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Development and style
 
Approximately one third of the houses in Britain date from before 1914 and the majority of these were built by the Victorians, particularly during the building boom in the cities between 1850 and 1880. There is no consistent architectural character to this period, which broadly spans the reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1901, other than the revival of past styles. Fashionable Victorian town dwellers were seeking alternatives to what was regarded as the rather plain classically inspired terraces of the Georgian era, many of which had become unsightly because of soot and grime. In a period of industrialisation a new generation of well off, self made industrialists wished to express their success in the architecture of their houses.

Many Victorian architects and designers were intent on developing a distinctive British style and an important influence at the time was the rebuilding between 1839-1852 of the fire destroyed Palace of Westminster in the Gothic Revival style. This style was keenly adopted in the subsequent design of many public buildings and churches and became dominant in the ‘battle of the styles’ with time honoured classicism. House design responded with vaguely Gothic forms and features to create a fashionable appearance and included widespread use of polychromatic and patterned brickwork inspired by the publication in 1851 of The Stones of Venice, John Ruskin’s studies of Italian Gothic architecture.

Houses in the mid-Victorian era frequently degenerated into hybrids, an amalgam of styles and ornamentation taken from different ages and cultures to suit the architect, builder or client. Decoration runs riot and many buildings are covered inside and out with a confusion of architectural features invariably borrowed from some past style turned out mechanically by the new industrial processes. From the late 1860’s onwards a reaction to the eclecticism, mass production and more obvious mid-Victorian excesses in the decorative arts led to a revival of vernacular architectural forms and traditional craftsmanship. William Morris, in his teachings, fought publicly for truth to materials and against over decoration.

 



Described as the ‘Domestic Revival’ and influenced by groups such as the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic movements, several ‘Old English’ styles were revived, reminiscent of Tudor, Elizabethan and Stuart England. ‘Old English’ style houses frequently combined historical features from these periods and included half-timbering, plaster panels, tile hung gables, leaded light casements, diaper patterned brickwork, tall chimneys, carved bargeboards plus stone mullions and drip mouldings over doors and windows. One of the less pretentious fashions of the time was the ‘Queen Anne Revival’ style, a comparatively sensible plainness suitable for the domestic scale with simple red brickwork, stone mouldings shaped gables and sash windows with thick white-painted glazing bars and small panes of glass. The majority of houses in The Park were built during the Victorian period and are distributed mainly as detached or semi-detached villas with gardens on the roads and crescents surrounding the
circuses.

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