A Beginner’s Guide To Victorian Architecture

So, you want to learn about Victorian Architecture – we don’t blame you. As dedicated oikophiles (that’s people who love houses), there’s just something about Victorian homes that makes our hearts swell.

There are three distinct periods that Victorian buildings tend to fall into: Early, Mid, and Late.

Below, you’ll get a quick lesson on how to spot which is which.

 

Early Victorian 1840 > 1860

The humble Victorian home began its life as a follow on from the Colonial period, which itself took inspiration from the simple and symmetrical Georgian style (think Jane Austen).

These were tiny, often single‑ or double‑room cottages, with a centred door and very little decoration.

In Melbourne, this style was most prevalent in old suburbs like Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond and North Melbourne.

Don’t worry, things shortly improved for these fledgling homes.

 

Mid Victorian 1860 > 1875

A beginner's guide to Victorian architecture
The Gold Rush saw a huge boom in Victoria’s population. Property developers rushed to build rows of houses to accommodate these newcomers, which is why you see so many identical workers’ cottages and terrace houses side‑by‑side.

A thriving economy and an increase in locally made materials meant more money in people’s pockets, which meant fancier houses.

Coming off the back of the Early Victorian era, the structure of these buildings didn’t dramatically change. Rather, the buildings just got more ornamental, with the addition of verandahs, cast iron lacework and decorative brick patterns.

Late Victorian 1875 > 1901

A beginner's guide to Victorian architecture
Here’s when things really start getting fancy. Not satisfied with verandahs and lacework, Late Victorian buildings got bigger. And taller. And much more decorative. One interesting change to note is that while earlier styles had been imbued with symmetry, with a central door and hallway, buildings belonging to the Late Victorian period decided to go a bit wild and move the door to one side.

The closer it got to 1900, the more ornate the buildings became. This is when we saw the rise of the “Italianate” style of Victorian houses, with parapets, urns, and corbels coming to the party.

After 61 years as the life of the Australian architecture scene, the Victorian era would give way to the patriotic Federation & Edwardian styles.

 


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