There are two reasons why you would be interested in a Victorian property: Firstly, the quality is likely to be infinitely better than that of a new build, despite the renovations needed, and secondly, it offers beautiful period pieces and in all likelihood an expansive garden and bedrooms.
Only children who have grown up in a period house can understand exactly what the appeal is because it’s not something that can be fully conveyed in words. It’s something to do with the way the light plays on the rolled glass and how the gardens seem to hide the secrets of four generations.
The emotional appeal aside, there has been a real backlash against modernism in recent times – new money wants a touch of the old world with the resurgence of beautiful hanging lights and scrubbed wooden dining tables. It can also be a financially wise decision to invest in a Victorian house, because it’s pretty much as timeless as you’re going to get with property. In fact, buying a Victorian property means appreciating the lucrative time in British history where it had money streaming in from the colonies. For this reason one often equates the term ‘colonial’ with everything Victorian.
Interestingly, the Victorian area resulted in diverse architectural styles. This is because firstly, it lasted 64-odd years, thanks to Queen Victoria’s iron will, and secondly, it was such a radical time of change (think of industrialisation and the railway line). This is an eye-opening view of Victorian England, which many people associate with long skirts and blouses buttoned up past your eyeballs.
Before you purchase a Victorian house, you need to understand the different architectural styles that are considered Victorian and the philosophies behind them:
- Arts and Crafts movement: Led by an artistic set from Oxford University and Pembroke College, in particular William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones who belonged to the Pre-Raphaelites. Morris’s Red House exemplifies this style. In a sense, the Arts and Crafts movement was a backlash against what was considered “the barbarity of contemporary culture” and Morris aimed at defining his style and philosophy with the Red House, which he did very successfully.
- The Gothic Revival: The rise of Romanticism brought with it an appreciation of selective medieval arts and designs and a revival of the Gothic style of architecture, which features all things beautiful and ornate, including rib vaults, flying buttresses, rose windows, towers, spires and ornate façades. The best-known example of Gothic revival in London is the Palace of Westminster.
- Jacobean Revival: Another revival movement, this time reviving the English Renaissance (a rebirth of a rebirth so to speak). This distinct style was characterised by beautifully intricate brickwork, sloping gables and flattened arches. A good example is Mentmore Towers.
Once you’ve purchased your Victorian property, it’s time to look at what renovations you can do – but do so with care. You don’t need to be particularly brave to invest in a Victorian property but ideally you ought to have a passion for history and a belief in preserving it.