Nineteenth-century History

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Architectural Features of the Home

Edwardian Stained Glass

Edwardian Stained Glass
Source: The Victorian Web

As in all time periods, certain trends defined houses in Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. These were not only visual, but also in terms of how the houses were laid out as well as certain features which were new to the period. Early in the Fin-de-Siècle, the features of a house were not much different than they had been during the High Victorian era. It wasn’t really until the Edwardian period that significant changes appeared in the prominent features of houses which would set them apart from their counterparts of a half-century earlier.

One of the biggest distinguishing factors seen in Edwardian home was the use of stained-glass windows. These were used frequently to decorate and give colour to the house’s façade. In the Edwardian period, colourful floral patterns were very popular which were themselves then intersected by either smaller rectangles or diamond-shaped subsections.21 Whilst these were the most popular patterns, other, more complex stained-glass windows also appeared in larger homes which often, but not always, visually recreated a scene of some sort. Subjects could have ranged widely being anything from Biblical depictions similar to what is found in churches to visual representations of fairy tales or other stories.22 The influx of stained-glass windows could likely be attributed to advances in technology as well as rising living standards and income which made it much more affordable.

Another key feature of the late Fin-die-Siècle house can be seen on many High Victorian homes as well, but with a twist which makes it unique. A new generation of bay windows emerged during the Late Victorian and Edwardian periods. These were two-storey bay windows which would give a room on the first floor the benefit of more windows and therefore more light. It also gave the room slightly more space. These two-storey bay windows were sometimes called a ‘two-storey bow window’.23 The first-storey room which contained the bay window was quite frequently used as a bedroom and a popular use for the extra space was for the occupier’s dressing table and washbasin due to the extra light. By the Edwardian era, bay windows also began to contain more windows. Late Victorian bay windows generally consisted of a large, prominent front window with two narrower windows on either side of it which gave it a boxy look. Some Edwardian houses, on the other hand, had five windows of equal size: one square with front of the house with two on either side of it. This gave the bay windows much more of a circular look and helped reduce sharp edges in the design. Many detached Edwardian houses even featured two sets of bay windows on either side of the front door which was generally located in the centre of the house to give a symmetrical appearance — a complete turn-around from the early Fin-de-Siècle architecture with its chaotic ‘Queen Anne’ design principles. Semi-detached houses also had two columns of bay windows, but there was only one per side of the house. Spanning between the two columns of bay windows was a new feature to British houses: the front porch.

Edwardian houses were the first houses which began to include a front porch. This was generally only a small roof which stretched across the space between the two columns of bay windows and did not cover much more than would protect one or two people from the elements who were standing in front of the door. Regardless of how useful the front porch actually was in the practical sense, it was put to good use in terms of decoration. Adorning the underside of the porch’s roof were often very ornately carved trim pieces.24 Styles varied greatly, but there were many common tendencies which they shared such as thinly carved wooden beams which were set vertically and gave the appearance of a balustrade. The rise in popularity of these was due to advancements in wood-turning which made it easier and far more affordable to created cylindrical carvings.25 Even houses whose front doors were located off-centre had awnings which stretched out to cover the approach to the door. These were also not large, but they covered enough space to be just as effective or ineffective as their centred brethren. Similar in function to the porches were eaves. These were a prominent feature of the façade of Edwardian houses which were built for added protection against the rain.

This post is part of a multi-part series about the houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain. See the rest of the series either on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page or in the category of the same name.


The full bibliography is located on the Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain project page.

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