Victorian Style (1837-1901)

The term “Victorian Style” emerged in the period between 1837 and 1901, during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial statue (left), London.
Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial statue (left), London. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-queen-of-United-Kingdom

 

WHO WAS VICTORIA?

Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III.

She inherited the throne aged 18, after her father’s three elder brothers had all died, leaving no surviving legitimate children, becoming Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.


Her reign of 63 years and seven months is known as the “Victorian Age”.

It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire.

Info source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria

Queen Victoria, 1890.
Queen Victoria, 1890. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-queen-of-United-Kingdom

 

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST TECHNOLOGY EVENTS OF VICTORIAN AGE?

The Victorians were impressed by science and progress and felt that they could improve society in the same way as they were improving technology. Britain was the leading world center for advanced engineering and technology.

For this reason, London was perfect to host the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was organized by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, Queen Victoria and other members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design.

A special building, nicknamed The Crystal Palace, it was built entirely of glass and iron.

Queen Victoria presiding at the state opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham Hill, London, May 1, 1851.
Queen Victoria presiding at the state opening of the Great Exhibition of 1851 at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham Hill, London, May 1, 1851. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-queen-of-United-Kingdom

Other important innovations:

  • A great engineering feat in the Victorian Era was the sewage system in London.
  • London’s water supply network was expanded and improved
  • gas network for lighting and heating was introduced in the 1880.
  • In 1882 incandescent electric lights were introduced to London streets, although it took many years before they were installed everywhere.
  • Even later communication methods such as electric power, telegraph, and telephones, had an impact.

Info source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/; https://www.britannica.com/biography/Victoria-queen-of-United-Kingdom

 

ABOUT THE STYLE

About the Victorian style, we refer in particular to architecture. Though new technology drove innovation in Victorian architecture, “nostalgia” was its keynote. Past eras were plundered for inspiration.

Architects took the ideas of Gothic architecture and added French, Italian, Tudor and even Egyptian details. Designers were free to combine the styles to create several different well -known styles- and combine the styles as they saw fit. As a result, there are few Victorian homes that look the same.

Info source: http://www.buildinghistory.org/style/victorian.shtml

 

ARCHITECTS:
  • Richard Norman Shaw was a brilliant exponent of the approach, producing a series of influential country houses in the “Queen Anne” style for town and country.
Lowther Lodge, headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, designed by Richard Norman Show in 1873-1875.
Lowther Lodge, headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, designed by Richard Norman Show in 1873-1875. Image source: http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/architecture/normanshaw/5.html
Bedford Park, London, laid out by Richard Norman Shaw, 1876, colour lithograph by T. Erat Harrison, c. 1880.
Bedford Park, London, laid out by Richard Norman Shaw, 1876, colour lithograph by T. Erat Harrison, c. 1880. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Norman-Shaw
  • George W. Bourne built Wedding cake House in 1825, in Kennebuck, Maine. Like many homes in the Victorian era, it was covered in wooden Gothic decoration in 1850 to keep up with architecture trends.
Wedding cake House, G.Bourne, 1825.
Wedding cake House, G.Bourne, 1825. Image source: http://north-photo.com/the-wedding-cake-house-kennebunk-maine

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Norman-Shaw

 

KEY ELEMENTS:
  • Two to three floor: Victorian homes are usually large and imposing.
  • Wood siding or (in Second Empire) stone exterior
  • Asymmetrical shape
  • Decorative trim: Commonly called “gingerbread,” Victorian homes are usually decorated with elaborate wood or metal trim.
  • Multi-faceted roof or Mansard roof: victorian homes often have steep, imposing rooflines with many gables facing in different directions.
  • Porch: A large, wraparound porch with ornamental spindles and brackets is common, especially in the Queen Anne style.
  • Towers: Some high-end Victorian homes are embellished with a round or octagonal tower with a steep, pointed roof.
  • Vibrant colors: Before the Victorian era, most houses were painted all one color, usually white or beige. By 1887, bright earth tones like burnt sienna and mustard yellow were in vogue.

Info source: http://www.hgtv.com/design/home-styles/victorian-architecturehttp://www.buildinghistory.org/style/victorian.shtml

Victorian house, Second Empire, 1880, New Jersey.
Victorian house, Second Empire, 1880, New Jersey. Image source: http://www.oldhouses.com/styleguide%2Fvictorians

 

THE VICTORIAN STYLE TODAY:

Today we find many buildings made following the Victorian age structure, for example:

  • Painted Ladiesin San Francisco.

The term “painted ladies” refers to Victorian houses painted in three or more colors to embellish their architectural detail. It was first used to describe the colorful homes in San Francisco in the 1978 book Painted Ladies “San Francisco’s Resplendent Victorians”.

Painted Ladies" San Francisco, California in Victorian Style.
Painted Ladies” San Francisco, California in Victorian Style. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_ladies#/media/File:Painted_Ladies_San_Francisco_.jpg

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