Gaslight, with its gentle hiss and mellow tone, is most attractive, but electricity is more convenient; Victorians would not have used a coffee table, but low-level furniture suits the way we live. The degree to which we shape a period house to modern requirements is a highly individual matter; to accomplish this with tact and sensitivity does not require textbook knowledge so much as a feel for Victoriana that can be acquired through familiarity.
The following articles in our blog are intended to give you just such an acquaintance with the developments of Victorian style. Our aim has been to show what Victorian houses were like, and why, and to show how they may be adapted to modern living without loss of character.
Fortunately, more and more of us are coming to appreciate the character and craftsmanship of older houses, to value the special atmosphere of a place that has been living in for generations and to take pleasure in the wealth of architectural detail so lacking in more modern homes. And of the earlier housing stock, by far the largest and most accessible proportion will have been built in the 19th Century. In Britain alone, almost 6 million houses were built during QueenVictoria’s reign, the majority after 1870.
A House must, first and foremost, provide a sound and practical place in which to live. There are people who have turned the restoration of their Victorian house into a rigorously purist exercise, creating something akin to a museum piece, but in the end they are left in a period cocoon. What is important today is not so much the pursuit of authenticity as finding a balance that reconciles our way of living with what we see as valuable in Victorian style and decoration.
Very few houses over a hundred years old have survived unaltered. In many cases, the effects of the weather and pollution and the additions, repairs and extensions made by several generations of inhabitants have changed them to such an extent that their builders would have difficulty in recognising them.
Before the listing of buildings of architectural importance began in Scotland in 1933, and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1947, ownership conferred the right to pull down anything considered obsolete or which stood in the way of the future development. For this change of attitude we must be thankful to William Morris, the instigator in 1877 of the society for the protection of Ancient Buildings. He brought to public attention the state of many medieval buildings which were then suffering serious neglect or were threatened with demolition
We think of ourselves as more enlightened today, but our aesthetic vandalism is more insidious. If a roof needed retiling in the 19th century, the chances are that the replacements would have been made from the same clay – or even the same kiln – as the originals. Nowadays there are countless substitutes on the market, and nearly all of them are visually inferior to the originals. A glance down any Victorian street will illustrate this sad decline. The roofline will probably have suffered most, with slates replaced by interlocking concrete tiles and cast-iron gutters by plastic ones. Nor will the facades have survived unscathed; good brickwork will have been painted over or repointed in course cement mortar, and sashes will have given way to aluminium-framed or PVC windows.
We do everything we can to bring you original British period products which are sill made in the original way and, in the case of Kirkpatrick, are still made at the same foundry they were made at 150 years ago. Let us know about your renovation successes and send in your pictures to our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/castinstyleuk