“Doors and windows are condemned by passing fools who know not that they condemn Palladio’s Rules”
Jon Gay, Epistle to Paul Methuen, 1720 from Steven Parissien, “Interiors”2009
The Georgian period of architecture has bequeathed many of Britain’s finest stately homes and a wealth of elegant terraces, crescents, squares and town houses. Although the key stylistic influence of the period is Classical the story is more nuanced than that.
What is not in doubt is that the apparent simplicity and lightness of touch of Georgian architecture is achieved by strict adherence to a complex body of principles derived from exhaustive study of ancient buildings. This means that those seeking to recreate an authentic Georgian interior with absolutely correct period details are well advised to seek expert help from those with an intimate knowledge of Georgian house features that spans the whole Georgian era.
If you are looking for inspiration for your rennovation or refurbishment, then all joinery products in our Georgian Collection can be viewed in our online catalogue.
History of Georgian Architecture
The Georgian era spans the reigns of George I to IV and covers the period 1714 -1830. The dominant characteristic of Georgian architecture is the Palladian style. This was a British phenomenon as the predominant style in Europe during these years was Rococo. This stylistic departure from continental design reflects the wider political and economic context as Georgian Britain forged ahead with its empire building efforts to emerge as one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
The restrained and rational elegance of Palladian design that is so characteristic of Georgian period architecture is in notable contrast to the vivid scenes of drunken debauchery and gambling excess depicted by the contemporary artist William Hogarth. It was a period of vast wealth yet glaring inequality, where cultural refinement was underpinned by an economy founded on slavery. Darwin had not yet written the On The Origin Of The Species but rationality and intellectualism were growing apace. Georgian intellectuals sought to identify the epitome of order, hierarchy and perfection amidst the chaos and contradictions, and looked to classical Greece and Rome for inspiration.
The architecture of the Georgian period is defined by its classical inspiration, sourced from surviving examples from the Roman and Greek Empires as well as heavily influenced by the work of Andrea Palladio. Accordingly good proportion, symmetry and harmony were prominent in the minds of Georgian architects and adherence to rules and regularity were seen as the ideal, with all mouldings seen together tending to have clearly related shapes.
William Hogarth, Analysis of Beauty. Hogarth himself attempted to define the principles of beauty and grace in aesthetics in this publication which praises the beauty of the serpentine S-shaped curve. Lord Burlington and his colleagues in the Office of Works, appointed following the succession of George I in 1714, also did much to shape Georgian style according to Classical designs.
The agricultural and industrial revolutions as well as booming global trade spawned an emergent class of increasingly wealthy capitalists who shaped the architectural landscape of the period. The history of Georgian architecture was shaped by entrepreneurs, speculators and gamblers. Some of the most influential private developments of the early Georgian period were funded by lottery and those willing to take a chance. The Adam brothers and John Nash created beautiful Georgian buildings for the wealthy, as did their counterparts, but also undertook tentative ventures into urban planning for the emerging middle class. Their crescents, squares and terraces in Bath, Bristol and Edinburgh as well as London still dominate the architectural landscape.