The Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods of British architecture are often collectively referred to as ‘classical’, yet each represents a different period in architecture and a different period in society, with different inspirations and characteristics.
Georgian and Regency Architecture (1714-1830)
Dating from the period in which the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover reigned – George I, George II, George III, and George IV – Georgian architecture can be found throughout Britain and is particularly prominent in the ‘grander’ areas of London. The most famous Georgian house in London is probably 10 Downing Street and you may also be familiar with expansive white painted mansions that line Regents’ Park, which are considered the finest examples of Regency-Georgian architecture.
From the outside, these homes are identifiable for their generous, symmetrical proportions. with high ceilings, flat or shallow roofs often partially hidden behind a parapet, stucco-faced external ground floors (Regency particularly), elongated rectangular windows with a fan window frequently positioned above the main entrance.
Georgian properties followed strict rules regarding the proportions of ceiling heights and roof pitches, as well as the size, shapes and positions of doors and window.
From a structural perspective, much inspiration did stem from classicism in this period, evidenced by the use of columns, proportions and symmetry
The most fashionable Georgian houses had the interior walls panelled from floor to ceiling and divided horizontally into three parts, in the same proportions as classicists defined their columns. As Britain moved on from its civil war past and began building its empire, many upper class Georgians could now afford to decorate the walls with colour, even it was done sparingly relative to later periods. Walls were typically painted in sky blues, lavenders, blossom pinks and pea greens, because lighter shades helped to maintain airy and elegant interiors. Darker, more expensive, shades were usually applied to emphasise skirting and covings. It was also during the Georgian period when ceiling plasterwork reached the height of intricacy and elegance.
The stucco-faced external ground floor and columns typical of Georgian-Regency architecture
Victorian Architecture (1837–1901)
Whilst Victorian properties do often retain some of the classical features that the Georgians adopted (including columns and proportioning), the Victorian style is also heavily influenced by the renaissance and Gothic revival movement.
A few of the ways you can identify a building as Victorian is by looking for some of these Gothic revivalist features including lancet (pointed) windows, porches, dormers and roof gables, along with pointed roofs which are sometimes decorated with a wooden trim that hangs from the edges.
The bay sash windows, ornamental brickwork and pointed gables of the Victorian era
The Victorian era, which included the industrial revolution in Britain, introduced many changes to society and the way buildings were constructed. As such there are even differences to be seen between early, middle and later Victorian architecture. Early Victorian properties typically incorporated more complex design features such as porches, bay windows and overly elaborate interior decoration, but as the period went on the style became simpler, with the industrial revolution making possible the use of new building materials such as iron and glass.
In general, the exterior of a Victorian period property can be identified by the inclusion of bay sash windows, terracotta tiles, ornamental stonework and multi-coloured brickwork – often in red.
The interiors were often filled with decoration, dark fabrics of red and green, wide mantelpieces to accommodate an array of ornaments, cast iron baths and walls typically decorated not with paint but with floral wallpapers, a new invention. Where the Georgian’s were more restrained, the Victorians were extravagant. Indeed, the Victorian age was at the height of the British empire, and the wealth that came with this meant that exotic paraphernalia and ornaments from faraway reaches of the world were now accessible and desired by the burgeoning upper middle classes.
Edwardian Architecture (1901 to 1918)
Extending beyond the reign of King Edward VII, the Edwardian era of architecture was a period of revivalism influenced especially by the Baroque, Georgian and the Arts and Crafts movements. The context for the period was a rapidly increasing population and completion of new railway lines, which gave rise to the ‘suburbs’.
Edwardian architecture flourished in the leafy suburbs, its exterior characterised by partial timber cladding, pilasters and sub-divided smaller window panes
By choosing to live in the suburbs, the Edwardians were able to build their homes often on larger, leafier plots of land. Edwardian homes tend to be shorter than equivalent Victorian residences, partly because the middle classes who lived in these homes had less of a need for servants, unlike the Georgian and Victorian generations before them. Gone were the cellars and the second stories, but in came larger halls and spacious gardens.
The eclectic mix of influences means that from the exterior, Edwardian homes might be identified by Dutch gables, deep bay windows, sash windows and pilasters, and the trends to half-clad the property exterior in timber or sub-divide windows into smaller square panes in order to create an aesthetic appeal.
The Edwardian home on the inside was far less cluttered that the typical Victorian home. As the world transitioned from oil and gas lamps to electric light, walls could be lighter as they did not get so dirty and looked better in the brighter light. Decorative patterns were less complex, both wallpaper and curtain designs were plainer. The placement of flowers too became a feature of the home, complementing the floral fabrics and wallpapers used in the interior.
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