A period of transition
The Regency period was a transitional one for architecture, and is at once the culmination and most sophisticated expression of classical trends present for the preceding century and an era highly conscious of its own modernity. Pursuit of the exotic and eclectic was fashionable (lead in no small part by the Prince Regent himself): influences include the French Empire style, the English Gothic, Egypt, China and most of all classical Greek architecture and its associated motifs, such as the distinctive key pattern. In the interiors, there is a striking emphasis on architectural elements, with strongly accented mouldings and extensive use of crisp, linear detailing, such as reeded or incised patterns.
Regency is usually viewed as the period 1811-20 when George, Prince of Wales, acted as Regent for his ill father, George the third, and his own reign as George the fourth from 1820 to 30. Often the reign of his brother, William the fourth, is also included 1830 – 1837.
The grading system introduced by the Building act of 1774 was well established within the building practices by the 1830s. First and second rate houses had order and proportions in keeping with their status – standards not attained by third and fourth rate buildings. While adhering to these practices the Regency period can be seen as sitting on the cusp or transition period between an accentuated use of classical design and new modernity of expression. Regency architecture mirrored the changes in appreciation of the arts and literature towards a new Romantic era, leaning towards picturesque elegant country dwellings and suburban villas within a miniature estate around fenced gardens. Designed with the familiar Neoclassical and Roman forms, now influenced by not only Greek styles and motifs but also a more exotic and dramatic vein.
Prior to the 1820s, the building of terraces and semi-detached houses tended to be fashionable – but limited in design as the builders couldn’t afford to take risks. These houses tended to be rented out on completion and the builders couldn’t afford to have them sitting vacant. However, from the 1820s onwards more ambitious schemes became more common in fashionable cities and resorts where a terrace or even a square or crescent could be planned as a complete project. Palace fronted terraces mimicked large country houses; detached and semi-detached villas, compact versions of the small country houses popular in the 18th century, were also built. The terrace, with its efficient use of land, was still far and away the most popular form of urban housing.
Atkey and Company’s Regency products can be viewed by clicking on the links towards the bottom of this page. Click here to go directly to the full Regency catalogue collection.