The era of Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) was a time of peace and prosperity in Great Britain. The middle class grew, and the Industrial Revolution made mass-produced building supplies readily available to more people. Because of the length of the Victorian era, a variety of house styles and trends overlapped. The term "Victorian architecture" can refer to a number of styles, including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, stick and tile styles. What characterises a Victorian house is the use of bold, bright colours; asymmetrical floor plans; and elaborate details.
The Gothic Revival style began in England in the mid-1700s, and its popularity grew rapidly in the early 19th century. Also called Victorian Gothic, it was inspired by the Gothic architecture of medieval Europe and associated with philosophical and social movements.
Gothic Revival made use of newly available mass production of decorative elements and is distinguished by masonry construction, pinnacles and parapets, vertical lines that brought a sense of height, and stone carvings.
This elaborate style was primarily applied to churches university buildings. Private homes were more restrained. For housing, more humble versions of Gothic Revival architecture evolved.
The Italianate style began in England in the early 1800s and became popular in the 1830s. By the 1860s, Italianate had overtaken Gothic Revival in prominence. The style's popularity was heightened by Victoria and Albert's Italianate summer palace at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. Features include a low-pitched roof, angled bay windows, exterior wood painted to resemble more costly stone, a symmetrical shape and tall, narrow windows.
When most people think of Victorian homes, they probably think of the Queen Anne style, with its elaborate gingerbread trim and bold colours. The style, Old English design with Tudor elements, began in Britain in the 1870s. Queen Anne gained popularity in the United States in the 1880s.
The hallmarks of this style include steeply pitched roofs, an asymmetrical shape, wraparound porches and intricate trimwork. Houses were often painted with five or six colours, including sienna red, hunter green, burnt yellow and brown, to emphasise textures and trim.
The shingle style, which evolved from Queen Anne and was popular from about 1880 to 1910, is less elaborate than other Victorian-era house styles. It includes tiled surfaces and a horizontal shape that conveys a sense of volume.
The Victorian era was a period of expansion for the British empire. This resulted in British architectural styles appearing in such far flung places as India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The economic dominance of the UK in that period also promoted the adoption of British style in independent countries, such as the United States.