Britain has a long and rich history when it comes to architecture. From the primitive neolithic structures formed thousands of years ago, through to the influence and building prowess of the Romans all the way up to contemporary classics like The Shard, Britain has often been at the forefront of architecture and developments in the industry. Especially in the earlier periods, stonemasons had a huge role to play in the development of architecture in this country.
Norman architecture – which came into prominence after William The Conqueror’s conquest in 1066 – saw the wide-scale emergence of large stone structures like castles and towers. Stonemasons were brought into the country to help build great abbeys, castles and military fortifications. Through the middle ages and beyond, the use of stone and the stonemason industry kept growing and developing.
Hundreds of years after 1066, stonemason techniques had developed further and brought around what remains one of the most iconic periods of British architecture: Georgian. Here, we delve into the history behind Georgian architecture and the role that stonemasons had to play.
A Brief History of Georgian Architecture: From Stonemasons
When Was The Georgian Period?
The Georgian period in Britain is the period which is named after four Hanoverian kings: King George I, George II, George III and George IV. The era spanned more than 100 years from 1714 to circa 1837 and has some crossover with the Regency Era and the short reign of King William IV. After the Georgian era, society shifted to the new Victorian-era from 1887 to the turn of the new century.
As well as architecture, the Georgian era was also known for the social change that occurred, the enlightenment period, the expansion and strengthening of the empire, wars with France and the widespread development of trade throughout the British Empire. The beginning of the transformative Industrial Revolution also occurred during this period.
Artistically, the era was also groundbreaking and has since become recognised as one of the most fruitful periods for the arts in British history – including architecturally. The society of Georgian Britain was documented and fictionalised in the novels of Jane Austen and Mary Shelley and the poems of William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, Robert Burns, William Blake and many more.
However, one of the most lasting and iconic features of the era remains its architecture. Architects like John Nash and others helped to define the era, completely changing the shape and style of cities like Bristol, Bath, Edinburgh, Dublin Newcastle and Liverpool.
What Are Defining Features of Georgian Architecture?
Georgian architecture is very distinctive and was the style that really innovated terrace properties in Britain. As the towns and cities of Britain continued to expand, landowners began to develop properties and, therefore, wanted to maximise the use of space. As a result, they began to create identical rows of houses. These buildings were so well built and worked so well for those living in them, that many Georgian properties still make a core function of cities and towns across the city. Bristol’s Portland and Brunswick Squares, for example, still have many residents living in the Georgian properties.
The term ‘architect’ began to carry more weight during this period too, as buildings were regimented according to guide books by authors such as William Halfpenny. As such, many homes and public buildings built during this area look similar and are easily distinguishable. Common traits of Georgian architecture include symmetrical form and window placement on the outside of the property, sash windows with multiple panes of glass, a hipped roof, panelled front doors and the widespread use of natural stone. In places like Bath and Bristol, Cotswold stone was often used in Georgian architecture. This defining feature saw the stonemason industry boom and the art of the craft rise in esteem and prestige.
The rigid symmetry of the style was a perfect fit for the kind of terrace properties being built, but also had a beautiful aesthetic as well – and it still does! Outside of Britain, Georgian architecture was also very popular in the then colony of America. It was the most prominent style of architectural design in America all the way up until the Revolutionary War.
As mentioned already, one of the foremost proponents of the Georgian style of architecture was John Nash. Nash designed Georgian and Regency masterpieces like Brighton’s Pavillion, Regent Street, Regent’s Park, The Marble Arch and Even Buckingham Palace.
John Wood, The Elder was another architect who would become recognised for innovating much of the style and creating pre-eminent pieces of Georgian architecture in Bath. One of his most famous works and one of the most recognisable examples of Georgian residential architecture is the Circus in Bath.
Stonemason Techniques During The Period
As mentioned already, Georgian architecture often used natural stone as the primary material for construction. In the South West cities of Bristol and Bath, the primary stone was Cotswold stone, which became incredibly popular due to its amber colour.
As stone became such an important material to work with for architects, stonemasons also developed in their industry. Techniques like Ashlar and Rustication became ever more popular in the construction of buildings. Ashlar is the process that stonemasons use to finely dress and square a stone so that it is completely uniform. As symmetry was such an important feature of Georgian architecture, this technique became crucial for the stonemasons and architects of the period.
Some Iconic Georgian Buildings
Because Georgian architecture was so widespread across Britain during the era, and the quality of the construction was so high, there remains a wide range of iconic buildings. In London, alone there are countless examples to choose from. Of course, the home of the Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, is one of the most famous examples of Georgian architecture in the world. As well as this, you have Benjamin Franklin House, The British Museum, Bedford Square in Fitzrovia, Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch and the iconic Old Vic theatre.
Further afield from London, The Assembly Rooms in York, Cronkhill in Shropshire and St Michael’s Church in Worcestershire are all excellent examples of the brilliance of the architecture of the time. Moreover, you just need to walk around the cities of Bristol and Bath for five minutes to see excellent examples of the style which are still lived in today.
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Here at Wrights of Campden, our professional stonemasons have been crafting exquisite stonework products in Morton-on-Marsh for years. We have supplied high-quality natural stone fireplaces, worktops, floors and much more to countless clients from our Gloucestershire workshop.
We can create tailor-made products to give your property the wow factor, make it more practical and even increase its value! We have an excellent reputation for the high standards that we set. As well as this, we always endeavour to provide the very best customer service possible. If you have been looking for expert stonemasons to create brilliant interior design elements for you from natural stone, turn to Wrights of Campden. We work with the highly sought after Cotswold stone and can provide you with all the advice you need before work gets underway.
To find out more about our services, please feel free to contact us today. You can find us at our workshop at Units 104-106, Northwick Business Centre, Blockley, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, GL56 9RF. Alternatively, call us on 01386 700497 or email us at email@example.com.