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Victorian Architecture – Unique Style, Characteristics and Examples

Victorian Architecture (1837-1901) is not limited to any particular style but it relates to the reign of Queen Victoria called the Victorian Era. Although Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901,the Victorian styles were most popular in the second half of nineteenth century. It is a series of revival architectural styles used in the Victorian Era in the mid-late 19th century. Revival styles include but not limited to

  • Gothic Revival
  • Queen Anne Revival
  • Renaissance Revival
  • Romanesque Revival
  • Scots Boronial
  • Other transitional designs

Key Features of Victorian Architecture

The main features and characteristics of distinct revival architectural styles that adhere to Victorian architecture are:

1. Gothic Revival Architecture

  • Pointed Arches
  • Steep Pitched Roofs
  • Thin Spires
  • Multifoil ornament
  • Leaded glass
  • Vertically Emphasizing elements

2. Queen Anne Revival Architecture

  • Red brick
  • White painted sash windows/curving bay windows/Oriel windows
  • delicate brick panels of sunflowers, swags, or cherubs, with small window panes
  • Pedimented gables
  • Steep roofs
  • Wooden Balconies

3. Renaissance Revival Architecture

  • Cohesive harmony
  • Grand staircases from Renaissance style
  • Decorative elements in the form of rectangles and circles
  • adventurous use of glass

4. Romanesque Revival

  • Classical Roman Arches with emphasis over arches
  • Variable stone and brick façade
  • Thick masonry walls
  • Rounded/square towers along with roof
  • Asymmetrical
  • Contrasting building materials

Examples of Victorian Architecture

1. Palace of Westminster

Victorian Architecture
Image source : archdaily.com
  • Building: Palace of Westminster
  • Architectural Style: Perpendicular Gothic Revival
  • Function/Use: Parliament of United Kingdom
  • Location: North Bank of River Thames, Westminster, Central London, England
  • Date of construction: 1840 – 1876 (Rebuilt)
  • Architect: Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: Three main towers
  • Materials Used: Limestone, cast-iron
  • Universal Value : UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Structure: The Palace of Westminster has three main towers – Victoria tower(Southwest corner), Elizabeth tower(north end), and the central tower.
    • Victoria Tower(98.5m high) – Victoria tower is the largest and tallest secular building. At the base of the tower is the Sovereign’s Entrance. The 15m high archway is enriches with sculptures that include the statues of prominent figures, including that of Queen Victoria. At the top of the cast-iron pyramidal roof is a 22 m flagstaff.
    • Elizabeth tower(96m high) – Simply known as the clock tower, it houses the Great Clock of Westminster. The structure has largely become synonymous with Big- Ben, the heaviest of the five bells it houses.
    • Central tower(91m high) – This octagonal central tower stands in the middle of the building above the central lobby. The slender form of the Central Tower, which was designed as a spire, markedly contrasts with the more massive square towers at the ends of the Palace.

2. Victoria Building, University of Liverpool

Victorian Architecture
Image source: buzzfeed.com
  • Building:  Victoria Building
  • Function/Use: University of Liverpool
  • Architectural Style: Gothic Revival
  • Location: Liverpool, England
  • Date of construction: 1889-1892
  • Architect: Alfred Waterhouse
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: clock tower with surrounding spires
  • Materials Used: Ruabon brick, common brick, terracotta dressings, slate, concrete
  • Structure: In 1892, the building accommodated the administration, teaching, common rooms, and a library. In 2008, it was converted into the Victoria gallery and museum, which houses art collections of paintings, sculptures, and ceramics as well as other exhibits related to various fields of study. It is an L-shaped building with three stories of 13 bays facing Brownlow Hill and five bays on Ashton Street.
  • Façade: Comprising alternate gables and gabled dormers in the southern eight bays; the ninth bay forms the highest tower that draws our eyes up towards the sky. The tower consists of all these elements, one above the other – an arched entrance, oriel window, three-light windows, a royal coat of arms, a mosaic panel with an inscription and machicolation, and a four-faced clock. Buttresses rise to form pinnacles at each angle of the tower. The tenth bay has a staircases window and gable above, whereas the end bays curve round behind an octagonal tower with a spire.

3. Manchester Town Hall

Victorian Architecture
Image source: en.wikipedia.org
  • BuildingManchester Town Hall
  • Function/Use: Town hall
  • Architectural Style: Gothic revival/High Victorian Gothic
  • Location: Manchester, England
  • Date of construction: 1868-1877
  • Architect: Alfred Waterhouse
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: Clock tower and clock bell
  • Materials Used: Bricks, timber, stonework, concrete, wrought iron beams
  • Structure: The Manchester Town hall houses several local government departments. The building was designed to support practical technologies. It was planned to incorporate gas lighting and warm- air heating system, which provided fresh air drawn from the inlets and admitted into the rooms.
  • Façade: The Manchester Town Hall is a typical example of the Victorian Gothic revival style of architecture, which includes themes and elements of 13th-century Gothic architecture such as rib vault ceilings and tall arched windows. The façade is of uniform color and limited decoration; however, the exterior is decorated with statues of prominent figures of the city’s history. Moreover, the 85m high bell tower is the sixth tallest building in Manchester.

4. Balmoral Castle

Victorian Architecture
Image source: winstonchurchill.org
  • Building:  Balmoral Castle
  • Function/Use: Royal Residence
  • Architectural Style: Scottish baronial architecture
  • Location: Balmoral Estate, Scotland
  • Date of construction: 1853- 1856
  • Architect: William Smith
  • Historical Influence : Baronial style, Gothic revival architecture
  • Key Features: Tower and pepper pot turrets
  • Materials Used: Local granite, slate
  • Structure: The Balmoral Castle is large estate house owned by queen Elizabeth. The castle was constructed out of local granite and is divided into two sections. Each of them surrounds a courtyard. The southwestern block contains the main rooms, whereas the northwestern by service wings. A turreted clocktower(80 foot tall and seven story) at the southeast continues to be a striking feature of the castle.

5. Victoria Law Courts

Victorian Architecture
Image source : flickr.com
  • Building: Victoria Law Courts
  • Function/Use: Magistrates court
  • Architectural Style: Victorian Architecture
  • Location: Corporation Street, Birmingham, England
  • Date of construction: 1887-91 ( Additions – 1894,1914)
  • Architect: Aston Webb, Ingress Bell
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Revival
  • Key Features: intricate ornamentation
  • Materials Used: Red brick, Terracotta
  • Façade: The structure is faced entirely in deep red terracotta from the clay of Ruabon in North Wales. The front exterior is intricately decorated while the rear portion of the building is less elaborately decorated. A statue of queen Victoria surmounts the main entrance.

6. Sydney Town Hall

Image source: timeout.com
  • BuildingSydney Town Hall
  • Architectural Style: Victorian Second Empire
  • Function/Use: Town hall
  • Location: George street, Sydney CBD, New South Wales, Australia
  • Date of construction: 1869, Renovated in 1991-92
  • Architect: John H. Wilson
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: Rich decoration, clock tower, crafted interiors,
  • Materials Used: Composite brick and stone, concrete, wrought-iron, timber, glass
  • Structure: The Town Hall has been described as having “lavishly ornamented composition with focal tower and fanciful roofs”. The primary use of local Sydney sandstone and brick in its construction. The four level building houses the chambers of the Lord Mayor of Sydney, city council chambers and offices, and venues for meetings.

7. St Andrew’s Church

Image source: purcellap.com
  • BuildingSt Andrew’s Church
  • Architectural Style: Victorian Gothic
  • Function/Use: Anglican Church
  • Location: 138 Nathan road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
  • Date of construction: 1904-1906
  • Architect: Leigh & Orange
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: Exposed brick exterior
  • Materials Used: Red brick and granite
  • Structure: Laid in rammed earth construction, the building is built using red brick and granite. The bricks are exposed in the exterior walls that are pointed with a lime base mortar. The windows – the presence of stained glass in alters and baptismal windows, Art Nouveau style colored glass windows in the west and upper nave, as well as pictorial colored glass windows in the transept, all further complement the red brick façade.

8. St Colman’s Cathedral

Image source: flickr.com
  • Building: St Colman’s Cathedral 
  • Architectural Style: Gothic Revival
  • Function/Use: Roman Catholic Cathedral
  • Location: Cathedral place, Cobh, Ireland
  • Date of construction: 1919
  • Architect: George Ashlin & Edward Pugin
  • Historical Influence : Gothic Architecture
  • Key Features: Spire cathedral
  • Materials Used: Limestone, Portland stone, Granite, Slate
  • Structure: The church tower and shire being 91.4m high, is the tallest church in Ireland. The building is predominantly constructed of blue Dalkey granite with Mallow limestone dressings, while the foundation is erected by a large bed of sandstone.
  • Façade: Rose windows are perfectly set in the high pointed arches which are flanked by octagonal turrets both in the west front and the transepts. Pillars on the west front are constructed from granite. The octagonal spire of 90m is topped with a 3.3m bronze cross. The tower that is made of Newry granite houses 42 bells, wherein the combined weight equals 17 tons.

9. Carson Mansion

Image source: tripadvisor.in
  • Building: Carson Mansion 
  • Architectural Style: Queen Anne
  • Function/Use: Grand home/Mansion
  • Location: 143 M Street, Eureka, California
  • Date of construction: 1884 – 1886
  • Architect: Samuel Newsom, Joseph Cather, Newsom
  • Historical Influence : Revival styles
  • Key Features: eclectic design
  • Materials Used: 
  • Structure: The house is “considered the most grand Victorian home in America. It is one of the fine examples of Victorian Architecture which is also a mix of various revival styles such as Queen Anne, Italianate, Eastlake etc. One nationally known architectural historian described the house as “a baronial castle in Redwood…” and stated further that “The illusion of grandeur in the house is heightened by the play on scale, the use of fanciful detail and the handling of mass as separate volumes, topped by a lively roofscape.(from wiki)

10. British Columbia Parliament Buildings

Image source: dreamstime.com
  • Building: British Columbia Parliament Buildings
  • Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival, Romanesque Revival
  • Function/Use: Legislative assembly
  • Location: Victoria, British Columbia
  • Date of construction: 1893 – 1897
  • Architect: Francis Rattenbury
  • Historical Influence : Romanesque architecture, Renaissance architecture
  • Key Features: Domes, sculptural massing
  • Façade: The main block of the Parliament Buildings combines Baroque details with Romanesque Revival rustication.

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