Victorian Architecture: Characteristics & Style

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  • 0:00 Victorian Architecture
  • 1:39 Styles
  • 4:32 International Influence
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Anne Butler

Anne has a bachelor's in K-12 art education and a master's in visual art and design. She currently works at a living history museum in Colorado.

If you've ever seen an episode of 'Full House' or 'Downton Abbey', you have seen examples of a Victorian house and Victorian architecture. In this lesson, the discussion will focus on the characteristics and styles of Victorian architecture, particularly in its country of origin - England.

Victorian Architecture

Victorian architecture refers to buildings constructed during the reign of England's Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. She was the longest reigning queen of England until her great-great granddaughter Elizabeth surpassed her in September of 2015.

Victorian architecture isn't limited to one specific style. Instead, it's a broad term that describes the many different styles that emerged during Victoria's 63 years as queen. As there was no standard style, architects and builders created buildings that suited their patron's wants and wishes. However, the Industrial Revolution prompted societal changes which influenced the design of Victorian buildings. Additionally, the expansion of the railroads allowed for prefabricated items such as window glass, tiles, and granite to be more easily shipped and obtainable.

Several different styles emerged during this period. Some prominent ones were Queen Anne, Classical, Gothic Revival, Arts and Crafts, Italianate, and Romanesque Revival. However, Victorian buildings share several identifying characteristics. Generally, most Victorian architecture can be described as dollhouse-like, with curlicue trims, bright colors, and asymmetrical designs. Most Victorian buildings were brick with large interior staircases and windows, balconies, fireplaces in every room, and porches. Urban areas saw the construction of what we would call townhouses in the United States: rows of houses built together.


The Queen Anne style was popular from the 1870s to the early 1900s and featured asymmetrical fronts and towers. One of the primary architects associated with this style was Richard Norman Shaw, who also utilized the Arts and Crafts style of Victorian architecture. Queen Anne style houses tend to be manor-like and slightly medieval with fancy ornamentation. One example of Queen Anne architecture, and a little bit of Arts and Crafts, is the Old Swan House built by Richard Norman Shaw in 1876 and located in London.

The Classical or Neoclassical style of Victorian architecture, reflected the influences of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. These buildings were usually symmetrical with columns. One example of neoclassical Victorian architecture is Witley Court in Worcestershire, England. The neoclassical elements were added during its remodeling in the 1850s.

The Gothic Revival style of Victorian architecture had been used before Victoria's reign, but was very popular from the 1850s to the 1880s in England. John Ruskin was a prominent architect associated with this style. Influenced by the cathedrals of European countries such as France, Gothic Revival was mostly used for churches and some public government buildings, such as the new Houses of Parliament. The new Houses of Parliament were built in London from the 1840s to the 1870s.

Another example of Victorian architecture is the Arts and Crafts style, which grew in popularity near the end of the 19th century and fell out of favor about twenty years later. Architects associated with this movement rejected premade and machine-like styles in favor of more unique designs. They wanted their buildings to look more natural and fit in with their surroundings. One example of the Arts and Crafts style is William Morris' Red House, built in 1859 by Philip Webb in Bexleyheath, England.

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