for use by both the residents and pedestrians. Alternatively, the porch may be sealed from the rest of the walkway to serve as personal space. Such designs became less common after the 1960s.

Terrace houses located on the outskirts of city centres were less restrictive, although the design of the building itself was not unlike those in the city. Certain homes tend to feature longer front yards, enough to accommodate cars. Others strictly serve as a small garden. This design remained in demand throughout the twentieth century, and a construction boom of the house design occurred in Malaysia since the 1940s, with numerous housing estates consisting of terrace homes sprouting in and around cities and towns. In the process, the design of the building began to diversify, with various refinements and style changes. Generally, the building's floor space and yards become larger and more elaborate through time, as is the modernisation of exterior construction and facade.

Certain older terrace houses tend to be converted for various new roles; some are converted into shophouses or business premises (including clubs, hotels and boarding homes–especially pre-independence houses–and kindergartens). Others have remained in use as residential units, are abandoned, neglected, or razed. Significant expansions are also common on all terrace homes; roofs and additional rooms may be added within the floorspace of the house's lot. Concerns are also raised with the limited maintenance and monitoring of deserted terrace homes, which potentially become hiding places for rodents and snakes (in yards with overgrown grass), and drug addicts.

Earlier variations of the terrace house were constructed with wood, later replaced with a masonry shell holding wooden beams to form foundations for the upper floors and tiled roof. Contemporary variations are primarily held together with reinforced concrete beams, which are later completed with concrete slabs, brick walls and tiled roofs.

ources and further reading

* Summerson, John, 1947. "John Wood and the English town-planning tradition" collected in "Heavenly Mansions" (1963).
* Summerson, "Georgian London".
* Chen, "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia", Volume 5 (1998).


External links

* http://www.le.ac.uk/emoha/leicester/terraces.html - A tribute to the typical terraced houses of Leicester, UK

ee also

*Back-to-back houses
*Shotgun house
*List of house types
*Australian architectural styles

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • terraced house — terraced houses N COUNT A terraced house or a terrace house is one of a row of similar houses joined together by their side walls. [BRIT] (in AM, use row house) …   English dictionary

  • terraced house — n BrE a house which is part of a row of houses that are joined together American Equivalent: row house …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • terraced house — terraced ,house noun count BRITISH a ROW HOUSE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • terraced house — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms terraced house : singular terraced house plural terraced houses British a house in a row of similar houses joined together on both sides. The American word is row house …   English dictionary

  • terraced house — noun a house that is part of a terrace • Regions: ↑United Kingdom, ↑UK, ↑U.K., ↑Britain, ↑United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, ↑Great Britain • Hypernyms: ↑row house, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Terraced house — En inglés, se utilizan los términos terrace(d) house, row house y townhouse en arquitectura y planeamiento urbano para designar un tipo de casas originado a finales del siglo XVII, en el cual un grupo de casas idénticas compartes sus paredes… …   Wikipedia Español

  • terraced house — noun (C) BrE a house which is part of a row of houses that are joined together; row house AmE …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • terraced house — noun A type of house which shares both sidewalls with the adjacent houses. Typical of Victorian and Edwardian housing in English cities. Syn: rowhouse …   Wiktionary

  • terraced house — [ˈterəst ˌhaʊs] noun [C] British a house in a row of houses that are joined together …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

  • house — house1 W1S1 [haus] n plural houses [ˈhauzız] ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(where someone lives)¦ 2¦(building)¦ 3¦(government)¦ 4¦(company)¦ 5¦(theatre)¦ 6 in house 7 put/set/get your (own) house in order 8 bring the house down …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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