Explore these English homes that date back to the early Victorian era.
The Victorian home, known for its historic and Timeless beauty, can be emulated in new builds made To look old. but where do The ideas come from? In Robert O’byrne’s book Romantic English Homes, he explores the rich history of original English homes that provide décor and renovation inspiration for your dream Victorian.
Though different in color scheme and building materials, these homes have plenty in common. “It is a feature of the English character to detect every available surface and then cover it with a variety of objects,” writes O’byrne. This diverse and abundant style is the key to creating a successful Victorian space, as each piece denotes a different history and suggests it has been in place for centuries. Other things these houses have in common are their natural elements, historic features and the need for renovations. Follow these three houses to determine the elements new owners kept or changed from their existing structures.
EXPLORE ORIGINAL ENGLISH HOMES THAT DATE BACK TO THE EARLY VICTORIAN ERA.
DIVERSE AND DERELICT
Greyhounds, in Oxfordshire, England, underwent many uses after its inception in the late 15th century, including a wool merchant’s house, coaching inn, hotel, privately-owned home and a publishing house. It was finally bought by Michael Taubenheim and his partner, Christopher Moore. Despite their love of the property, they had some features they wanted to update. “With 27 rooms, the house always rambled but often not in a manner that was practicable or even coherent,” writes O’byrne. They decided on a “contented fusion of English and Irish taste” to make the look more logical.
One of the features in the existing home is its mullioned pane windows. These were perfect for their plans for the house, as “the aim has been to fill the house with as much light as possible, resulting in scrubbed woodwork, lined surfaces, painted floors, pale walls and seagrass,’” says Moore.
“Contrary to appearances, the collections of Greyhounds are recent, the result of diligent attendance at auction house and antique fair,” writes O’byrne. You don’t need to live in a house for years to give off an appearance of time. You can achieve the look even if you don’t have antique hand-me-downs from your great grandmother. Simply shop for antiques at fairs and auction houses to find pieces you love. Sometimes, you can find materials for your home for free if you keep an eye open. “The beams in the kitchen came from a demolished Oxford pub, while the sitting room chimneypiece was rescued from a field in Ireland,” writes O’byrne. You don’t always have to spend money to get what you want or need.
The house contains natural materials as well, from the structure all the way down to its staircase. “In keeping with the early twentieth-century Arts and Crafts Movement’s philosophy, the house’s principal staircase was made from recycled older timbers,” writes O’byrne. It is a timber and stone-front house, which lends to its natural, aged beauty.
Known for its lavish and naturalist gardens, The Temple of Diana, set in Staffordshire, England, is a wonderful example of the importance of gardens.
“The key feature of the eighteenth-century English garden was that unlike those created earlier it appeared to be entirely natural despite being a work of artifice,” writes O’byrne. The idea was to limit the elements to grass, trees and water to keep it looking natural. “The only overt evidence of man’s intervention would be the siting of a temple or monument to close a vista,” O’byrne writes. Thus, The Temple of Diana was born in 1768. James Paine, the architect, made sure to place large windows in almost every room of the Temple to allow the landscape view to be a prominent feature in the rooms.
Due to the era’s interest in classical mythology, the Temple got its name from the work of Giovanni Battista Innocenzo Colombo, who painted, “scenes depicting exploits of the ancient Roman goddess, Diana,” writes O’byrne. These large paintings add to the classical feel of the space and give it a historical element.
The rooms in this Temple were all meant to serve multiple purposes, including the orangery. Converted into a tea space, this room holds delicate plants during cold seasons to prevent them from dying. During warm seasons, the windows open up to make an airy pavilion, and when paired with the elaborate neo-classical stucco work on the ceiling, it becomes a place perfect for any need.
“The less the pieces match one another, the more successful the resulting ensemble.”
THE ROAD TO RENOVATION
Set in Suffolk, England, Bramfield Folly is a manor house that dates back to the early 19th century. For all its beauty and history, this manor house was in desperate need of a renovation.
“Semi-derelict, at some earlier point it had been converted from a single residence into accommodation for three families, one in the basement and two on the ground and upper floors,” O’byrne writes. When Charles Moss and John Stevenson acquired this structure, their first goal was to convert it back to a single living space.
To go along with their conversion renovation, Moss and Stevenson had to make decisions about the pond, plumbing and the land itself. “Inside there were only cold water taps and outside all the woodland had been felled for timber during the Second World War,” O’byrne writes. The land was “littered with abandoned machinery and the rest of the grounds were given over to pigs and geese,” he writes. “‘But it had land,’” says Moss.
Despite its neglected state, they decided to purchase it and make some changes to bring it up to living standards. They rebuilt the garden wall and knocked seven staircases down to one to create a more controlled flow to the manor. “The halfglazed front door was likewise created together with a flight of eight stone steps to the new entrance, surrounded on three sides by gravel terraces,” writes O’byrne.
The structure itself is made of recycled flint, rubble and red brick—a sturdy structure that stood the test of time. During this time, however, some of the red brick arches were filled in with flint, but still held small casements; so they installed new windows to complete the look of the front of the house. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your home, especially if it’s an original Victorian. Sometimes, those changes are necessary in the future in order to enjoy the past.
This diverse and abundant style is actually the key to creating a successful Victorian space, as each piece denotes a different history and suggests it has been in place for centuries.