Georgian architecture remains perennially popular. Perhaps of all British buildings, those built by the Georgians are best received. Most think of the many elegant town developments, the tree-lined terraces, select squares and crescents that proliferated after 1740; or else they visualise the great houses surrounded by an Arcadian landscape of temples, follies and serpentine lakes. These are made all the more precious due to their positioning before England’s dark satanic mills scarred the landscapes: this is a twilight period before the horrors of the Industrial Revolution.
However, it is all too easy to over-simplify Georgian architecture. Elegant terraced houses and Palladian villas were built in great number. However, much else was built, in a variety of styles. Like their forebears and successors, architects and patrons delighted in novelty. The Classical architecture of Greece and Rome was much experimented with, and different authorities cited. Hence we use the stylistic terms Baroque, Palladian, Rococo, Neo-Classical, Greek Revival, and Italianate. All played with the same basic vocabulary, but with a range of sources, richness and effects. And, other, more exotic styles were introduced – Gothic, Egyptian, ‘Hindoo’ and Chinese – revealing Britain’s growing presence as a global power.
And it should be remembered that most of the population continued to live in appalling conditions. The delightful village of Milton Abbas, with its neat semi-detached cottages, was the exception to the rule. Likewise, many landlords, even Queen Charlotte herself, might have built picturesque cottages, but these were far from the common experience: most cottages were mean, substandard housing. Georgian architecture needs, therefore, to be understood as something more diverse, more haphazard, and more exciting, as the following examples suggest.