French Influence on Victorian Architecture

The influence of French architecture on Victorian architecture is undeniable. The French had a profound impact on both ecclesiastical and secular buildings during the Gothic Revival period. This influence can still be seen in many...

The influence of French architecture on Victorian architecture is undeniable. The French had a profound impact on both ecclesiastical and secular buildings during the Gothic Revival period. This influence can still be seen in many iconic structures throughout England.

French Influence on Gothic Revival Churches and Cathedrals

French Influence on Victorian Architecture Left: "Amiens," in an illustration by John Ruskin's friend, Samuel Prout. Right: E. W. Pugin's St Colman's Cathedral, suggesting the influence of Amiens.

During the Gothic Revival, French architectural characteristics played a significant role in the design of churches and cathedrals. The French origin of Gothic architecture has long been acknowledged, with the spread of French characteristics in England during the twelfth century. This influence can be seen in various aspects, including the "Lierne" ribs of the vaulting in the Decorated style, which derives its name from the French word for "to bind or hold."

The French influence on Gothic Revival architecture can also be attributed to the Continental tours of major Victorian architects and the work of French architect and architectural writer Viollet-le-Duc. However, it was John Ruskin's passion for French cathedrals, particularly those in Rouen and Chartres, that had the most direct impact. His admiration for their grandeur and architectural elements significantly influenced the design of Victorian churches.

Examples of French-influenced Gothic Revival churches and cathedrals include George Gilbert Scott's St Matthias in Surrey, William Burges's St Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork, James Brooks' St Andrews Church in Plaistow, and J. L. Pearson's Truro Cathedral in Cornwall.

French Influence on Secular Gothic Revival Architecture

French Influence on Victorian Architecture Left: Chateau d'Eu, a former royal residence dating from the sixteenth century, visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Right: William Henry Crossland's highly fanciful and elaborate Royal Holloway College.

French influence also extended to secular Gothic Revival architecture. One notable example is Horace Walpole's villa, Strawberry Hill, which featured a French-style round tower. This influential building paved the way for the trend of Romanticizing country houses for the wealthy.

French castles and their architectural features, such as corner tourelles, round turrets, and gabled windows, also found their way into the design of Victorian buildings. Architects like William Burges and E. W. Pugin were particularly drawn to the multiple round tower appearance of French castles.

Notable examples of French-influenced secular Gothic Revival architecture include E. W. Pugin's additions to Scarisbrook Hall in Lancashire, David Bryce's Fettes College in Edinburgh, Sir George Gilbert Scott's Grand Midland Hotel and St Pancras Station, G. E. Street's Law Courts, and Alfred Waterhouse's Manchester Town Hall.

The Influence of French Chateaux and French Renaissance Styles

French Influence on Victorian Architecture Right: Chateau d'Eu, visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Left: William Henry Crossland's highly fanciful and elaborate Royal Holloway College.

French architectural styles, such as French Chateaux and French Renaissance, found their way into Victorian architecture, particularly in grand private and public buildings. French elements such as skylines of gabled dormers, high roofs, chimneys, and turrets were incorporated to create a romantic effect.

Architects, inspired by the French Renaissance, subtly incorporated French elements into their designs. Although French Renaissance architecture was less sought after than the furniture of the period, some examples of overt copying or covert allusions to French Renaissance can be found in Victorian buildings.

Some notable examples of French-influenced Victorian buildings include John Dobson's Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle, John Johnson's terraces at Lancaster Gate in London, E. M. Barry's Temple Gardens in London, M. P. Manning's Union Club in Newcastle on Tyne, and the former Newcastle and Gateshead Gas Company Building.

The Influence of the Second Empire Style

French Influence on Victorian Architecture Right: Gare de Rouen-Rive-Droite, Rouen. Left: Charles Harrison Townsend's Horniman Museum.

The Second Empire style, popular during the reign of Napoleon III in France, also had a significant influence on Victorian architecture. This style was characterized by its Italianate features, classical symmetry, and ornate details. It became favored for the construction of imposing hotels and other extravagant buildings.

Cuthbert Brodrick's Grand Hotel in Scarborough is a prime example of the English version of the Second Empire style. Its confident display of Continental features showcases the extravagance that was embraced during this period. Many theaters, music halls, circuses, and seaside pavilions also adopted the Second Empire style, adding a touch of grandeur to entertainment venues across the country.

Other notable examples of the Second Empire style in Victorian architecture include P. C. Hardwick's Great Western Hotel in Paddington, the Grosvenor Hotel in London, Sir Horace Jones's Billingsgate Fish Market, and Frank Matcham's Hackney Empire.

The Influence of Art Nouveau

French Influence on Victorian Architecture Right: Gare de Rouen-Rive-Droite, Rouen. Left: Charles Harrison Townsend's Horniman Museum.

Towards the end of the Victorian era, the Art Nouveau movement emerged, heavily influenced by French architecture. Although predominantly seen in Scotland, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art leading the way, Art Nouveau elements could also be found in England.

Art Nouveau design elements, such as metalwork and intricate carvings, were incorporated into various Victorian buildings. Even architects who were primarily associated with the Arts and Crafts movement, like Charles Harrison Townsend, embraced the influence of Art Nouveau in their designs.

Examples of Art Nouveau in Victorian architecture include Keswick School of Industrial Art, Charles Harrison Townsend's Bishopsgate Institute, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art, Matcham's Victoria Quarter in Leeds, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Willow Tea-rooms in Glasgow.

Conclusion

The French influence on Victorian architecture was profound, shaping both ecclesiastical and secular buildings. From the Gothic Revival to the Second Empire style and Art Nouveau, French architectural characteristics can still be seen in many iconic structures throughout England.

The reception to blatantly French-influenced buildings varied. Some critics criticized the French elements as showy, while others admired the grandeur they brought to Victorian architecture. However, French influence was most successful when fully assimilated into the architectural style, as seen during the Edwardian Baroque period.

The impact of French architecture on Victorian architecture showcases the rich eclecticism of the era and adds immeasurable character to resorts and tourist venues across the country.

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