What is Victorian architecture?

Victorian architecture is a blanket term used to describe the many ornate architectural styles that emerged during Queen Victoria’s reign over the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901.

In Great Britain and former British colonies, a Victorian house generally means any house built during the reign of Queen Victoria. Later in the Victorian era, the Queen Anne style and the Arts and Crafts movement increased in influence, resulting in the transition to styles typically seen in Edwardian houses.

What is a manor house?

A “manor” usually denotes a country house surrounded by acres of land, and its origins date back to the days of feudal lords.

What are the characteristics of Victorian Houses as seen in Maggie’s Thornlee Manor in Briargreen Village?

  • Steeply pitched roofs.
  • Plain or colorfully painted brick.
  • Ornate gables.
  • Painted iron railings.
  • Churchlike rooftop finials.
  • Sliding sash and canted bay windows.
  • Octagonal or round towers and turrets to draw the eye upward.
  • Two to three stories.

INTERNATIONAL examples of Victorian architecture (below).

Victorian architecture rejected the practical simplicity of previous architectural eras. Though Victorian architecture got its start in England, its influence stretched far and wide, reaching Australia, New Zealand, and North America.

Carson Mansion

The Carson Mansion (above) is a spectacular Victorian house in the Eureka Old Town, California. It is widely considered a prime example of the American Queen Anne style architecture which was popular in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. The house, which was designed by architects Samuel and Joseph Cather Newsom, was built for the American entrepreneur William Carson (1825-1912) from 1884 to 1886.

The term “Postcard Row” refers to the colorful Victorian row houses known as the Painted Ladies (above) that were built by Matthew Kavanaugh in the 1890s at Hayes and Steiner Streets in San Francisco. Over 40,000 Victorian (and Edwardian) style houses were built in San Francisco from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, with many being vividly painted. Many, however, were destroyed during the 1906 earthquake, while thousands were demolished, repainted or remodeled in the following decades. Of those surviving all the hardships, the “Postcard Row” houses are the most famous and according to many, the most beautiful of all San Francisco’s Painted Ladies.

Some Famous examples of English and Scottish Victorian architecture.

The Palm House in the Kew Gardens (above) is widely considered as one of the most iconic Victorian structures and one of the most notable iron and glass structures from the Victorian era. Designed by Decimus Burton (1800-1881) and built by Richard Turner (1798-1881) in the 1840s, the greenhouse was at the time one of the greatest feats of engineering. Housing tropical and subtropical plants including palms ever since, the Kew’s Palm House was the first in the world to be built with wrought iron in such a scale without being supported by any columns.

The Balmoral Castle is another Victorian masterpiece that was built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who purchased the estate at the village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, as private property in 1852. Shortly thereafter, they commissioned architect William Smith (1817-1891) to create design for a new castle. Smith’s design which is considered as one of the finest examples of the Scots Baronial revival, however, includes modifications that were made by Prince Albert. The Balmoral Castle has been a private property of the royal family ever since its completion in 1856 but its gardens are open for public viewing during spring and summer months.

Home to the Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Commons and the House of Lords), the Palace of Westminster isn’t only one of the most recognizable symbols of London (above). It is also one of the most famous buildings in the world. Its history dates back to the 11th century but the medieval palace complex was destroyed in a fire in 1834. The Palace got its present-day Gothic style appearance following an extensive reconstruction to the design of architect Charles Barry (1795-1860) after the 1834 fire. In 1970, the Palace of Westminster was designated as Grade I listed building and in 1987, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is just a taste of Victorian architecture. Search the internet for a vast array of articles and photos about these beautiful and impressive buildings.

Read Summer at the Manor House and A Garden’s Secrets for Lara and Gemma’s stories set in my fictional Thornlee Manor, Briargreen Village.