Dating Your Period House

This is a guide to dating your period house.

To date your house, you can:

  • use a date plaque or mark
  • study the architectural features
  • look at a street directory in your local history library
  • research the original owners of the land
  • read the registers of electors
  • use the Bricks & Brass Dating Tool

The most reliable method for dating a house is to use street directories, usually available at local history departments of local libraries. By looking for the first reference to the building, perhaps even 'Vacant', you can prove that the house existed by that year. You can also use the register of electors. Beware of the compilation dates of each of these sources. The census records, currently available for 1891, 1881 and previous decades can be used for an approximate date.

Another source of information may be the original owners of the land; this may have been, for example, a religious trust or a member of the nobility. This information may be on the deeds or referred to in a local history book.


How to Research Your House

How to Research Your House
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If this information is not available, or you just want an approximate date, unless there is a date mark on the house or a similar neighbour, you will have to resort to the style of the building.

Some houses have a recognisable style; they have clear Georgian, Gothic or Arts and Crafts features, for example. These will give you broad date ranges.

But many buildings, particularly more modest houses, have an eclectic mix of features. These are dateable by looking at individual elements. For example, red brick frontages began to appear in the 1880s, becoming common to most standards of house only in the 1890s. Use the Dating Tool to help you. Focussing on the overall style gives an unreliable date; some styles such as Queen Anne were popular for long periods, and others came and went in popularity.

When analysing buildings, consider the following:

  • walling material, shape, coursing, jointing, finish
  • roofing shape
  • detail at verge
  • detail at eaves
  • roof material, method of laying
  • ridge
  • chimney position
  • water tabling, etc.
  • dormers, position, shape, roofing, walling material
  • plan form
  • sectional form
  • staircase provision
  • window shape
  • window frames
  • door shape
  • door details

On our Links page, we have other sources of information.