During the Victorian period, architectural styles were supposed to reflect the sensibilities of those who lived in them. For example, the Gothic revival style for buildings and homes was supposed to convey one’s aspirations to higher planes of existence than those found in everyday life.
After the English fashion for Gothic revival architecture – especially popular in the 1850’s and 1860’s – was found to be somewhat formal and restricting for most people, a loosening up was bound to occur. As the Gothic Revival style had searched back in England’s history for inspiration, so did the Queen Anne style – (which had nothing to do with the monarch of the same name).
The Queen Anne style in England: Beginnings
Rather than looking to precedents defined by ancient cathedrals and other ecclesiastical buildings, the designers of the Queen Anne style in the 1870’s; 1880’s and 1890’s took their inspirations from the more familiar early vernacular architecture of the English countryside, dating back as far as the 12th century.
Architects started being less academic – though no less obsessed with architectural study – and began to be less interested in copying the great cathedrals. Instead, young architects would bicycle or hike through the countryside around London, and sketch the simpler buildings they found, and adapt the vernacular designs to make attractive, highly-detailed, and comfortable buildings and homes that today still grace the streets and towns of Britain.
Those English designers looked at simpler building materials and design features – brick instead of stone; white-painted wooden window panes; front porches; and prominent brick chimneys – that were seen to be attractive for their cosier and more comfortable appearance, than the spiky, invariably cold, grey stone gothic style.