The clash of styles in the Victorian period finally ended in an eclectic aesthetic. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901, after almost 64 years on the throne, presaged a rush of new ideas including the birth of the Garden Cities and the growth of suburbia.
Edward VII only reigned from 1901 to 1910 but this short period was to be hugely influential. Over the years of the Edwardian reign, and up to the beginning of the First World War in 1914, there was an unprecedented housing boom that was firmly to establish suburbs around cities and large towns. Public transport developed quickly and the new middle classes demanded affordable, manageable-sized homes within commuting distance of their work.
The architecture of these new suburbs was in stark contrast to the built environment of the Victorian era. This new housing took its inspiration from simple vernacular design and used local materials. A boom in construction covered a wide range of homes including small terraced, semi-detached and detached villas.
The domestic architecture of the Edwardian era covered a range of styles from those that were hardly distinguishable from late Victorian design to the distinctive and romantic Arts and Crafts movement that would influence so strongly the new suburban cottage-style estates. The exteriors of the detached and semi-detached houses of this period tended to be simpler than those of the Victorian period and used diluted versions of Art Nouveau, Japanese and Arts and Crafts styles.
The mock Tudor style retained its popularity for country houses, epitomised by leaded windows and half-timbered elevations. Traditionalist architects were highly influential, with Sir Edwin Lutyens the most notable. Lutyens, along with other architects including Charles Voysey, were well known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of their era.
Non-domestic architecture was less restrained; the Gothic Revival continued to dominate church architecture while the English classical tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries was revived in splendid Baroque public buildings, and the Francophile Edward VII encouraged a classic French influence.
Another form of Edwardian classicism, known as Neo-Mannerism, used steel or reinforced concrete frames to free walls from nonstructural uses of classical forms. Nineteenth century experiments with reinforced concrete began to be commonplace in the Edwardian era. A ferro-concrete frame could be clad in brick or stone for prestigious buildings, or cased in concrete for more utilitarian structures.
Edwardian styles have been highly successful and have rarely been out of fashion since that period. The Arts and Crafts style is much admired and examples of Lutyens’ and Voysey’s work are highly prized. The country house style of Lutyens, especially in collaboration with the celebrated gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, has had a global influence and even today is much imitated.