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The advantages and disadvantages of Georgian and Victorian Architecture

November 3, 2013

My own interests lie within Victorian Gothic architecture, which for the sake of simplicity, I will divide into two simplistic categories:  Simple, where there is little external decor with only a few Tudor or Gothic pointed widows, and perhaps a decorated porch or ridge-line.  It may also have castellated chimney pots, or a hint of faux castellated decor on the edges of the roof line or perhaps around doors or windows.

The Second style is: Flamboyant, with turrets, complex roof lines, castellated roof edge, perhaps a flat-roofed faux tower or two. All windows will be Gothic or Tudor with drip molding, and resplendent with builder’s plates, date stones, and coats of arms.

If you are fortunate or businesslike enough to have in your possession to have a good supply of cash, and you are tempted to purchase a Victorian “Castle”, I would urge you to sit down and weigh the costs and advantages of building vs restoration.

Many of the original houses have significant structural problems brought about by the great weight of this monumental building slowly sinking into the ground over the last 150 years or so, most often not evenly.  The cost of restoration may well eat significantly into your budget beyond merely purchasing your dream home.  I would recommend the purchase, in this case, the purchase of a totally gutted Victorian castle, one that is just a shell, to be rebuilt as you see fit, local council permitting. In that way, you will be able to add in moisture barriers, insulation, dry lining, and new services; water, gas, oil, wiring trunks and plumbing as required, without very much trouble, or running into historical restoration problems. Any architectural defects in the building will be readily apparent and easily accessed as well.

One such example in Ireland is the rather well preserved ruins of Gortkelly Castle, built originally as a simple Georgian box, and then later “Castellated” in a Gothic revival style.  In order to facilitate a little understanding on this subject, I have chosen a subject that is currently for sale, and has quite a few possibilities:

Gortkelly was last lived in during the 1960s, and became derelict after the original family moved away.  As a hollow shell, it offers wonderful opportunities in restoration, Dry-lining, insulation, and all the conveniences of modern life, with a floor-plan dictated only by the interior walls already present.

The problems that you will face with a Flamboyant style will be in what is to be done first, and principally, that will be the hardest part of all; the roof-line. The roof on any of these will be very complex, with many valleys and peaks, odd turns, and flashing on every angle and ridge, but with a roofless ruin, you have the advantage of not dealing with rotted timbers, bad boards, and old style roof felting. You would be able to add in a thermal barrier system, flues for modern boilers, and venting where required.

Another option in constructing your home from scratch, and there are many architects and firms who could draw up plans with you, and there are many plans readily available on the internet.


In the Georgian style, for restoration purposes, costs are roughly half of what they would be in a Gothic house of approximately the same size, owing to the simplicity, (externally) of the Georgian house.

Georgian houses were greatly influenced by classical architecture; young men of good family were expected to embark upon the “Grand Tour” as a final part of their education. Upon their return, they often brought with them a love of the classic ruins of the ancient world, notably those of Greece and Rome. Nothing excited these young men more than the ‘Glory that was Rome’, and their enthusiasm for all things classical spawned a whole new architectural and decorative style based on the worn down ruins of the classical world.

Like it’s classical predecessor, this new classical style would look inwards; the exteriors were, to all intents and purposes, a large box, with very severe, minimalist adornment on the exterior, whilst the interior was flamboyantly adorned in neo-classical motifs.  A simple box, has of course, a co-correspondingly simple roof-line,  which is fairly simple and straightforward to restore.  Houses in England and Ireland are still built in this fashion today, so the question is: antique pile with a long pedigree? Or something modern, with all the modern amenities? If you are on a budget, I would recommend the former first, but for those of you who have a love of all things Georgian, I would recommend examining the available real estate with a jaundiced eye. Certainly there are many attractive houses that decorate the landscape, some in great condition, or which have already been fully restored. A Georgian House will have, in the long run, lower maintenance costs than a Gothic one, is far simpler to restore, and will have that abiding presence of stability that no other style of house has to offer.




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