I reckon there are four Queen Anne Styles I can find: the original one from when she (the actual Queen Anne) was around in the early eighteenth century, a revival style kicking off in the second half of the nineteenth century in England (Richard Norman Shaw, its main progenitor – subject of a current Royal Academy show – published his first book of sketches in 1858), and the wayward offshoots such as the American and Australian Queen Anne Styles. It’s always been a slight source of confusion to the team here at Viewport, and as we had to schlep out to Chiswick in west London for a client meeting, it seemed sensible to knock it on the head by a quick spin around Bedford Park, that very first garden suburb which went on to define domestic housing in England (and architecture internationally) for decades to come and was designed in this version of the Queen Anne Style, many of them by Shaw.
Largely built between 1875 and 1886 on a site in Turnham Green (just a few hundred metres from where one of the early battles in the English Civil War between Queen Anne’s grandfather’s Royalists came up against the new London militia) the development was created with the aim of providing houses (and making money for its developer Jonathan Carr) for the middle classes of London who wished to escape the grimy urban centre and live surrounded by trees, but still be at their desks in the City by 9am: the first commuters. Shaw was not the first choice, but took over from E. W. Godwin – the architect largely responsible for Chelsea’s Tite Street. How and why the architecture developed by Norman Shaw became known as Queen Anne Style escapes me although her name was on everybody’s tongue due to a Thackeray novel of the 1850s (thanks Wikipedia) and there are quite a few Dutch gables going on – think William of Orange, Anne’s brother in law. Very quickly, the neighbourhood became the height of fashion and even had its own satirical ballad:
” We’ll build our houses here,” he said, ” in style of good Queen Anne.” For floors were stained -and polished and every hearth was tiled,
And Philistines abolished by Culture’s gracious child.
And Abbey (he the artist, malicious little wretch) said it made him feel like walking through a water-colour sketch.
Now he who loves aesthetic cheer and does not mind the damp, may come and read Rossetti here by a Japanese-y lamp.
So if that ballad does not explain it all, here is what to look out for when trying to spot a Queen Anne (revival) Style house: gables, red brickwork, white painted woodwork (window frames had largely been painted in dark colours or stained wood up to that time), hipped roofs, turrets and towers, full height bay and oriel windows, asymmetrical facades, prominent chimneys, and terracotta tiles. It is a collection of English Tudor and Dutch elements. Out in Bedford Park, the houses no longer had basements or iron railings, but white wooden fences and small front gardens.
Back in town, Norman Shaw was responsible for many more buildings – he was one of Victorian England’s most prolific and influential architects. And it was through the publication of his drawings that his style spread so rapidly through the industrialised world from Washington D.C. to the suburbs of Melbourne. The exhibition of these drawings is on at the Royal Academy until September 14th.