When terraced houses were first built?

Originating in 16th century Europe, terraced houses lined up along the street and spread rapidly in England during the Industrial Revolution as affordable working-class housing near factories.

Terraced houses, or row houses, are narrow attached urban housing built uniformly together in continuous rows. 

Their efficient design allowed high-density development within cities. Architectural features include shared side walls, matching facades, two to three stories, and decorative details from Georgian, Victorian, and other eras. Inside, their compact layout has a long narrow floorplan to conserve space.

Terraced homes remain popular for their affordable homeownership in desirable areas of cities worldwide, though noise and parking issues can be challenges.

Picture of Author: George Nicola
Author: George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

What is a terraced house?

Terraced houses are homes that are connected in a row sharing common side walls.

To identify terraced houses:

  • They are attached houses that share walls with the homes on either side.
  • They form continuous rows of houses without gaps between the homes.
  • They often have uniform shapes, heights, façades, and roof lines.
  • They are built close together, directly fronting the street or pavement.
  • Neighboring homes are accessed via side alleys between the rows.
  • Examples include brownstones and townhouses.

What are not terraced houses:

  • Detached homes surrounded by private space on all sides.
  • Semi-detached or duplex homes with only one shared wall.
  • Apartment buildings with multiple stacked units.
  • Terraced houses do not have terraced [balconies]

Terraced houses form a continuous line of connected units sharing walls and following consistent designs and footprints. They efficiently use space while providing individual homes.

Can terraced houses be found elsewhere?

While most closely associated with the UK, variations on terraced housing can be found in urban areas on several continents.

The style spread along with European colonialism and urbanization trends in the 19th and early 20th centuries.:

  • Australia – Terraced houses were brought to Australia from the UK during the 19th century and many were built in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. They are most common in older inner-city neighborhoods.
  • North America – In the US and Canada, similar attached townhouses are often referred to as row houses. They are found in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Toronto, and Montreal.
  • South America – In Uruguay and Argentina, a type of terraced house called the ‘standard house’ or ‘chorizo house’ became popular in Montevideo and Buenos Aires in the late 1800s.
  • Southeast Asia – Terraced shophouses were built by British colonists in Malaysia and Singapore, adapting the style to local tropical conditions. They remain common in historic city centers.
  • Finland – Terraced houses known as rivitalo were built in Helsinki and other cities starting in the early 1900s, though not in large numbers.
  • France – Terraced housing has long been used in Paris, with early examples like the Place des Vosges built from 1605-1612s.

Why "Terrace"?

An artist's rendering of a terraced house.
An artist's rendering of a terraced house.

The term “terrace” was first used by British architects in the late Georgian period to describe the uniform fronts and heights of these homes lined up in a row.

Terraced houses are typically two to three stories tall and share a wall with the neighboring unit.

The first and last homes in a terrace row are called “end terraces” and often have different layouts and are slightly larger than the middle houses.

The alignment of the uniform house fronts directly on the property line began in the 16th century based on Dutch and Belgian models.

Some key features of terraced housing include:

  • Identical or mirrored facades
  • Shared side walls
  • Narrow frontages
  • Entrances facing the street
  • Two to three story heights

Do terraced houses have terraces [balconies]?

No, terraced houses do not necessarily have terraces or balconies.

The term “terraced house” refers to the homes being connected in a continuous row or terrace, sharing common side walls with the identical houses on either side.

But having an outdoor terrace, balcony, or patio is not a defining feature of a terraced house. Some key points:

  • Terraced houses focus on efficient use of space, so outdoor terraces may not be included.
  • If balconies are present, they are often small, such as Juliet balconies or balconettes that protrude slightly.
  • Large full balconies or rooftop terraces are less common, as they take up valuable outdoor ground space in dense rows.
  • Some newer terraced houses may incorporate roof decks or small container gardens, but not full balconies.
  • The shared walls and close proximity mean terraces lack the same privacy as a detached home.

Having an actual terrace, balcony, or patio is not required for a house to be considered terraced. The “terraced” name refers to the unique attached row arrangement, not outdoor spaces.

What percentage of domestic properties are victorian in UK?

A watercolor painting of a row of old Victorian terraced houses.
A watercolor painting of a row of old Victorian terraced houses.

According to research by Historic England, around 15-24% of all homes in England are Victorian or from the Victorian era. Some key statistics:

  • There are approximately 3.2 million Victorian terraced houses in England.
  • Around 15% of all homes across England were built between 1870-1900 during the main Victorian period.
  • Another 6% were built in the earlier part of the Victorian era between 1840-1870.
  • So approximately 21% of homes in England date from the broad Victorian era of 1840 to 1900.
  • The majority of Victorian homes are concentrated in cities in Northern England and the Midlands that expanded rapidly during industrialization.
  • Cities like Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and Liverpool have some of the highest proportions of Victorian housing stock.
  • London also has significant numbers of Victorian era homes, though fewer than the industrial northern cities.
  • Detached suburban villas are also common Victorian building types.

Fashionable Terraced Houses

The first streets of houses with uniform fronts were built by Nicholas Barbon in London after the Great Fire of 1666. Fashionable terraces appeared in London’s Grosvenor Square from 1727 and in Bath’s Queen Square from 1729 and the The Circus.

The Scottish architect Robert Adam is credited with developing the terraced house style. Early examples were also built by John Woods in Bath and John Nash in London’s Regent’s Park. Wealthy families owned terraced houses in prestigious locations like Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.

In Dublin, Georgian squares like Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square housed upper classes in terraced townhouses. A type of one-floor-over-basement terraced house was built for Dublin’s lower middle class to emulate upper class styles.

A row of colorful terraced houses on a hillside.
Play Video about A row of colorful terraced houses on a hillside.

Terraced houses were not just for the working class – the wealthiest nobility owned them in fashionable London squares, though they spent the most time in country estates.

Terraced rows offer medium-density urban living and have become associated with gentrification in some inner-city areas.

“The Victorian terraced house represents a key moment in the history of mass suburban development, nearing almost 24% of all properties in England.” – Historic England

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Most Type of Terraced Houses Have Distinctive Architecture

Built shoulder-to-shoulder in continuous rows, these old victorian houses have:

  • Identical or mirrored facades
  • Shared side walls
  • Narrow frontages
  • Entrances facing the street
  • Two to three stories
A view of a row of terraced houses.
A view of a row of terraced houses.

Traditional materials include brick, stone, and wood. Decorative details reflect various eras and styles.

Compact Layout

A drawing of an old Victorian terraced house with stairs.
A drawing of an old Victorian terraced house with stairs.

Inside, terraced houses have a compact narrow layout to conserve space. Common interior features:

  • Entrance hallway
  • Front reception room
  • Rear living room
  • Basement kitchen and utilities
  • Compact bedrooms

Modern open concept renovations help maximize space.

Urban Living

Today, terraced houses remain a popular affordable homeownership option in cities worldwide. Benefits include:

  • Urban locations
  • Lower costs
  • Private outdoor space
  • Multi-level living

Downsides can be noise, lack of parking, close neighbors. Overall they allow affordable property ownership in desirable areas.

Terraced vs Semis vs Townhouse vs Manorhouse

Terraced houses differ from other attached housing styles:

Terraced House vs. Semi-Detached

  • Terraced shares walls on both sides
  • Semi-detached shares just one wall

A semi-detached house is not the same as a terraced house. A key difference is that a semi-detached house shares only one side wall with the neighboring house, while a terraced house shares side walls on both sides, being connected in an continuous row of identical houses. 

Terraced houses also typically have uniform facades lining up along the street, whereas semi-detached homes look similar but not identical to their neighbor. So while related, semi-detached and terraced houses are distinct attached home types.

Terraced House vs. Townhouse

While terraced houses and townhouses share the quality of having shared walls, townhouses are less uniform and urban-focused, tend to be taller, and put more priority on individual identity than the continuous row. But there is definitely overlap between these attached home types in certain cases.

terraced houses and townhouses are similar attached home types but have some key differences:

  • Townhouses are usually taller, often 3-4 stories, while terraced houses are typically 2-3 stories.
  • Townhouses sometimes have garages on the main floor and place more emphasis on vertical space.
  • Terraced houses are lined up uniformly along the street and emphasize efficient use of narrow urban lots.
  • Townhouses can be part of a uniform row but are also built in smaller groupings more focused on the individual home.
  • Terraced houses are usually 2 storeys
  • Townhouses often reach 3-4 storeys
Terraced Houses are buildings that consist of a connected row of apartments.
Terraced Houses are buildings that consist of a connected row of apartments.

Tips for Buyers

When purchasing a terraced house, tips include:

  • Review building condition
  • Consider noise from neighbors
  • Check for renovations needed
  • Evaluate parking options
  • Look for outdoor space

Overall, terraced houses offer affordable homeownership and community living in urban areas worldwide. With the right location and renovations, they can make great homes.

Key Features of Terraced Houses

An illustration of an old Victorian house.
An illustration of an old Victorian house.

Terraced houses have very distinctive architecture to maximize housing density in urban areas. They feature identical facades, narrow 10-15 ft frontages, shared side walls, and entrances facing the street.

Their layout is long and narrow, with rooms stacked from front to back to conserve space. Materials are predominantly brick, stone, and wood. Entrance hallways and (not very common) basements further optimize space usage.

Terraced houses provide an efficient affordable housing option in compact city centers worldwide.

Terraced houses have distinctive architecture and layouts that make efficient use of space in urban areas:

  • Locations: Found in city centers and inner-city neighborhoods
  • Architecture:
    • Identical or mirrored facades
    • Narrow frontages – as little as 10-15 ft wide
    • Shared side walls with neighbors
    • Entrances facing the street
    • Materials: Predominantly brickstone, and wood
Terraced houses in London.
Terraced houses in London.

The mirrored facades create an uniform, rhythmic effect along the street. Though specific styles vary, classic terraced house facades have these common characteristics:

  • Symmetrical design with precisely aligned windows and doors
  • Two or three story heights are most common
  • Front door located in the center or slightly off-center
  • Elaborate detailing around main entrance door, such as decorative crown molding, sidelights, transom windows, and footscrapers
  • Paned sash windows evenly spaced across facade, usually two or three per floor
  • Window sizes diminish on upper floors with smaller windows in attic level
  • Stone lintels and sills framing all front windows
  • Some façades feature bay windows protruding from the front
  • Chimney stacks projecting up along the side walls
  • Front garden area or paved terrace in front of entrance
  • Iron railings or stone balustrades lining front steps and terraces
  • Facade material tends to be brick, stone, or stucco with wood trim
  • Decorative brickwork patterns, stone trim, tilework, and wood trim details
  • Painted coats of arms, house names, or house numbers next to doors
  • Corner units called end terraces have distinguishing features

The uniform fronts with fine details and vertically aligned elements create a rhythmic, grand visual effect along the terraced rows. The facades provide individual identity while maintaining harmony with their neighbors.

  • Layout:
    • Compact and narrow rooms
    •  Rooms stacked from front to back
    • Entrance hallways
    • Basements and attics maximize space (not found very common)

“Terraced houses offer affordable homeownership options in desirable urban locations.”

Historical / Period Terraced House Layouts

Original terraced houses had very simple narrow layouts to conserve space:

  • Rooms stacked lengthwise front to back
  • Narrow hallways connecting rooms
  • Compact rectangular rooms fit site width
  • Low 8-9 ft ceilings on main floors
  • Basement kitchens and utilities
  • Bedrooms on upper floors
  • Few room divisions – more open plans
  • Tight staircases along one wall
  • Storage challenges with minimal built-ins
  • Later additions like scullery kitchens

Despite tight spaces, historical terraced house layouts reflected ingenious space planning for affordable urban family homes.

layout with clear flow of traffic
Typical terraced house layout with bay window at the front and a small rear garden

Modern Terraced House Layouts

Contemporary terraced house layouts incorporate modern open-concept elements:

  • More open floorplans created through removed walls
  • Great rooms merging kitchen, dining, living areas
  • Expanded basement kitchens and utilities
  • Enlarged master bedroom suites
  • More bathrooms added on upper floors
  • Flexible loft spaces vs. small bedrooms
  • Spiral staircases opening up floors
  • Abundant built-in storage, closets, and cabinets
  • Skylights, clerestory windows for natural light
  • Vaulted ceilings creating feeling of space

Today’s terraced house layouts blend original space-saving efficiency with modern open living preferences.

Traditionally, a typical floor plan of a terrace house involves a main entrance hall. This functions as a pivotal point, setting the precedent for the remainder of the layout. The entrance hall usually leads to separate compact rooms, due to constraints on the width of the house dictated by the continuous row of houses.

A common feature of classic victorian terraced house

A common feature of classic terrace houses, especially during the Victorian era, is a front living room connected to the entrance hall. This unifies the public and private spaces seamlessly.

In a two-storey terrace house, a staircase set to one side of the entrance hall usually leads to an upper level consisting of bedrooms.

A common floor plan also included a basement, typically used for food storage in early configurations. However, modern adaptations have transformed these spaces into additional living or bedroom areas.

In some older models, the kitchen area was located towards the back end of the house.

Modern terrace houses, nevertheless, display an encouraging blend of historical and contemporary planning: open-planned living spaces are frequently found, demonstrating how these vintage homes have evolved over time.

As for the outdoor amenities, it is common to find a small garden or courtyard in the rear part of these dwellings. This outdoor space provides a break from the urban landscape, acting as an extension of the living space.

In conclusion, while the layout of terrace houses is typically consistent with overarching trends, local custom and the passage of time have ensured a range of variations, stepping stones that trace the cultural and historical evolution in urban dwelling design.

Terrace Houses vs. Other Housing Types

Terrace House vs Mews House

Terraced houses maximize urban space with efficient attached rows contrasting mews houses, which originated as stables and carriages houses offering uncommon charm and privacy.

Terraced House

  • Narrow attached rowhomes
  • Maximize urban space
  • Uniform facades

Mews House

  • Converted urban stables or carriage houses
  • Offer unique charm and privacy
  • Originally built behind grand houses

Consider lifestyle – terrace houses offer space, mews offer charm.

Terrace House vs Manor House

A painting depicting a terraced house with a car parked in front and a manor house next to it
A painting depicting a terraced house with a car parked in front and a manor house next to it

Terraced houses provide efficient community-focused urban living unlike the historic grandeur and vast spaces of countryside manor houses.

Terraced House

  • Urban locations
  • Efficient use of space
  • Community-focused living

Manor House

  • Large countryside estates
  • Historical opulence
  • Vast spaces and lands

Both are dwelling types with long histories, manor houses differ from terraced properties enormously in scale, location, layout, architectural style, and the lifestyles they enable. The urban terraced house contrasts sharply with the elite exclusivity of a countryside manor estate. They share almost no major similarities.

Terraced houses and manor houses are very different types of homes:

  • Terraced houses are modestly-sized, narrow rowhomes lined up uniformly along city streets to maximize urban space. They have efficient compact layouts and shared walls.
  • Manor houses are expansive elite residences located on vast countryside estates. They are lavish single free-standing homes often of historic architectural significance passed down in families.
  • Terraced houses offer community-style urban living and efficient use of limited space. Manor houses provide aristocratic grandeur, privacy, and sprawling grounds.
  • Terraced houses are modestly sized
  • Manor houses are expansive elite estates

Consider lifestyle – terrace houses offer community, manors offer space.

Terrace House vs Cottage

A painting of an old Victorian terrace house on a street with a pathway.
A painting of an old Victorian terrace house on a street with a pathway.

Terraced houses are efficient attached urban homes contrasting cottages which are smaller detached rural dwellings epitomizing tranquility and simplicity.

Terraced House

  • Continuous urban rows
  • Efficient living
  • Shared walls

Cottage

  • Small, rural dwellings
  • Picturesque settings
  • Simplicity and tranquility

Cottages offer a rustic retreat from urban terraced housing.

Modern Terraced Houses

New Builds

Modern terraced houses blend traditional exteriors with contemporary open floorplans, smart home automation, green building, and biophilic elements indoors for sustainable urban living.

Terraced House Renovations

Renovating historical terraced houses blends original charm with modern open floorplans, technology integrations, and basement/attic expansions for contemporary urban living

Contemporary terraced houses blend traditional and modern features:

  • New builds integrate modern materials and sustainability
  • Renovations update original homes for modern living
  • Open floorplans remove walls for airy spaces
  • Smart technology adds integrated automation
  • Rooftop additions optimize unused attic space
  • Basement expansions enlarge footprints
  • Green features like solar panels, green roofs
  • Biophilic design brings nature indoors

Adaptations for Modern Living Needs

A row of red brick terraced houses on a street.
A row of red brick terraced houses on a street.

To meet contemporary living demands, terrace houses have adapted by:

Maximizing space: Efficient use of limited space is key; open-plan designs and loft conversions are utilized to optimize flexibility.
Sustainability: Green technologies, such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems, are added to boost eco-friendliness.
Accessibility: Improvements including wider doorways, ramps, and ground-floor bedrooms meet the needs of seniors and residents with mobility issues.

“Today’s terraced homes balance historical charm and contemporary convenience.”

Newly built terraced houses examples

New developments in various cities are featuring updated, modern terrace house design:

Timekeepers Square

A woman walks down a sidewalk in front of new terraced houses.
A woman walks down a sidewalk in front of new terraced houses. / Photo credit: © Wienerberger Ltd

Timekeepers Square consists of 36 two, three, and four bedroom terraced townhouses built as part of a wider urban regeneration effort in Salford’s historic city center. It was developed by the English Cities Fund.

The homes are designed to reference the area’s Georgian architectural heritage while still having a contemporary identity. Features include vertical emphasis, rhythmic fenestration, deep window/door recesses, and traditional materials like brick.

The facades utilize Wienerberger’s Forum Smoked Branco bricks in grey to mediate between the red brick of older buildings and stone of the adjacent St. Philip’s Church. The handmade look provides warmth contrasted by smooth metal window frames.

The project re-establishes an urban grain with its terraced form, strengthening the setting around St. Philip’s Church. Public spaces like roof gardens and pedestrian areas enhance the neighborhood.

The sensitive integration of modern terraced housing with Salford’s historic fabric earned Timekeepers Square the BDA Urban Regeneration Project of the Year award in 2017.

Overall, it demonstrates a model of urban renewal that harmoniously combines heritage preservation with contemporary housing needs.

Seven Acres

Modern terraced houses on a grassy lot.
Modern terraced houses on a grassy lot. / Photo credit: Seven Acres © Louis Sinclair

Located in Trumpington, Seven Acres showcases diverse, richly textured terrace houses, drawing on the local vernacular design.

The Seven Acres project consists of 128 newly constructed terraced homes built using Wienerberger’s Marziale bricks. It is located on the southern outskirts of Cambridge as part of a larger development of 3,500 new residential units.

The architect, Formation Architects, designed a mix of 70 two- and three-story terraced houses and 58 flats in four-story buildings flanking the neighborhood entrances. 

The homes feature cohesive brick facades using the Marziale bricks, which provide visual serenity and scale.

The project won several awards even before completion for its innovative sustainable design. It incorporates strong insulation, heat recovery ventilation, triple glazing, solar panels, green roofs, and rainwater capture. The homes were designed for energy efficiency with features like bicycle storage, managed ventilation, and minimum 2.7 meter ceiling heights.

The terraced houses are arranged in staggered rows with recessed structures and varying heights. Inside, they have open floorplans with sliding doors and terraces on all levels. 

The community includes shared green spaces like lawns, vegetable gardens, a play area, and acoustic screened communal areas.

Overall, Seven Acres provides a model for contemporary terraced housing using traditional materials like brick combined with sustainable technologies for an award-winning urban village design.

Cartridge Close

Red brick Terraced Houses.
Red brick Terraced Houses. / Photo credit: Cartridge Close © Wienerberger UK

Cartridge Close consists of 17 sustainably-designed terraced homes located within the historic Priddy’s Hard site, a former military facility in Gosport with views of Portsmouth Harbour.

The developer, Elite NuGEN, worked closely with the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust to ensure the design aligned with the site’s heritage as a former ammunition manufacturing facility. 

The homes feature brick facades using Wienerberger’s Olde Heritage Antique bricks to match the surroundings.

The project focuses on sustainability through offsite construction, timber framing, and renewable energy features. 

The homes are built in rows with shared concrete slabs to minimize transport. The timber structural system is prefabricated offsite to reduce on-site construction.

Each terraced house also generates electricity via solar panels, reducing running costs by 75%. Additional sustainability factors include minimal waste, energy-efficient lighting, and maximizing daylight.

The developer Elite NuGEN was chosen for its commitment to sustainability throughout design, construction, materials sourcing, and workforce engagement. 

The project took over two years to carefully develop more sustainable building methods.

Overall, Cartridge Close provides a model of a thoughtfully designed sustainable terraced housing development that aligns with the historic context of the site.

Purchasing and Living in a Terrace House

Popularity in Cities

Terraced houses continue to be popular in cities for their central locations, relative affordability, private outdoor areas, and community feel compared to apartments. They provide an accessible entry point to homeownership in urban areas.

Terraced houses remain popular in urban areas for:

  • Central locations
  • Affordability
  • Private outdoor space
  • Neighborly communities

Tips for Buyers

When purchasing a terraced house, consider:

  • Building condition – check for issues
  • Noise from neighbors – could be problematic
  • Renovations needed – budget for upgrades
  • Parking options – street or garage
  • Outdoor space – even a small patio

Inspect carefully and prepare for renovations when buying an older terraced home.

Pros and cons of Living in a Terrace House

Living in a terrace house has its distinct advantages and challenges:

Advantages:

Economical: Compact design means efficient space use and potentially lower energy costs.
Community: Close proximity to neighbors fosters a sense of community.
Location: Often found in desirable city locations with access to amenities.

Challenges:

Noise: Can be subject to noise from adjacent properties.
Lack of privacy: Proximity to neighbors might limit privacy.
Limited outdoor space: Terrace houses generally come with small gardens or yards.

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Is it better to buy Victorian property or a new build?

Advantages of a Victorian property:

  • Unique period features like high ceilings, cornicing, and fireplaces
  • Solid original materials like stone and brick construction
  • Established gardens and outdoor spaces
  • Often located in central, desirable city locations
  • Can be a good investment as a renovation project

Disadvantages of a Victorian property:

  • Older systems may need repair or replacement like electrical, plumbing, heating
  • Can suffer from damp, cracks, sloping floors due to age
  • Often smaller room sizes than modern houses
  • Outdated kitchens and bathrooms
  • May lack sufficient insulation or noise dampening

Advantages of a new build home:

  • Brand new systems and wiring with warranties
  • Modern open plan layouts and larger rooms
  • Energy efficient with good insulation and double glazing
  • New efficient kitchens and bathrooms
  • Low maintenance and no major repairs needed
  • Customizable with options to personalize

Disadvantages of a new build:

  • Often located farther from city centers
  • Smaller gardens that need establishing
  • Less unique character than period buildings
  • Potential snagging issues to address
  • May depreciate faster than stone/brick builds

Ultimately it depends on your budget, DIY skills, location priorities, and whether you value modern open-plan living or period features more.

Get surveys done and weigh up the options carefully for your needs.

Tips for Buying and Renovating a Terrace House

If you’re considering purchasing or renovating a terrace house, consider the following:

Condition Assessment: Inspect for structural issues, signs of damp, and sound insulation quality.
Historic Permissions: Check if the property is listed or located in a conservation area, as specific renovation rules may apply.
Light Maximization: Use glazed doors, rooflights, and mirrors to enhance natural light.
Space Optimization: Open-plan layouts, mezzanine levels, and under-stair storage can make the most of the available space