Regency Gothick

Regency Gothick

In [easyazon_link identifier=”B07KYMR2YD” locale=”US” tag=”austauth0d-20″]A Season Lost[/easyazon_link], Elizabeth at one point teases her husband about putting a “gothick facade” on Pemberley. It’s not a typo – I promise I did not get k-happy!

The two gothic movements in architecture you may be more familiar with are the traditional medieval gothic, which can most commonly be seen today in older churches and cathedrals, and Victorian neo-gothic, when they lost their minds with twiddly-bits.

Canterbury Cathedral, traditionally gothic
The UK’s Houses of Parliament form probably the most famous neo-gothic structure in the world. The structure on the left of this picture, though, is actually the much older medieval Westminster Hall. You can see the contrast with the newer, more twiddly portion of the building.

So where does this “Gothick” fit in, in all of this? Well, although we tend to think of Georgian architecture as great big symmetrical country houses, and somewhat smaller or palace-fronted (yet still symmetrical) town houses, during the Regency years there were other styles that gained in popularity. Gothick, or Strawberry Hill Gothic sources back to Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House, and features crenellation and gothic arches in its windows and other elements. Unlike both styles of gothic architecture, it usually involved a render, rather than stone, which when painted gives it a brighter-looking exterior. And don’t worry if you don’t know what these architectural terms mean, because I’m going to show lots of pictures!

A Strawberry Hill Gothic style house in Totnes, with some serious gothic arches in its windows and doorway.

Also popular during the Regency era was the Cottage Orné or Ornee, meant to look like a twee cottage and featuring a thatched roof, but very often anything but little. I had a chance to visit Sidmouth during my trip to England this year, and while it’s not as famous as Bath for its extant architecture, perhaps it should be. Bath is more universally handsome, but I would argue that Sidmouth is the most architecturally distinct, for these styles were popular for a very brief period of time, and unlike the neoclasscal foundations of Georgian architecture, which ensures elements of it still live on in new buildings today, they really didn’t last very long and are far more unique.

The Royal Glen Hotel, showing more crenellation and gothic windows. At one time this hotel had a royal baby in residence: the future Queen Victoria.
A closer view of the Royal Glen.
A great example of gothick crenelation.
This house merges the newer architectural features with that old Georgian standby: the bow window.
A view from a different angle of the seafront, and those Cottages Ornee.

There’s something playful and fantastical about these styles, almost as though they belong in a cartoon world. And yet this is what would have been known to Jane Austen and her characters as a new, modern style. Somehow it does not seem right for Rosings Park (“a handsome modern building, well situated on rising ground”), but it is a possibility.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this peek at a different architectural style. It’s occurred to me that while I showed examples of some of the architectural terms I talked about earlier in the post, I haven’t shown palace fronts. I think perhaps that’s a topic for next month’s post!






    20 Responses to Regency Gothick

    1. Thank you for introducing an interesting problem and the wonderful examples of British Architecture – Always a ballm for the sore eyes of an art historian like me . I may just add that neo-gothic architecture in England is much older than Strawberry Hill. The first examples date back to the first quarter of the 18th century (and at least at the continent there is the ticklish problem to differ between After-Gothic and Neo-Gothic.). During the Georgian era there existed many styles side by side: Classical, Neo-gothic, Palladian, Egyptian and so on.
      I cannot imagine Rosings in irrational Neo-gothic, it certainly mirrored the strict views of Lady Catherine and therefore must have radiated representative and imposing qualities..

      • Thanks for your comment, Walter! I’m a sort of amateur student of architecture so I’d love to know what are good extant examples of the buildings you’re speaking of, so I can fit them in an itinerary in the future. I’ve seen the exterior of the Egyptian house in Penzance and Adam’s Etruscan room at Osterley Park which I felt had some similarity, but nothing neo-gothic from before Strawberry Hill (and even that house I’m yet to see, although it’s definitely on the list).

        Rosings is such a pickle, to me. I agree it feels like the house needs to be as strict as Lady Catherine and that feels like Palladian to me, but I would not necessarily call that modern at the time that Austen was writing it. Although I do envision Longbourn as Elizabethan or Jacobean and so perhaps it was modern to Elizabeth by comparison.

        • I hope, dear Sophie, that you will like Nicholas Hawksmoor’s All Soul’s College in Oxford, begun c. 1715. Also in Oxford Christopher Wren built Tom Tower in the 1680s but I am presently not able to decide definitely whether to classify this building as an example of Gothic Survival or Gothic Revival. Rather impressive yet more neo-romanesque is Vanbrugh Castle, begun c. 1717 in Blackheath, London.
          Many of the neo-gothic garden follies from the first half of the 18th century have not survived but excellent examples still are the Temple of LIberty (James Gibbs, begun 1741) in the Gardens of Stowe, Buckinghamshire, or the Gothic Temple at Painshill, Surrex, c. 1745. Strawberry Hill is, of coure, the most famous example of Rococo-Gothic yet even more impressive is thought, at least by some, is Arbury Hall in Warwickshire, begun 1748.
          Helpful in planning your journeys might be e,g, Megan ALDRICH: Gothic Revival, London 1994 (A. then served as Deputy Director at Sotheby’s, having earned her PhD in Toronto) or Kathleen MAHONEY: Gothic Style, Architecture and Interiors from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, New York 1995.
          An early 18th century neo-gothic church facade I might show you here in Vienna if you take the trouble to visit Austria (and I’m still living which is not self-evident for an old man of 75 years).

          • Lady Catherine certainly is not modern in her views and taste. In JAFF books Rosings is sometimes described as overloaded in the interiors and with strict exterior. This seems plausible. Modern during the P&P years would have been the Castellated Style but this does not fit. I’m tending to imagine Rosings as something in English Baroque, but not like the charming and somehow picturesque Chatsworth (which is known to be a model for Pemberley) but a more Toryish version like Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire, or Appeldurcombe House, Isle of Wight, only reduced in size.

    2. Wonderful photos, Sophie!! I love Gothic architecture, being a medievalist. The Canterbury Cathedral took my breath away; I wandered through it, mouth unattractively agape for the entire three hours we spent there back in 1988.

      Thanks for the lesson and the beautiful photos!!

      Susanne 🙂

      • Thank you, Susanne! I do enjoy the old gothic cathedrals, too, although I’m not as well versed on the medieval era as you. It boggles my mind that they were able to construct such beautiful and complex things back then, when we with our so-called technology make buildings that don’t stand for nearly as long.

    3. Love the pictures and your comment, “…when they lost their minds with twiddly-bits.”! Thank you! Look forward to the pictures next month!

    4. Beautiful pucs! I think that one could be the setting for a spooky mystery! The others are pretty each in their own way.

    5. I would so enjoy the viewing palace fronts….Enjoyed the different houses/cotage picture you posted. I can’t go travel so this gives me an ooportunity to see such places. Such unique/lovely architectural styles.Thank you

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