Georgian or Victorian: London’s Architecture Explained


The City of London has one of the most fascinating histories of any city in the world, not least when it comes to architecture.

As a key focus in the British Empire, London’s history dates back to at least the Bronze Age while the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Middle Ages, and Early Modern Ages all helped sculpt the city’s aesthetic while significant events like the Great Fire of London in the 17th century are also significant to the city’s architectural history.

Nonetheless, there are two main eras that have influenced the architectural look of the city more than any other; the Georgian and Victorian.

While newer buildings have been constructed throughout the city in the 100 years or so since the end of those periods, the architecture of both eras is still prominent throughout London. There are many tell-tale signs associated with each period in time. Here’s how you can identify architecture from either era.


The Georgian Period

The Georgian Period (1714-1837) is a significant period in British history and covers the monarchies of George I, II, III, IV and the brief reign of William IV. Its impact can be felt to this day across the city, including at some of the most iconic houses in the capital.


The Georgian Period’s Best Known Building

While the Georgian features can be seen in many houses and commercial buildings across London, none are as iconic as the official home of the country’s Prime Minister. No.10 Downing Street is probably the most iconic terraced house on the planet, and it displays many Georgian features.

The truth of the matter is that the houses built on the boggy lands at Downing Street were actually built in 1684 under the Stuart era. Despite this, the extensive work during the Georgian period is what provides many of the iconic characteristics associated with the property.

Some of those key Georgian features include;

  • 10 Downing Street boasts the semi-circular fanlight above the door, which is very in synonymous with the Georgian period
  • 10 Downing Street has Georgian-styled arched lantern holders above the front steps
  • 10 Downing Street, or rather Downing Street in general, is guarded by cast iron railings that are equally in tune with the appearance of the era


Additional Features Of Georgian Architecture

The PM’s house isn’t the only Georgian architecture seen throughout the capital. There are thousands of homes and commercial buildings built during the 18th or early 19th century. First and foremost, they can be identified by the brickwork ranging from the silk weavers of Spitalfields to the white stucco Regency terraces of the 1820s.

Properties from this period also tend to be symmetrical while any homes with cast iron conical extinguishers and metal shoe scrapers are likely to be from this period. Metal railings that show cast iron moulded leaves and flower heads are commonplace too.

It’s also very common for Georgian houses to use boxed-in sash windows that are operated with pulleys, although a growing number of building have upgraded these while staying true to the other Georgian features.

Georgian properties often embraced the Roman-inspired Palladian style, with Chiswick House being a great example, as well as the Greek style that’s seen at the National Gallery.


The Victorian Period

The Victorian era (1837-1901) is the subsequent period that followed the Georgian period. It covers the reign of Victoria, who was part of the House of Hanover like the five kings of the preceding period. The architectural aesthetics of this era are visible to this day.


Victorian Style Homes

The Victorian period saw a major population explosion, as well as improvements in transport (making it easier to source materials) and craftsmanship. They are very apparent in the style of the buildings.

There are a variety of tell-tale attributes that are synonymous with homes of this time. They include;

  • Larger bricks that look more regular than bricks of the Georgian era, giving a distinct look to the brickwork
  • Larger panes for the sash windows due to the rolled plate glass that became available towards the end of the Georgian period and was widely accessible by the start of the Victorian era
  • Larger homes that include bay windows, porches, and complex features. This is a stark contrast to the compact homes of the Georgian era

Essentially, the Victorian period is all about better materials and larger properties. Many of the large houses are still used to this day while the brickwork remains intact too. While the windows are often upgraded for greater efficiency, they retain the distinct look of the era.

Victorian style homes are still very popular and can be seen across various parts of the city.


Victorian Style Public Buildings

The increased possibility in terms of design and materials enabled the Victorian architects to try far more complicated ideas when creating public buildings too. A mock Medieval aesthetic became very commonplace with town halls, churches, and other buildings often recreating the gothic vibes.

While many of those buildings were destroyed during the 20th century, some of the most iconic buildings remain. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are probably the best examples of this. Other venues that show that Gothic Revival atmosphere are likely to come from the Victorian period too.

Architectural aesthetics in the Victorian era is characterised by being bigger and better than in previous eras, and this rings true in commercial and public buildings in a way that reflects the houses of that time. Their presence is still clear to see.


The Final Thought

London has undergone big change in recent generations. The post-war recovery included a lot of work on thousands of homes, but they maintained the structural integrity and appearances of the Georgian and Victorian period. Even following the extensive new building that has occurred due to growing populations, the influence of building work during the House of Hanover’s reign is clear to see throughout the city.

Whether it’s entire buildings or a properties that maintain some of the key attributes of those eras, it’s impossible to navigate London without noticing those architectural features.

If you own a home in London and need help with Victorian renovations, contact us to discuss contemporary ideas which work well in Victorian homes.

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This guide is suitable for anyone requiring consent from the local council to alter a home. It reviews the ins and outs of UK planning and strategies for successfully navigating it, based on our own experience.

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