victorian townhouse kitchen

Victorian townhouse – The gulf between rich and poor

In this blog series we’ll be looking at the architecture of different eras. In this week’s edition we look at the Victorian Townhouse. The Victorian era was inspired by the Georgian and Regency periods, and saw the revival of Gothic design and neo-classical architecture. You can view last week’s article on the Georgian townhouse here.

The wealthy Victorian’s townhouse

victorian townhouse london

This era saw the emergence of the middle classes in Great Britain. The industrial revolution brought with it mass manufacturing, which enabled more people to own and modify their own homes. Wealthy Victorian families lived in large detached and semi-detached townhouses with room for servants. Reception rooms were high-ceilinged and designed to impress guests. They had elaborately moulded cornices and marble fireplaces. This show of opulence wasn’t restriced to the interior of the house. From the street, a passer’s eyes would be drawn to the imposing Victorian Front door. These were invariably four paneled and usually painted in bold, dark colours. Bay windows were another big trend of the period. These large white windows are still visible on many townhouses in the UK today. 

Read more about four panel doors here.

Different rooms for different occasions

victorian townhouse parlour

Open-plan homes have been in style for a while now, but they couldn’t be more different to their Victorian counterparts. The Victorian townhouse had several different rooms, each for its own occasion. The sitting room or parlour would be for the ladies of the house, whilst the study or library was the man’s domain. The decor of the rooms reflected their inhabitants. The “male” rooms were heavily furnished with dark woods and patterned rugs. In contrast the parlour and sitting room were bright, often favouring pastel colours. Four paneled interior doors were used throughout the home. These were often painted, although there were many which were stained instead.

The Victorian kitchen

victorian townhouse kitchen

The Victorian kitchen moved from the basement to the ground floor during the 19th century. Mainly found at the back of the house the kitchen would have a scullery attached for doing laundry in. The new technology of the time meant that inventions like ice boxes were now available. These were heavily insulated boxes filled with ice, which meant that food could be kept fresher for longer. 

The working-class Victorian home

victorian townhouse
A row of Victorian terraces. Credit Find My Past

The homes of the working-classes were very different. In a time when the poor flocked to the cities from the country, the factory owners needed to house their new workers. The accommodation provided was cheap, and quick to build.  The industrial east end of London was one area where slums quickly sprang up. Terraced houses were split into apartments, and whole families often lived in a single room. There were no flushing lavatories, and a whole street would use a public outhouse, and raw sewage would run through the streets. Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Bethnal Green weren’t the trendy places they are today. They were squalid slums, which were only rebuilt after being nearly totally destroyed in World War Two.