Which period of architecture do you love the most? We compare the nation’s darlings.
We all love a period property, although which period very much varies, from the symmetry of a Georgian rectory to the curves of an art deco apartment. Each period of building brought with it a new vernacular, from Victorian to modernism.
While many people consider the Victorians to be our most prolific builders, only 13 per cent of the country’s housing stock is of this era. You are four times more likely to see a modern house (built after 1945) than you are a Victorian one. However, in recent years we have failed to equal the Victorian’s legacy, with only 11 per cent of the housing stock built since 2000.
Clearly there are pockets where you are more likely to find an abundance of particular styles. According to research by Knight Frank for The Times, the best place to head for Victorian and Georgian homes is Kensington and Chelsea in London, where 66.6 per cent of the properties were built before 1900. Although many of these properties might require cornice restoration and other minor or major restoration work from time to time to make them fully functional, you can’t ignore the beautiful designs and lovely spaces in these houses! If you prefer Edwardian, head to Southend-on-Sea in Essex, or Bristol in the southwest, where about 26 per cent of properties were built from 1900-18.
Much of our early architecture remains only as large detached homes, with cheaper housing disappearing. According to research by Hamptons International, while only 0.1 per cent of housing stock is Tudor, 67 per cent of it is in the form of detached houses, with an average size of 3,250 sq ft. It is the manor houses, the best properties of the time, that have survived.
The British ideal, though, is Georgian. Rupert Sweeting, the head of the country house team at Knight Frank, says: “Typically people say, ‘I want to buy something in the country. I want Georgian, a former rectory, with a little land.’ ” In London buyers of luxury properties are willing to pay a 20.5 per cent premium ( 250 a square foot above average) for a Georgian property, according to Savills.
Fionnuala Earley, the research director at Hamptons International, says: “The homes that have come to define each generation reflect the approach to housing over time. Rows of terraces were thrown up by the Victorians to house workers flooding into the cities, while the 1930s semi was the linchpin of the move back out again. Yet the appeal of a home rests on its ability to cater for the needs of each successive generation.
“Older homes with growing rarity value have been sought after over the past couple of decades. Yet it’s not only rarity that pushes up prices; changing tastes mean that it’s the best homes from a generation that keep their appeal.
“For example, while some 1960s architecture fell out of favour and was demolished, the best examples survived and are now back in fashion.”
We look at some of the key periods in British architecture.
The BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall may be a distant memory, but the properties featured were representative of the age. Sweeting says: “The really grand houses of the time had good ceiling heights. The rooms are darker and cosier than later properties. Few survive, but those that have are often very historic and in wonderful settings. The downside is that some are listed buildings, so might not have en suite bathrooms.”
Era 1485 to 1558
Proportion of homes 0.1 per cent
Prominant type Detached
Elizabethan and Jacobean
Often confused with Tudor, Elizabethan and later Jacobean tend to have rooms that are a larger than Tudor houses, with Jacobean homes starting to have more square rooms rather than the long narrow rooms of Tudor and Elizabethan properties. According to Hamptons, the overall size of a Tudor house was 3,203 sq ft, compared with 3,250 sq ft for an Elizabethan or Jacobean property. Sweeting says Elizabethan manor houses were built in an E shape with more exposed timber than Jacobean homes, which tend to have striking brickwork.
Era 1558 to 1625
Proportion of homes 0.3 per cent
Prominant type Detached
Luke Morgan, a partner at Strutt & Parker’s country house department, says: “Georgian houses are unbelievably good-looking, symmetrical, and are the classic show-off kind of home. They come with a bit of a premium for these reasons.”
Michael Hodgson, an associate in Strutt & Parker’s Edinburgh office, says that a large proportion of what he sells in the city is Georgian or Victorian, and that if buyers like one, they tend to like the other. They want period features.
“Period properties offer aesthetic benefits, such as high ceilings, ornate cornicing and magnificent fireplaces. They offer a sense of history and plenty of character, and tend to hold their value. On the negative side, they often come with higher maintenance costs,” Hodgson says. “Good-quality Georgian and Victorian properties in Edinburgh’s New Town, West and Stockbridge areas are selling phenomenally well at present and in several cases have achieved 10 to 15 per cent above their valuation at competitive closing dates.”
Era 1714 to 1837
Proportion of homes 6.4 per cent
Prominent type Detached
Edward Cunningham, a partner at Knight Frank, says: “There are several reasons why buyers love Victorian builds. They are pleasing on the eye, given their period features and imposing façades, and they sit in large plots. They have well laid-out rooms with sash windows giving views and light.”
George Franks, a sales director at Douglas & Gordon, says that Victorian mansion blocks are particularly popular in southwest London. “The Victorians understood family living. The rooms are nicely proportioned. A criticism would be that some of the houses are a bit top-heavy.”
According to research by Savills, buyers in prime central London are willing to pay a 4.1 per cent premium for a Victorian property, the equivalent of 50 a square foott. Jonathan Harington, the founder of Haringtons, a buying agency, says: “Victorian homes are strong in stature and in beauty. From a design perspective it’s usually the original cornicing and high ceilings that get the biggest wow.”
Era 1837 to 1901
Proportion of homes 13 per cent
Prominent type Terraced
While buyers will pay a premium for Georgian and Victorian homes, Edwardian houses are less popular, according to Savills. However, Edward Cunningham, a partner at Knight Frank, says: “Edwardian homes comprise spacious rooms, high ceilings and large windows and most aren’t listed, so owners are free to extend or convert them. A typical buyer is a family moving from London, or another large city, to a suburban or rural town area.”
Franks says Edwardians tended to build farther out than the Victorians, where land was cheaper, so the footprint became larger, with the houses wider and not so high. They are well built, with superb proportions ideal for family life.” Era 1901 to 1914
Proportion of homes 6.9 per cent Prominent type Terraced
With their distinctive white curves, art deco houses remain a popular choice. As Morgan says: “Art deco houses are just cool. They are like catwalk models – they are interesting and striking, rather than classic beauties, such as Georgian houses. Art deco homes look great by the water as they allow lots of light to flood in, suiting quirky interior tastes.”
Era 1918 to 1935
Proportion of homes 9.7 per cent
Prominent type Semi-detached
Much derided, although Franks says he hasn’t had a problem selling a mock-Tudor house if the potential buyer is willing to set foot inside. “They are not necessarily top of anyone’s shopping list, but once inside they are nice. The kitchen became a more prominent feature than it was in Victorian and Edwardian homes, and the rooms have good proportions.”
Era 1935 to 1945
Proportion of homes 7.7 per cent
Prominent type Semi-detached
Modernism and beyond
The majority of our homes were built between 1970 and 2000 – 23.3 per cent of Britain’s housing stock falls into this category. Almost 60 per cent of the homes Milton Keynes, in Buckinghamshire, were built between 1973 and 2000 – other hotspots included Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, Crawley in West Sussex, Redditch in Worcestershire, and Harlow in Essex, according to research by Knight Frank.
About 37 per cent of homes built during this period are detached, but the proportions are tiny compared with the Georgian detached house – almost half the size, at an average of 1,526 sq ft, compared with 2,723 sq ft for a detached Georgian home. Between 1970 and 2000 Britain built its smallest homes; since 2000 they have grown slightly to 1,665 sq ft for an average detached home.
Those who choose a new-build home are often enticed by open-plan living, ample parking space, low maintenance and, in newer developments, the porterage and communal facilities.
Sweeting says that those who are wealthy enough seek new-build homes that recreate the styles of earlier periods. And the most popular? “Seven times out of ten they will want a Georgian look.”
Era 1945 to the present
Proportion of homes 55.8 per cent
Prominent type Detached