The Victorian era was one of increasingly ornate architecture, which was made possible by technological developments and new structural materials. The Victorians used new materials to hark back to earlier times; the Gothic Revival and arts and crafts movements both emulated medieval styles. Homes often featured towers, turrets and elaborate carvings, including gargoyles. The railroads also hastened the development of suburbs of modest, middle-class homes.
The advent of railroads facilitated transport of building materials, meaning homes no longer needed to be constructed of local stone. Brick construction became typical, even in regions without clay, while builders used Welsh slate for roofs. Grander homes featured coloured brick laid in patterns or interspersed with stone for varied texture. Window surrounds were stone, while roof lines were trimmed with decorative finials of terra-cotta or stone. Victorian homes often featured gables trimmed with carved wooden "barge boards."
Author Horace Walpole triggered the Gothic revival when he remodelled his home into a faux castle. Walpole's castle was deliberately haphazard, which overturned English architecture's previous passion for symmetry. William Burges created a similar fantasy castle for the Marquis of Bute at Castell Coch. John Ruskin and architect Augustus Pugin championed neo-Gothicism. Pugin's influence was medieval church architecture. Moulded brick, stonework and ornate "gingerbread" eaves revived medieval style on more modest homes.
Arts and Crafts
The arts and crafts movement grew out of the Gothic Revival era, and William Morris was its leading light. He furnished homes with medieval-style furnishings, stained glass and tapestries. Morris idealised a pre-industrial past and admired craftsmen who made objects by hand, suggesting designs should be functional. Examples of arts and crafts homes include Morris' own faux-medieval home, Red House, and Wightwick Manor, which is mock Tudor. This black-and-white style -- black timber frame infilled with white-painted brick -- was a most popular Victorian style.
Suburbs were for the middle classes. Homes were frequently built in a "semi-detached" construction -- in pairs joined by a centre wall. They included gardens back and front, with servants rooms in the attics and sometimes kitchens in the basement. They featured large, three-sided bay windows and might have piped water, flush toilets and gas lighting. Some middle-class homes were detached "villas." Many embraced arts and crafts mock Tudor and stained glass. Tudor features are common on even quite modest Victorian homes.
Workers in industry lived in terraces -- terrace houses, without ornament. Terraced housing economised on materials, land and heating costs -- chimneys were situated in the shared walls. Terraces were often built as part of a factory complex, and they were small -- usually "two-up, two-down," meaning two small rooms downstairs and two upstairs. Since families were large, conditions were cramped. Front doors opened onto the street. Terraces were "back-to-back" -- the rear of one row faced the rear of a parallel row. Small paved yards opened onto an alley shared by both, and several homes shared outdoor toilets.
Epitome of the Age
Cragside, Northumberland, designed by Norman Shaw, combines Gothic Revival, mock Tudor and Victorian ingenuity. Here, nostalgic Victorian architecture meets forward-looking innovation. The first home to be lit by electricity, Cragside also features central heating, fire alarms, elevators, telephones and labour-saving gadgets.