While many of us can recognise a Georgian building or, more likely a Georgian townscape, Georgian architecture is not simple to define. More than any other British building type, the elegant town developments,tree-lined terraces, select squares and crescents that proliferated after 1740 have come to define the great British city. Inspired by an architectural style first explored in great houses like Stowe, Holkham Hall and Chiswick House - the Anglo-Palladian template for a Georgian house became an icon of Enlightenment Britain. However, the phrase 'Georgian' used in this way can be misleading, for it describes a time period as much as an architectural style. Broadly covering the time from that George I became King in 1714 to the death of George III in 1830 - the Georgian period was known for its eclectic mixture of styles - from Gothic revival through Indian and Chinese influence - to the Regency style that emerged at the end of the period.
The Background To Georgian Architecture
The last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, had died in 1714, and the Hanoverians, led by George I, became the new ruling dynasty. The artistic styles of France and the Low Countries were associated with the Stuart regime and fell out of fashion. However, the Stuarts had left in place a new idea of a unified group of countries in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. A search began for a new building style that would define this newly confident United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland. Artists and architects like William Kent and placeholder scoured Italy, and the imported images and influences of empire for inspiration.
The ideas of Italian architect Palladio began to dominate a new aesthetic. During this period there was a phenomenal increase in country house building and development. The Georgian governing class spent half the year in London, but also maintained a country seat where they entertained their peers. As well as large country houses, there were new developments in cities like London and Dublin, and whole city redevelopments in places like Bath, Brighton and Edinburgh.
However, it is all too easy to over-simplify Georgian architecture. Elegant terraced houses and Palladian villas were built in great number. However, much else was built, and in a variety of styles. Like their forebears and successors, architects and patrons delighted in novelty. Architects like William Kent had a huge impact on creating a new design aesthetic, but worked in both the Palladian style and in Gothic. The Classical architecture of Greece and Rome was much experimented with, and different authorities cited. The influence of the 'Grand Tour' in which rich men and women toured classical countries taking in the art and architecture had a huge influence. Hence we use the stylistic terms Baroque, Palladian, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Greek Revival, and Italianate. All played with the same basic vocabulary, but with a range of sources, richness and effects. And, other, more exotic styles were introduced – Gothic, Egyptian, ‘Hindoo’ and Chinese – revealing Britain’s growing presence as a global power.
Most importantly, Georgian architecture is made all the more precious due to its positioning before England’s dark satanic mills scarred the landscapes,a twilight period before the horrors of the Industrial Revolution.
From Georgian To Regency
Georgian Homes in Art & Media
See Also In Chimni
Other Interesting Web Sites
Books We Liked
Georgian and Regency Houses Explained. Trevor Yorke. Published 2007 by Countryside Books. ISBN 978 1 84674 051 0