2: Architecture

Architectural Styles

Terms used: There is a very helpful Glossary of terms here: http://www.lookingatbuildings.org.uk/glossary/glossary.html

In Peterborough the buildings are predominantly Georgian or later. Below is a bit of information on how to recognise different styles of building and spot if they are Georgian or Victorian.


The Georgian period is from 1714 to 1830, when four successive Kings on the throne had that name, going from George I to George IV. The term is occasionally used to refer to buildings built in the reign of King William, QueenVictoria’s uncle, who ruled until 1837. To distinguish it this period is sometimes called ‘late Georgian’.

The buildings have a distinctive style and most remaining in anything like their original condition are afforded some protection through being listed. Grand stately homes were built at this time due to the accumulation of wealth by some families in this time. They created country houses with landscapes and often follies and gatehouses.

The most common type of Georgian house, and a style which was vastly popular in the Georgian period, was the townhouse. These were often speculative builds on 99 year leases, with the original intention that once the lease expired the building would be torn down and the plot re-used. However this did not always happen and reams of Georgian townhouses still remain, most notably in places such asBath.

Georgian buildings are often made of brick or stone, usually local material as it was difficult to transport building material around the country before the railways. Sometimes brick buildings were faced in stone to appear more high status. Or they have stone quoins. Some have render on the bottom floor shaped to look like stone, and then stone higher up.

Georgian buildings usually have a square symmetrical shape and carefully proportioned according to fashionable Classical design principles.  These were based upon the Palladian classical orders as described by Andreas Palladio, an Italian architect of the 16th century who in turn was trying to replicate the proportions of Roman architecture.  This use of the order s within architecture applied to both grand mansion houses and individual terraces. 

Often two or three storeys as houses, they could be two rooms deep and symmetrical both internally and externally. They often had a panelled door in the centre of the house if large and detached, and a door to one side if they were terraced. Terraced townhouses often opened from the front door straight onto the road, with no porch. The doors often have fan lights above them letting light into the hallway. A cellar visible below ground floor was often common for locating the kitchen in.

Windows in Georgian houses, unless replaced, are often small and six paned towards the top of the property, and larger nine or even twelve panel windows on the main floors. Almost exclusively Georgian houses have sash windows which slide up and down on a series of weights and pulleys. Most also originally had internal shutters.

The most popular type of roof was tiled and hipped (A roof which slopes upward from all the sides of a building.) Often these had embellished cornices with decorative mouldings, usually known as dentilwork. The roof was often hidden behind a parapet – a low wall built around the edge of the roof which makes the buildings look totally rectangular. The chimneys were often paired and located on both sides of the houses, reflecting the internal location of fireplaces.


Victorian houses were built between 1837 and 1901, when Queen Victoriawas on the throne. However some people, including the Victorian Society itself, take ‘Victorian Architecture’ to encompass Edwardian as well, which takes this time period up to 1910.

The Victorian and Edwardian Housing boom means that British suburbs are often heavily dominated by this style of house. As a rough rule of thumb Edwardian housing tends to be slightly squatter than Victorian, but other features are often very similar. To spot a house from this period you can look out for the following traits, although not all houses will have all features, and it isn’t a hard and fast rule book this list should give you a good clue.

  1. Patterned bricks – The coming of the railways made it easier than ever to transport bricks around the country and patterned brick became popular. Victorian houses often used what is known as Flemish Brick bond, which consists of alternating headers and stretchers along each course with the headers centred on the stretchers above and below.
  1. Terraced – Victorian houses were built in terraces as more and more people moved to urban areas from the countryside. The kitchen is usually found at the back, with gardens to the front and rear. As houses were built in a pre car age without garages such gardens are sometimes now removed to make way for parking.
  1. Barge Boards – distinctive decorative wooden panels on the gable ends (triangular end section of a pitched roof) of buildings were popular in the Victorian period.
  1. Decorated roof line and slates – Victorian houses commonly have slate roofs, also due to the newfound ease of getting building materials around by train. On the ridge and gable ends they also often have finials, a small carved ornament on the point. They also often have ridge tiles made of terracotta which can be quite ornate.
  1. Bay and sash windows – plate glass arrived in 1832, so unlike the smaller 6 by 6 paned Georgian windows Victorian windows had larger six and later four paned vertical sliding sash windows with a single glazing bar down the middle. Three sided bay windows, which are projecting windows with a flat front and slant sides, were fashionable. The ground floor bay window often had its own roof, or it continued into a first-floor bay, again topped with a roof.
  1. Stained glass – partly because of the Gothic revival stained glass was popular in the Victorian period. Pugin’s revival of ‘mosaic’ stained glass rather than painting directly onto the glass created a distinct Victorian style. It was often found in doors and at the tops of windows.


  1. Porches – Unlike in earlier styles of building the Victorians were fond of porches in front of the main door into their houses. Styles range from enclosed stone or brick porches to open and part glazed timber frame porches, which might also be of latticework. The Victorians and Edwardians created elaborated designs with steep roofs, coped gables, carved kneelers and finials.


  1. Date stones – a lot of terraced houses have names and dates above the doors. This can be an excellent piece of evidence, although sometimes people put the date they made changes, moved in or got married, so once again it isn’t a hard and past rule.

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