Monday, January 30, 2012

The appeal of Regency buildings

click photo to enlarge
I like Georgian buildings. In Lincolnshire they are relatively common and their good sense, fine proportions, and the way they fit comfortably into a streetscape or the countryside is always a pleasure to behold. I'm more choosy about Victorian buildings. The innovation for innovation's sake is sometimes fun but other times wearisome. The heaviness of a lot of the buildings and details can jar. As can the machine-like details of stonework, terracotta etc. However, when a Victorian architect is on song the muscular vigour of a building can be very winning.

In English architectural history there is a short period between the Georgian and Victorian ages, the Regency, that is longer than the period from 1811-1820 when the Prince Regent ruled in place of his unfit father, George III. In terms of building style it is usually thought of as spanning the years from about 1800 until around 1830. The characteristics of the fashionable buildings of those years owes more to Georgian architecture than the Victorian that followed but clearly differs and is very easily spotted once your eye has learnt what to look for.

"Elegant" is the word that, for me, best describes Regency buildings, especially town houses. They have a spare, stripped, light look where fine details contrast with smooth, blank (often light coloured) areas. Doors and windows that are round-topped are common, and often these are set into a larger, recessed round-topped blank arch. Shutters were fashionable and still remain on many buildings. Balconies with delicate iron-work railings can often be seen at first-floor windows. The Georgian tradition of the size of window indicating the importance of the rooms behind continues, and the top of the buildings are usually "closed" with smaller windows. Flat columnar pilasters frequently divide or frame building facades, though the simplified "capitals" that surmount them would be as foreign to a Georgian architect as they would be to one from ancient Greece or Rome. Tall, shallow, bow-fronted bays are a fairly sure sign of a Regency building, as are strongly projecting eaves on long brackets. There is a great emphasis on the main facade at the expense of the back of the building, though that is a feature of most Georgian and Victorian town houses too.

Many of these characteristics can be seen in Rutland Terrace in Stamford, Lincolnshire (above and yesterday's post), and those that don't can be found in the buildings of this period elsewhere in the town. My criticisms in the previous post of the builders' changes across the whole facade during the years in which they built the terrace notwithstanding, I do like much that is on offer here. There are certainly many worse solutions to relatively high density urban living.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 120mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On