Welcome back to Period Dramas, a weekly column that alternates between rounding up historic homes on the market and answering questions we’ve always had about older structures.
Found almost entirely along the eastern seaboard of the United States—from New England to the Mid-Atlantic region—Georgian houses represent one of the oldest architectural styles in America.
However, calling this type of architecture “American” would be a bit misleading: The Georgian style finds genesis in England, where it first came about under the reign of King George I in 1714 and extended through the rule of King George IV, who died in 1830. It was only when England colonized North America when the style took hold across the pond.
Much like in America, Georgian architecture in England was most informed by the classical ideals of proportion and symmetry. Residential facades, especially those facing the street, were neat and orderly with little ornamentation, an influence from Palladian architecture of the Renaissance. It’s usually on the sides or sometimes the backs of the houses when symmetry is cast aside so rooms of different shapes and sizes can be incorporated into the house.
Meanwhile, architectural decoration flourished on the interior, usually highlighting the mantlepiece of a room, if there was one. Instead of seeing how Americans have adopted and adapted this building style, today, we’re going to look at the real (Georgian) McCoy: Houses across the U.K. that exhibit the ideals of Georgian construction. And they’re all on the market right now.
Betton House, Shropshire (6 bedrooms, £1,600,000 or $1,961,920)
Set on about 17 acres of land, Betton House—built in the mid 18th century—is a prime example of how Georgian architecture harnessed proportion and symmetry. The house can be vertically bisected to become two identical halves. The chimneys, curved walls (heck, even the ivy!) are mirror images of each other.
What’s interesting, though, is how the section in the back (filled with what was once the staff quarters) completely betrays the symmetry of the main, formal part of the house.
The house’s interiors aren’t ostentatious, but their proportions are generous. Doorways, windows, and even the staircase in the main hall are quite roomy, giving a sense of lightness to the house. The mantlepieces are quite tame, keeping with the decoration of the rest of the house—which is a bit of a shame, since Georgian fireplaces can be quite grand.
The Vale, Berkshire (7 bedrooms, £5,000,000 or $6,083,000)
Most of the time—especially stateside—Georgian architecture is synonymous with brick or wood construction. But that’s not always the case, especially in England. Case-in-point: The Vale, a country house located about an hour and a half west of London.
Here, the symmetrical facade faces the garden. Three identically sized windows sit over three identically sized windows to make up the central portion of the house. The only distinctive feature of the garden facade is the pediment—an architectural ornament plucked from the classical world—over the center window on the second floor.
A balustrade runs across the edge of the roof, a common feature in Georgian architecture, which often has flatter rooflines.
Inside, there’s a showstopper of a drawing room with wood paneling, denticulated molding, and an ornately carved fireplace. But the architectural details aren’t oppressive here: The large windows and open spaces—get a load of that entry!— convey lightness.
The Grange, Horncastle (5 bedrooms, £599,950 or $735,659)
We’re rounding things out today with a house that looks like it came out of a storybook. Set on about three acres of land, The Grange, as it’s known, also has the symmetrical facade that typifies Georgian architecture. But the real reason it caught our eye is because of what’s inside.
The ground floor has two mirror-image rooms—a parlor and a dining room—which exemplify what we mean by the Georgians emphasizing the fireplaces. Flanked with pilasters and surrounded by stone mantles, it’s frankly hard to look away from these chimneypieces.
The cozy rooms are entirely paneled in wood and feature a bay window overlooking the front of the house. To be honest—we wouldn’t mind spending the rest of winter in one of those yellow chairs by the fire.