The culture of England is defined by the idiosyncratic cultural norms of England and the English people. Owing to England’s influential position within the United Kingdom it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate English culture from the culture of the United Kingdom as a whole.
However, since Anglo-Saxon times, England has had its own unique culture, apart from Welsh, Scottish or Irish culture
Architecture and gardens
English architecture begins with the architecture of the Anglo-Saxons. At least fifty surviving English churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. All except one timber church are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of reused Roman work. The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings ranges from Coptic-influenced architecture in the early period, through Early Christian basilica influenced architecture, to (in the later Anglo-Saxon period) an architecture characterized by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular-headed openings. Almost no secular work remains above ground
English seaside piers
Following the building of the world’s first seaside pier in July 1814 in Ryde, Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, the pier became fashionable at seaside resorts in England and Wales during the Victorian era, peaking in the 1860s with 22 being built. Providing a walkway out to sea, the seaside pier is regarded among the finest Victorian architecture, and is an iconic symbol of the British seaside holiday.By 1914, more than 100 piers were located around the UK coast.Today there are approximately 55 seaside piers in the UK
English art was dominated by imported artists throughout much of the Renaissance, but in the 18th century a native tradition became much admired. It is considered to be typified by landscape painting, such as the work of J.M.W. Turner and John Constable. Portraitists like Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds are also significant
Since the early modern era, the food of England has historically been characterised by its simplicity of approach, honesty of flavour, and a reliance on the high quality of natural produce. This has resulted in a traditional cuisine which tended to avoid strong flavours, such as garlic, and also complex sauces which were commonly associated with Roman Catholic Continental political affiliations.Traditional meals have ancient origins, such as bread and cheese, roasted and stewed meats, meat and game pies, and freshwater and saltwater fish. The 14th-century English cookbook, the Forme of Cury, contains recipes for these, and dates from the royal court of Richard .
England produces hundreds of regional cheeses, including:
.Stilton cheese (Leicestershire)
.Dorset Blue Vinney cheese
.Double Gloucester cheese
More dishes invented in or distinctive to England include:
.The English crumpet, a form of crumpet; it is .distinguished from its Scottish equivalent by its .greater thickness
.Muffins, known as ‘English muffins’ in North .America, a form of rounded, yeast-leavened bread
.Clotted cream from Devon and Cornwall
.Sausage and mash
.Eccles cake (from Eccles, Greater Manchester)
.Balti, a form of curry invented in Birmingham in .the 20th century
English folklore developed over many centuries. Some of the characters and stories are present all over England, but most belong to specific regions. Common folkloric beings include pixies, giants, elves, bogeymen, trolls, goblins and dwarves. While many legends and folk-customs are thought to be ancient, for instance the tales featuring Offa of Angel and Wayland the Smith, others date from after the Norman invasion; Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood and their battles with the Sheriff of Nottingham being, perhaps, the best known
English people traditionally speak the English language, a member of the West Germanic language family. The modern English language evolved from Middle English (the form of language in use by the English people from the 12th to the 15th century); Middle English was influenced lexically by Norman-French, Old French and Latin. Middle English was itself derived from Old English; in the northern and eastern parts of England Old Norse had influenced the language. During its history Modern English has borrowed extensively from other languages e.g. French, Latin, Dutch and to a lesser extent from many others.
English law is the legal system of England and Wales.Due to the British Empire, it has been exported across the world: it is the basis of common law jurisprudence. The 18th century English jurist, judge and politician William Blackstone is best known for his seminal work, Commentaries on the Laws of England, containing his formulation: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, a principle that government and the courts must err on the side of innocence, which has remained constant
English literature begins with Anglo-Saxon literature, which was written in Old English. For many years, Latin and French were the preferred literary languages of England, but in the medieval period there was a flourishing of literature in Middle English; Geoffrey Chaucer is the most famous writer of this period. The Elizabethan era is sometimes described as the golden age of English literature, as numerous great poets were writing in English, and the Elizabethan theatre produced William Shakespeare, often considered the English national poet.
England has a long and rich musical history. The United Kingdom has, like most European countries, undergone a roots revival in the last half of the 20th century. English music has been an instrumental and leading part of this phenomenon, which peaked at the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s.
England (and the UK as a whole) has had a considerable influence on the history of the cinema, producing some of the greatest actors, directors and motion pictures of all time, including Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, David Lean, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud, Peter Sellers, Julie Andrews, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Daniel Day-Lewis. Hitchcock and Lean are among the most critically acclaimed of all-time.Hitchcock’s first thriller, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926), helped shape the thriller genre in film, while his 1929 film, Blackmail, is often regarded as the first British sound feature film
Large outdoor music festivals in the summer and autumn are popular, such as Glastonbury, V Festival, Reading and Leeds Festivals. The UK was at the forefront of the illegal, free rave movement from the late 1980s, which led to pan-European culture of teknivals mirrored on the UK free festival movement and associated travelling lifestyle. The most prominent opera house in England is the Royal Opera House at Covent Gardens. The Proms, a season of orchestral classical music concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall, is a major cultural event held annually.The Royal Ballet is one of the world’s foremost classical ballet companies, its reputation built on two prominent figures of 20th century dance, prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn and choreographer Frederick Ashton
English philosophers include Francis Bacon, Sir Thomas More, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell.
In England, Christianity became the most practiced religion many centuries ago. Polytheistic religions, often referred to as paganism, were practised before Christianity took hold. These religions include Celtic polytheism, Norse paganism, Roman polytheism, and others. Some were introduced by the Anglo-Saxons, who had their origins in ancient Germanic tribes.
Celebration of Christmas
In 17th-century England, the Puritans condemned the celebration of Christmas.In contrast, the Anglican Church “pressed for a more elaborate observance of feasts, penitential seasons, and saints’ days. The calendar reform became a major point of tension between the Anglicans and Puritans. The Catholic Church also responded, promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. King Charles I of England directed his noblemen and gentry to return to their landed estates in midwinter to keep up their old-style Christmas generosity. Following the Parliamentarian victory over Charles I during the English Civil War, Puritan rulers banned Christmas in 1647.
Sport and leisure
There are many sports which have been codified by the English, and then spread worldwide, including badminton, cricket, croquet, football, field hockey, lawn tennis, rugby league, rugby union, table tennis and thoroughbred horse racing. In the late 18th century, the English game of rounders was transported to the American Colonies, where it evolved into baseball. Association football, cricket, rugby union and rugby league are considered to be the national sports of England.
The English use as their national flag the red cross of St George. St George’s Day in England is marked as the day of the patron saint, and is also celebrated as the day of birth and death of William Shakespeare.