Georgian Architecture London
The Georgian era is a period of British history, normally defined as including the reigns of the kings George I, George II, George III and George IV, i.e. covering the period from 1714 to 1830, (with the sub-period of the Regency, defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III). George 1st was actually from Germany, and was ‘invited’ to be king for political reasons, namely that those in power wanted a Protestant King, and not a return to the old Catholic ways.
Politics and War
During this period parliament that is, the government, grew in strength and country the changed from one which was controlled by a monarchy (king or queen) to one controlled a government. Instead of being assembled only when the monarch needed money, parliament now met at regular times each year and the arrival in London of the politicians and their servants and households was one of the causes of the building of townhouses. There was much more stability in the country during this period, and the development of civil servants (komuin), who were awarded positions on merit rather than by connections.
The Georgian kings generally did not interfere in politics and removed restrictions for economic expansion and allowed the free development of companies by private individuals. However, the situation was different when it came to fighting wars, especially against the French in order to develop British trading interests. These wars were commercial wars and the rewards were new land territory. Britain was successful during this period, and built a huge empire, protected by the Royal Navy. This empire allowed for supplies of raw materials and food, which supplied the growing market for manufactured goods in Britain.
Agriculture, Industry and Transport
Although there was an increase in trade and commerce, agriculture remained the main industry of this period. Wealthy people relied upon rents from the tenants on their estates, and the selling of produce, which was grown on their farms.
Industry was widespread, but generally small in scale. Even though there were large factories or mills, where most of the manufacturing took place, and where local families were employed.
However industry grew rapidly during the period, and there were two reasons for the growth in industry.
- The first reason was the development of the steam engine, which replaced waterpower (itself subject to seasonal fluctuations). Efficient steam engines provided reliable power and allowed the pumping out of water from mines so that raw materials from the mines could be used in industry.
- The second reason was the development of canals, which reached a peak ofconstruction in the 1790s. Transporting materials to the factories for production, and the finished product from the factories had always been an imitation, because the roads were not developed enough to carry heavy goods, and also affected by drought and by flooding. The results of the canals were prices were reduced, and new fact, trees and towns grew up along the banks of the canals. Improved medication was another cause of this growth industry.
The population now began to grow during the second half of the 18th century, probably due to better food and housing, and also the availability of soap. The population of Britain grew from about 6, 000, 000 to 9, 000, 000 by the beginning of the 19th century. Most of this expansion was in London, which tripled in size to a population of 1.5 million by 1830. Other towns and cities were tiny in comparison to London, but also grew dramatically. For example Manchester, which grew from a population of 10, 000 at the beginning of the Georgian period to a population of 180, 000 by the end of the period. However the majority of the population still lived in the countryside.
The Upper Classes
During the Georgian period, the upper classes became even richer as the value of land increased, and so did their income from rent which made up the income. There were now many things for the rich people to spend their money on, including travel. For many young gentlemen, the sons of the wealthy aristocracy, the final stage of their education would have been 'the Grand Tour'. The Grand Tour was a trip usually to Italy, in order to learn about the architecture and culture of the classical Greek age (think of the Parthenon in Athens). It is because of this that we can see the effects of classical Greek architecture on Georgian architecture. We can find Georgian architecture in the country houses built by the wealthy aristocracy. However, the aristocracy spent most of their time in London and would either rent or buy a large house here as well.
Crime was a problem which affected the rich, especially as there was no police force at the time. The only answer the government had was to introduce a law, which meant that a person could be hanged or sent to another country for stealing as little as 12 pence. Although it appears that this law had no real effect.
The Middle Classes
During the Georgian period there was a growing middle class. This consisted of professionals, businessmen, merchants, financiers, shopkeepers and farmers whose rising income, permitted them to imitate the lifestyle of the richer aristocracy. Many of the middle classes began the 18th century working as tradesmen, and by the end of the century developed into professionals. One example was that of the architects, who were formally amateurs or part timers and who became fully trained experts with their own profession. The middle classes were still only a small proportion of the population and about 20% lived in London. However, most importantly, this new expanding social group was one of the main reasons for the building of the new terraced houses that we generally see in London and other towns around Britain.
The Lower Classes
The majority of the population during the Georgian period was in the lower classes. They Lived in the city with long hours of work, limited freedom and an early death. There was a lot of disease, and there was no...