Why do we define certain periods of our architectural history by the reign of various monarchs?
There is the Georgian era, which covered the 123 years of the reigns of George I, George II, George III and George IV. The Regency era was a period during which George III was deemed unfit to rule and so his son, the Prince Regent and later George IV, stepped into his shoes. Meanwhile, the protracted reign of Queen Victoria encompasses what we now refer to as the Victorian era. Most recently, we have the Edwardian era. Despite having eight British monarchs named Edward, only one, Edward VII, gets an architectural era named after him, despite having reigned for only nine years.
Despite there being many other architectural eras, including Tudor and Elizabethan (Elizabeth I), London mainly comprises Georgian and Victorian properties, Edwardian and modern.
Most of us have a preferred architectural era, and this preference may well dictate or influence the type of property we buy.
Edwardian properties: outstanding features
The reason many people are looking to buy Edwardian period homes is the outstanding decorative features these buildings possess.
The architects, designers and builders of the Edwardian era wanted to break away from the rather dark and overbearing feeling often found in houses of the Victorian era. There was a need to bring more light into the properties, and to make this possible, they reintroduced multi-paned sash windows which were popular in the Georgian era.
To further satisfy this desire for more natural light, Edwardian houses were built with large patio doors and high ceilings with attractive decorative friezes above picture rails.
Another attractive feature which some Edwardian houses can boast of is stained glass front doors. Some of these doors are styled as Masonic. These have wooden doors that have either stone or wooden carvings of Masonic symbols above them.
Because Edwardian houses were often built with steeply pitched roofs, they often have space for a loft conversion, and a loft conversion has become a favourite form of extension in Britain.
In addition, many homes built in the Edwardian era were set back from the road to protect the owner’s privacy. This means that many houses have fairly large front gardens and a driveway, which is ideal for off-street parking.
However, although the level of craftsmanship that went into building these homes was of a high standard, Edwardian properties are more than 100 years old, and time will have taken its toll on them. So, there are things you should look out for if you are considering buying an Edwardian house.
What to look out for…
Many Edwardian buildings were built with shallow foundations and they can be subject to ground movement. This can be caused by proximity to trees or bushes, certain types of clay soil, or leaking drains. Signs of ground movement include gaps or cracks in the mortar of the house.
External cracking walls
A cause for cracking in the external walls of Edwardian buildings is often the result of cavity walls in the more upmarket houses. These provided better protection against the dampness and cold air than buildings of earlier eras. However, the most common method of keeping the two walls together was the iron tie. Although this method was successful, over time, these ties are often subject to corrosion. This can lead to cracks and unevenness in the external walls. The good news is that repair methods are economical and successful providing the problem is dealt with quickly.
Edwardian builders were aware of the problems dampness can cause to homes. One of the methods they used to prevent rising damp was to raise the ground floor on air bricks. This allowed air to flow underneath the floor to keep it well-ventilated.
But over the years, many of these air bricks may have become blocked by various owners making changes over time. The level of the garden may have been raised, covering the air bricks and causing damp and mould to form. It is important that all the air bricks are kept clear. Another cause of poor ventilation was the habit of subsequent generations blocking up the traditional open fireplaces.
The front door
Although the Edwardian front door is a desirable feature, check the security of the locks and hinges, and the condition of the glass panes to make sure they are not letting heat escape and cold air in. The same goes for any other original windows and doors.
Buying an Edwardian-era property will be a serious undertaking, and the above are just some of the things you should look for when viewing properties.
If you’re planning to purchase or invest in an Edwardian property, call us now and let us help you with your search.