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Nineteenth-century History

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Trends in the Design of Domestic Façades

Edwardian Façades

Edwardian Façades in London
Source: Wikipedia

Façades in Fin-de-Siècle Britain changed quite significantly. Early in the period they were very similar to their High Victorian counterparts, but through the designs of architects such as Morris, Webb and Shaw, they began to transform. By the Edwardian era, however, they had become enough different that they could easily be identified as specifically belonging to the period. The façades of houses from the Fin-de-Siècle can be divided into two periods which each have their own characteristics: Late Victorian and Edwardian.

Late Victorian façades were, as would be expected, an odd combination of their High Victorian predecessors and their Edwardian successors. A key element which Late Victorian houses retained was the way in which brick and stone was used in the façade. A single type of brick or stone was still primarily used to build or surface the entirety of the walls of the house. Quoins of a different style — corners that were made to look different from the rest of the façade — were also quite common with Norman Shaw setting an example for other architects by making extensive use of them. Another common characteristic of Late Victorian façades was the use of sharp angles and steep slopes inherited from the Gothic Revival movement.26 These were especially prevalent in the brickwork above windows and in the way the roof was shaped. Windows also tended to be simple glass or ‘sash windows’ with the use of stained glass and windows with geometric patterns first becoming popular in the Edwardian era.

Façades of Edwardian period shared many characteristics with those from the Late Victorian era, but there were some significant differences which made them stand apart from their earlier counterparts. When looking at an Edwardian house, one of the most striking differences is the common use of bricks and stucco together. Whilst Victorian façades stuck primarily to bricks and stones, Edwardian houses began to make use of a combination of the two building styles.27 Very often the ground floor would be bricked whilst the first floor was faced with white stucco. Another innovation in this period was the total omission of bricks or stone in favour of a façade completely created in — generally white — stucco. Mock-Tudor style houses with the prominent use of timber first began to appear in Late Victorian Britain, but the style became particularly popular in the Edwardian period with many moderate-sized homes taking advantage of this type of façade. Some houses even had an odd combination of mock-Tudor and red brick façades which are very unique to this time period.28

One innovation of this period was the use of ‘pebbledash’ façades. These were façades that were covered with small pebbles and shingle mixed with concrete and usually left unpainted.29 Brickwork arches above windows in Edwardian houses were also ‘softened’ to be not as sharp and steep as their Gothic predecessors. The windows themselves were very often made of stained glass, but when they were not, many of them had geometric patterns. Small squares or rectangles were common,30 but unique diamond-like shapes were also very popular.31 Another interesting new development during the Edwardian period was the use of decorative terracotta panels directly inserted into the outside walls. These generally contained patterns such as swirls, floral designs, or other round patterns which would be used to break the monotony of the rectangular bricks. Very much like the façades, the layout of Fin-de-Siècle houses began to deviate from their High Victorian counterparts until they became something quite different altogether.

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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