Like most British cities, London has a mixture of architectural styles, from the elegant stucco-fronted Georgian homes surrounding Regent’s Park to the ultra-modern developments lining the banks of the Thames.
But have you ever wondered what era your period home was built in? Today we’ll help you find the answer and discover whether your property is Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian.
The Georgian period spanned from 1714 to 1830 – and what we consider the late Georgian period from 1830 to 1837.
Properties built in this period, like those by famous London architects such as John Nash – who designed the original Buckingham Palace – were built to be spacious and comfortable, with grand proportions and a heightened sense of space and light.
This was in contrast to the smaller, darker architectural styles that preceded the Georgian era.
It was typical in the Georgian era for the first and second storey of a house to be occupied by the owner and their family, while the staff lived on the top storeys. This is why these rooms are typically smaller, with lower ceilings and smaller windows compared to the more elegant rooms at the bottom of the house. Kitchens were on the lower ground floor, away from the main house, as this was the servants’ domain.
If you look closely at a Georgian property, often you will see something strange – a bricked-up window. This peculiar characteristic was caused by the window tax levied on homeowners between 1696 and 1851. The window tax was in the place of income tax – the more windows a home had, the bigger it was and the richer the owner.
So, to avoid paying higher taxes, many homeowners bricked up some of their windows to reduce the rate of tax they had to pay. Rather than reinstate the windows after the tax was lifted, many owners decided to leave the windows as they were.
What are the main characteristics of a Georgian property?
- Townhouses were arranged over three or four storeys
- Sash windows with smaller panes – tall windows on the first two floors and smaller windows on the top storeys
- Symmetrical flat exterior and balanced interior layout
- Stucco-fronted exterior, meaning it is rendered in a plaster material that covers the construction material beneath. In earlier Georgian designs, the ground floor was rendered and the rest of the exterior was exposed brickwork, while in the later Regency style, houses were rendered from top to bottom.
- Render painted white or cream
- Built around garden squares, as the houses did not have their own garden
Ranging from 1830 to 1901 under the rule of Queen Victoria I, the Victorian period was a time of mass production of houses and increasing wealth.
The majority of homes built before the Victorian period were owned by the gentry, or at least wealthy landowners, whereas wealth in the Victorian era was spread across society in the wake of the Industrial Revolution and houses became less grand and more accessible.
This meant that it was necessary to build more homes, which is why the Victorian period is characterised by rows of terraced housing on narrow streets.
Contrary to popular belief, terraced housing was commonplace before the Victorian era, with many Georgian properties in London built within a terrace. However, it was during the Industrial Revolution that there was a boom in terraced housing, including the ‘back-to-backs’ – these terraced houses were built close to factories for workers to live in and were erected cheaply and quickly, with no garden or proper sanitation.
Building of ‘back-to-backs’ became illegal in the late-19th century, which made way for the byelaw terraced houses that we see today, mostly in former industrial areas in the Midlands and the North of England. These byelaw terraces typically open straight out onto the street and are very simple in design.
Internally, high ceilings and large windows were a feature of Victorian homes, but the rest of the layout became a little bit cramped compared to previous Georgian designs, with a long and thin footprint. Often Victorian homes are one room wide, with a narrow hallway leading off into the different entertaining rooms, or two up, two down with just two rooms on each floor.
What are the main characteristics of a Victorian property?
- Coloured brickwork
- High pitched roof
- Ornate gable trim
- Geometric tiled hallways
- A brickwork porch
- Front door to the side of the façade
- Narrow hallway
- Stained glass windows
- Bay windows to sit in, for reading and writing
- Dark furniture and wood floors
- Fireplace in every room
- Patterned wallpaper – typically heavy floral designs
- Elaborate design details that reflect the wealth of the owner and those coming into ‘new’ money
The Edwardian period from 1901 to 1910 was short and heavily influenced by The Arts and Crafts Movement. The movement promoted simple design and an appreciation for the handmade in retaliation to mass production in the Victorian age.
Following the boom in property construction during the Victorian era, Edwardian housebuilders were forced to build homes in the suburbs where there was more space, which created the ‘garden suburbs’, like that in Hampstead.
So, unlike the smaller, darker Victorian homes, Edwardian houses were more squat, wider and roomy, with bigger hallways and more windows.
It’s common for an Edwardian property to have a front garden and be set back from the pavement, as there was an ever-increasing desire for privacy at that time. Living rooms would sometimes have windows at both ends, covered by a small sloping roof on the outside.
What are the main characteristics of an Edwardian property?
- Houses built in a straight line
- Red brickwork
- Porch with wooden frames
- Mock-Tudor cladding and timbers at the top of the house
- Wide hallway
- Parquet wood floors
- Wider, brighter rooms
- Simple internal decorative features
After reading this article you should know the difference between Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian properties. But how well have you been listening? Take our quiz to see if you can guess when these homes were built or find out how much your house is worth.