Georgian West and Ireland

Georgian buildings

Bath Circus

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.

Extracts from the exhibition



Detail of Radcliffe Camera

Be rocked by the variety, movement and surprise of English Baroque architecture. 



Detail of Stourhead

Revisit archetypal Georgian architecture through Palladian villas in landscaped parks.


Town planning

Detail of Royal Crescent

Walk around Bath and follow its development from a medieval town to a Georgian showcase. 




The Picturesque

Detail of Balise Hamlet

From model villages to planned estates, track the Georgian retreat in to the country and the development of the picturesque.


Georgian Ireland

Detail of Nelson Pillar

See some of the finest Georgian architecture built throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland.



Detail of Sezincote

Discover Gothick fantasies, Indian adventures and innovative engineering with the less familiar Georgians



About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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