Director, Residential Agency
Pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, buttresses and spires: the Gothic Revival architectural movement is the epitome of excess. Our guide to houses built during this period covers what’s involved in restoring a Gothic Revival home to its former glory.
Inspired by the building style of the Middle Ages in Europe, the Gothic Revival began in earnest in England during the late 1740s. Medieval Gothic architectural sensibilities were transformed into neo-Gothic wonders, introducing a more romantic, fanciful style to the British building landscape. These beautiful properties are often sought after for restoration for their whimsical appearance and solid foundations.
The Gothic Revival house movement
During the High and Late Middle Ages of the 12th Century onwards, French fancy took to creating complex, ornate churches and cathedrals. Medieval kings orchestrated the creation of beautiful and intricate designs to prove their dedication to the church and to make their mark on the world. Taking inspiration from the Roman architectural elements of the basilica, features such as flying buttresses and vaulted roofs were introduced into wider use.
The Gothic Revival movement sought to rekindle the elegance and complexity of the Gothic architectural movement. Initiated in the latter half of the 18th century and continuing through the 19th century, the trend took note of the grandiosity of Medieval cathedrals and translated it into residential properties and churches for the Victorian era.
How to recognise Gothic Revival property
A Gothic Revival house is one of the most easily recognised types of properties because of its spectacular flourishes. Sophisticated and imposing, these properties are distinct in a modern world of simple, flat façades.
The houses are notable for their external décor. Pointed arches were liberally applied to doorways, windows, and porches. Steep pitched roofs, artistic masonry, flourishes such as the addition of gargoyles, and a focus on drawing the eye upwards with beautiful vertical lines make these buildings particularly striking.
Ornamental stonework patterns with open faces, known as decorative tracery, were common both “blind” (on a flat wall) or as part of a window. Gothic architecture made use of geometric patterns such as trefoils, as well as wonderful stained glass, to create stunningly artistic windows. Flying buttresses, grand towers and detailed spires complete the look.
Internally, the flourishes continue, with magnificent staircases, rich paint colours, and grandiose painted furniture. Of course, modern properties may have done away with the dark wood and other traditional features, but a blend of both modern and revivalist styles can look particularly lavish.
Where to find Gothic Revival property
Gothic Revival properties are some of the most distinguished and recognisable in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the most famous example is the Palace of Westminster, otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament. A monumental example of Medieval architecture made modern, architect Charles Barry and his assistant A.W.N. Pugin created the largest Gothic Revival building in the world.
London is home to several striking examples of the style. These include St. Pancras station, with its elaborate iron and red brick features; All Saints Margaret Street, with its rich décor and soaring arched ceilings; and Strawberry Hill, home to the Gothic novelist Horace Walpole and one of the first examples of the style. Most unforgettable may be the iconic Tower Bridge, an example of the late Gothic Revival movement.
However, London is not the only location with gorgeous examples of this style. Wells Cathedral in Somerset offers a beautiful example of restored Medieval architecture blended with Revivalist sensibilities. There are several other Gothic properties to be seen in East Sussex, Galloway and Exeter.
Things to know before you buy a Gothic Revival house
Given the quintessentially British reputation of Gothic Revival homes, these properties are quick to exit the market. The unusual features of this era of home make them ideal for a refurbishment, but the age of the properties can cause particular issues.
As these houses date from the Victorian era, the properties may require regular maintenance, specific products and experienced suppliers. Planning permission may be required to alter or restore certain properties, given the delicate nature of the decorative features of Gothic Revival style. Homes built before 1840 may be listed as buildings of special architectural or historical interest that will require sensitive restoration.
Buyers looking to restore these properties may have to seek out original materials, and could be restricted to local authorities’ views on specific design features and interior décor.
Common issues with Gothic Revival homes
Gothic Revival homes can be a striking addition to a property portfolio, but there are some common issues that are worth considering prior to purchase.
Complex design details may require specialist care and regular upkeep. Those purchasing a Gothic Revival property may want to consider consulting with companies familiar with the decorative details particular to this type of house when considering renovation.
The benefits of restoring a Gothic Revival home
A Gothic Revival property can be a remarkable home with the right care and attention. The appeal of homes of this type is unmistakable, with their occasionally whimsical style and imposing architecture.
Though restoration may be more complex for this type of property, the effort is worth the reward.