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1714 to 1830
 
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THE GEORGIAN PERIOD-BACKGROUND

The Georgian era is a period of British history, normally defined as including the reigns of the kings George I, George II, George III and George IV, i.e. covering the period from 1714 to 1830, (with the sub-period of the Regency, defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III). George 1st was actually from Germany, and was ‘invited’ to be king for political reasons, namely that those in power wanted a Protestant King, and not a return to the old Catholic ways.

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/Homework/houses/georgian.htm

http://www.channel4.com/4homes/architecture/styles-of-architecture/georgian-08-06-26_p_1.html

Politics and War

During this period parliament that is, the government, grew in strength and country the changed from one which was controlled by a monarchy (king or queen) to one controlled a government. Instead of being assembled only when the monarch needed money, parliament now met at regular times each year and the arrival in London of the politicians and their servants and households was one of the causes of the building of townhouses. There was much more stability in the country during this period, and the development of civil servants (komuin), who were awarded positions on merit rather than by connections.

The Georgian kings generally did not interfere in politics and removed restrictions for economic expansion and allowed the free development of companies by private individuals. However, the situation was different when it came to fighting wars, especially against the French in order to develop British trading interests. These wars were commercial wars and the rewards were new land territory. Britain was successful during this period, and built a huge empire, protected by the Royal Navy. This empire allowed for supplies of raw materials and food, which supplied the growing market for manufactured goods in Britain.

Agriculture, Industry and Transport

Although there was an increase in trade and commerce, agriculture remained the main industry of this period. Wealthy people relied upon rents from the tenants on their estates, and the selling of produce, which was grown on their farms.

Industry was widespread, but generally small in scale. Even though there were large factories or mills, where most of the manufacturing took place, and where local families were employed.

However industry grew rapidly during the period, and there were two reasons for the growth in industry.

  • The first reason was the development of the steam engine, which replaced waterpower (itself subject to seasonal fluctuations). Efficient steam engines provided reliable power and allowed the pumping out of water from mines so that raw materials from the mines could be used in industry.
  • The second reason was the development of canals, which reached a peak ofconstruction in the 1790s. Transporting materials to the factories for production, and the finished product from the factories had always been an imitation, because the roads were not developed enough to carry heavy goods, and also affected by drought and by flooding. The results of the canals were prices were reduced, and new fact, trees and towns grew up along the banks of the canals. Improved medication was another cause of this growth industry.

Georgian Society

The population now began to grow during the second half of the 18th century, probably due to better food and housing, and also the availability of soap. The population of Britain grew from about 6,000,000 to 9,000,000 by the beginning of the 19th century. Most of this expansion was in London, which tripled in size to a population of 1.5 million by 1830. Other towns and cities were tiny in comparison to London, but also grew dramatically. For example Manchester, which grew from a population of 10,000 at the beginning of the Georgian period to a population of 180,000 by the end of the period. However the majority of the population still lived in the countryside.

The Classes

The Upper Classes

During the Georgian period, the upper classes became even richer as the value of land increased, and so did their income from rent which made up the income. There were now many things for the rich people to spend their money on, including travel. For many young gentlemen, the sons of the wealthy aristocracy, the final stage of their education would have been 'the Grand Tour'. The Grand Tour was a trip usually to Italy, in order to learn about the architecture and culture of the classical Greek age (think of the Parthenon in Athens). It is because of this that we can see the effects of classical Greek architecture on Georgian architecture. We can find Georgian architecture in the country houses built by the wealthy aristocracy. However, the aristocracy spent most of their time in London and would either rent or buy a large house here as well.

Crime was a problem which affected the rich, especially as there was no police force at the time. The only answer the government had was to introduce a law, which meant that a person could be hanged or sent to another country for stealing as little as 12 pence. Although it appears that this law had no real effect.

The Middle Classes

During the Georgian period there was a growing middle class. This consisted of professionals, businessmen, merchants, financiers, shopkeepers and farmers whose rising income, permitted them to imitate the lifestyle of the richer aristocracy. Many of the middle classes began the 18th century working as tradesmen, and by the end of the century developed into professionals. One example was that of the architects, who were formally amateurs or part timers and who became fully trained experts with their own profession. The middle classes were still only a small proportion of the population and about 20% lived in London. However, most importantly, this new expanding social group was one of the main reasons for the building of the new terraced houses that we generally see in London and other towns around Britain.

The Lower Classes

The majority of the population during the Georgian period was in the lower classes. They Lived in the city with long hours of work, limited freedom and an early death. There was a lot of disease, and there was no health, and quality of food was very bad. Children started working as young as five years old, and some of the most terrible jobs were given to chimney sweeps. These were climbing boys who were made to starve so that they were able to climb inside a chimney and clean it. They often developed cancer from the dust in the chimneys. However, generally speaking, the lower classes of this period were better off than those from previous generations. They had employment in the country houses, and also the factories and mills in the cities.

Georgian and Regency Housing

Before the Georgian period most of the population lived in small villages and hamlets. These people worked on the land or in small-scale industries. They sold their goods and services to small towns and cities. During the Georgian period, new developments in foreign trade, inindustry agriculture and leisure created new markets, and resulted in the growth of these villages and the development of new towns.

Urban Development

This means the development of cities, and London was the principal city. London had a population 10 times larger than the next largest city. When George Ist came to the throne. When George IV died, the population was at about 1.5 million people. London had increased its population by 3X during the 115 years of the Georgian period. Parliament, that is the government, now met once a year, and this encouraged rich people to live permanently in London, who brought with them family, servants and other followeres, and created a market for coachman and shop workers to supply them with goods and services. The government also created new laws which needed civil servants and lawyers. Other skilled professionals such as doctors and architects also appeared in London during this period. All of these people needed houses to live in, and although they were building was all over London, most of the new housing was in the north and west of London. Today, the north and west of London are still the most expensive places to live in.

Towns and Cities outside London

As London, other main cities increased in size, and many smaller towns and cities decreased in size as people moved from these places to the towns and cities. One area where there was a lot of rebuilding and new building was along the main roads, which ran in and out of the larger towns, and along which the coaches ran. The roads had been improved and they were increased numbers of travellers who stayed at the inns and public houses, which were built in new fashionable styles to attract customers.

Spa Towns and Seaside Resorts

The improvement in passenger travel, created new leisure opportunities in places which had previously been inaccessible. Rheumatism and skin problems were two examples of the diseases which the Georgians wanted to cure by going to spa towns. They would drink the mineral water to be found in such towns as Bath, and later Cheltenham and Leamington, and Buxton. These are beautiful places to visit today, and many tourists as well as British people like to visit these places at the weekend. (See the pictures on the handout). Swimming in the sea water was also appreciated as healthy during the Regency period, and small seaside resorts developed around the country. Brighton was the favourite place of the Prince Regent and elegant terrace houses were built along streets and around small squares along the sea.

Ports and Navy Towns

The increase in trade with Europe, and the new colonies (Africa) resulted in the building and expansion of port towns such as Liverpool, Whitehaven and Bristol. New ports meant the building of new fashionable houses for those who had made lots of money from shipping. The building of new ships for the Navy also created the development of shipbuilding towns such as Sunderland and Scarborough. The Navy was used to protect shipping routes, and the Navy was located in Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth. These shipbuilding towns ansd Navy towns also saw the building of houses in the latest styles of the time; they are also beautiful places to visit in Britain.

Industrial Towns

The most well-known areas of urban growth were in the industrial centres in the Midlands (that is the middle of England) and North of England. There was the cotton industry in the Manchester area, clothing in Leeds and Halifax, and metalworking in Sheffield and the West Midlands. As these towns increased and developed, so did the housing of those who became rich as result.

Rural development

The expansion of the larger towns resulted in a change in the countryside communities.

Turnpike and Canal settlements

Many smaller settlements benefited from an increase in traffic on the roads, which ran past them. New buildings were set on the new stretches of roads which were constructed by Turnpike trusts. Turnpike trusts were groups of people who managed and controlled short stretches of road and received money from those who used these roads in order to maintain them.

Emparkment

In the worst cases, some villages were completely destroyed and the villagers relocated to other places. This was because the aristocracy, who built new country houses, did not want to have to look at old villages. So the often moved them completely. New houses were built for those who had lived in villages, except that they were only given to the people who were liked by the owners of the land. Many people lost their houses, and also their farms during the Georgian period.

Types of Georgian Buildings

Until the Georgian period most houses were built one at a time for a landowner. During the Georgian period houses were built to sell for a profit and were built by companies on a larger scale. This building for profit resulted in the rows of terraces and crescents which have houses very similar to each other, and which we look at and recognise as of the Georgian period.

Most of the new housing was built in straight lines, or squares, or crescents or circles. At first they were not many large-scale building projects. However, later on, larger building projects were undertake en (see figure 2.19; Regent's Park London).

THE GEORGIAN AND REGENCY HOUSE

As we have seen there were many factors which contributed to the building of houses during the Georgian period. One significant event which contributed to this building before the Georgian period was The Great Fire of London. This started in a baker's shop in pudding Lane, (which is located in the centre of London), and burnt from Sunday, 2 September to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. It is estimated that it destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City's 80,000 inhabitants (Wikipedia). The reason that so many houses were destroyed was that they were made of wood, and were built very closly to each other. Look at the picture in figure 3.4. New laws were made to stop such a fire happening again. These laws controlled the materials used in the building, the method of construction, and introduced a standard size and design houses, which became used throughout the country.

Housing before the Georgian period

During the Middle Ages, before the Georgian period houses were built by local craftsmen from locally available materials, which were mainly wood. The Middle Ages was a period of time that lasted for roughly 1,000 years after which the mighty Roman Empire fell (5th centuary until 16th century).

During the Middle Ages houses were built of what is called 'wattle and daub'. This was wood (wattle) covered with a mix of mud, straw and other materials (daub), similar to the way that traditional Japanese houses were built. At that time brick was a luxury available only to the rich. As the wealth of the middle classes, and the aristocracy increased during the early part of the Georgian period, more permanent houses built of stone and brick appeared. Road and river transport caused materials such as stone and brick to become cheaper. There was also a standardisation of features such as sash windows (see figure 3.18), sashwhich we readily associate is with the period.

Materials Used in Building

Stone

The most desirable material for houses was stone. Large scale quarrying, and improved transport meant that stone was more widely available. It ws used in the cheaper terraced houses which were near the quarries, and in the more expensive houses further away from the quarries.

Stucco

This is was a kind of cement applied to the cheaper bricks in order to make them look like stone. It is again another typical Georgian feature. Stucco has horizontal lines, which imitated the the rough stones which were found in the bases of classical Greek temples. For many people however stucco had a bad reputation, because it is often fell off, and because it is was seen as inferior to stone. Most Georgian houses were painted in white or cream.

Bricks

The most common building material was brick, and during the Georgian period it was no longer a luxury product. It is became used throughout the country, and it gave a permanence and fireproofing to all the housing in Britain. Bricks were produced locally and bricks were sometimes made on site. Brick is made from clay, and heated in an oven.

General design

The construction of the main structure of the house became increasingly controlled by law, throughout the Georgian period which was because of the Fire of London, which had taken place during the previous century.

Georgian style

The style of Georgian and Regency houses was based on that of classical Greek architecture. The proportions and dimensions (sizes) were details based on the instructions used by ancient Greek and Roman architects. These were available in printed books, and easily available to all architects of the time (see figure 4.2). Britain was actually quite slow in adopting is classical architecture, and Europe had already started building in this style during the 15th century.

1 Early Georgian styles, (1714 to 1760)

Typical houses of this period were large, red brick houses with white corners and edges (see figure 4.5). This was the classical style of ancient Rome reinterpreted by Paladio, a famous Italian architect (1508-80) who had analysed and understood classical Greek architecture, and who gave rise to the term 'Palladian style'. This style of building was influenced by the Grand Tours, but the houses were often necessary to keep the many antiques they had bought, and turned into larg collections. The building was also influenced by politicians who wanted to create a national style, and this classical style was chosen. These Palladian houses had precise proportions for the front of the house, with little decoration, apart from the doorway and they had a strong desire for symmetry.

2 Later Georgian styles (1760-1800)

During this period, the Palladian style continued to dominate and fanlights became popular (see figure 4.29). It is easy to recognise a Georgian house, because of its fanlight. Larger houses were no longer based on the Palladian style, (an interpretation of classical Roman architecture) but turned directly to the buildings of ancient Greece. The most popular architect in Britain was Robert Adam, who created a unique style which is more varied and decorative, but which still maintained traditional symmetry and classical influences (see figure 4.12).

3 Regency styles (1792-1837)

The Regency style was a new form of Georgian architecture. Britain was now a country with a growing industry and was looking for a national identity which was from Britain, and not from the ancient world of Greece and Italy. Until now the countryside and been seen as a place for growing food, getting fish and wood. However, during the 18th century, (the Georgian period), a new way of thinking and looking at the beauty of the English countryside  appeared. Improved transport meant that areas such as the Lake District and Scotland could easily be visited, and new guide books appeared on the market. Along with this interest in nature came and appreciation for mediaeval architecture. Ruined abbeys and castles became the inspiration for architecture and fortified houses based on the design of castles began to appear (see figure 4.15). This developed into a style known as Gothick. Gothick is characterside by arched windows, with a Y-shape. Battlements appeared on the roof, and the white stucco exteriors had Tudor style chimneys. Fanlights were still popular above doorways. Bay windows also became popular (see figure 4.26), as did fancy ironwork which was used on balconies, and exteriors (see figure 4.22 and figure 4.35). In general, the Regency style was a more elaborate and flamboyant style.

Why Do Georgian Houses Look Like They Do?

 

This period of history saw a massive and rapid urban expansion, when the need to fit many homes into small areas brought the birth of terraced housing, with row upon row of symmetrically designed houses.

The matching house fronts were a very desirable feature of Georgian town planning. Homes were usually built with either brick or stone, but the trend was for a lot of reddish brick walls that contrasted with the white which was used on window trimmings and cornices. The entrances were often emphasised by a portico. And the walls built between terraced houses were sturdy and thick.

 

What Are The Classic Georgian Features?

 

Georgian properties were light and very spacious, with large windows that showed off pale colour schemes and plenty of woodwork. Unlike the Victorians, the Georgians tended to go for a subtler, more sophisticated room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Exterior

 

Red bricks (replaced by yellow bricks later on during the Georgian period) and, although stucco fascias were the norm, stone was the favoured choice. The roof was hidden behind a parapet, and the lower level was usually stucco-faced.

Windows

 

Window shutters were extremely popular, and many front doors had a filigree fanlight with a canopy overhanging. The window openings were likely to be double-hung sash windows and chimneys would be found on both sides of the home. The doors often had a fanlight.

Colour Schemes

 

Sought-after paint colours during the early phase of the period included burgundy and sage green, but as time wore on, the colour scheme preferences turned much lighter, and included shades such as soft blue, grey, dusky pink and white.

Curtains were sumptuous, with large pelmets and would match the furniture - fabrics would be decorated with delicate patterns, including floral designs.

Walls

 

Print rooms were extremely popular and it’s a simple look to achieve by pasting walls from floor to ceiling with old prints and engravings, or aged photocopies, and adding a coat of varnish for longevity.

Floors

 

Floors largely comprised of bare floorboards, predominately pine and fir, as opposed to oak, covered in areas by ornamental rugs. The patterns on such coverings were often influenced by the Orient, which can be easily picked up today. The more opulent properties often had stone or marble floors, but this can be recreated today with some of the cheaper modern floor options that can give a similar finish.

Lighting

 

Georgian lighting – fuelled by paraffin – consisted of chandeliers, made from glass, metal and wood with curved centrepiece arms. Wall lights were made in brass or silver, or often a simple candle flame bulb.

Details

 

There were an abundance of mouldings, which were very detailed and intricate, with ceilings decorated with ribbons, classical figures and urns. Many firms today specialise in making reproduction features, and other companies can restore and repair original mouldings.

The living area would include classical pillars and columns, screens over the fireplaces and furniture adorned with swags and decoration. The fireplace was always the main focal point of the room, and the walls would be decked out with ornaments such as fans and paintings.