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The Victorian House
around the World

Report of the lecture given by Roger Mitchell
on November 25th 2015

Georgian architecture has always been my favorite period of house design; I love the simple lines and symmetry of gracious buildings in squares and crescents. I had thought of Victorian design as heavy, over ornamented and pretentious.  How wrong I was!

Roger Mitchell, with consummate ease,  as befits a man who really knows his subject, took us around the world and showed us so many interesting and delightful properties combining many different styles and materials while making it absolutely fascinating with touches of humour and wit.

Victorian architectural design gave Britain the opportunity to carry ideas and, more importantly, building materials to places belonging to the British Empire in faraway lands that had no history of designer buildings and architectural style.  We exported iron, glass, tiles, architects, craftsmen and plans which were eagerly received in North America, Australasia, in fact, anywhere the map of the world was shaded “pink”.

The styles were eclectic, drawn from many sources e.g. Classical (Woolmers Tasmania Australia): Gothic (Ettington Park Warwickshire - I used to go dancing there on a Saturday night in my youth): Old English (Kingscote R.I. USA): Exotic (Le Roux Townhouse Oudtshoorn South Africa).

Queen Victoria’s own houses world wide were examples of these differing designs.  Osborne House was built to Prince Albert’s specifications and was the the favourite home of both Albert and Victoria and, in fact, they both died there.  Balmoral was remodelled by Albert in Gothic style and Sandringham was built by Victoria for the Prince of Wales after the death of Albert.  Government houses all over the British Empire reflected the glory and prestige of the “homeland” and houses were prefabricated and shipped abroad to be erected far from the land of their manufacture.

Building materials were scarce in the new colonies and Australia became the ancestral home of corrugated iron while in North America wood became the material of choice with cast and wrought iron used for strength and decoration.

The lecture was a lesson to me not to make assumptions without knowledge and I thank Roger for a most interesting and educational afternoon with a sprinkling of humour to add spice.  Thank you Roger.

Katrina McDonald

Related Links (open in new windows):

Victorian architecture (Wikipedia)
Victorian house (Wikipedia)
19th-Century Design Styles (V&A)
Le Roux Townhouse - further information