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Introducing period properties

If you are completely unfamiliar, period properties are houses or buildings that were originally built in a historical period before World War I. But what is meant by “a historical period”? Periods are timeframes in history, generally defined by the ruling monarch at the time. Queen Victoria oversaw the Victorian era and Edward VII the short-lived Edwardian era. Much longer was the Georgian era, which saw four consecutive King Georges – I, II, III and IV.

While these eras seem like the very distant past, there are still a considerable number of period properties out there. Houses don’t just disappear when times change and – although the population has risen considerably – Britain had to house a population of over 40 million in 1914. Demolition or destruction has removed a lot of those properties from the picture, but there are still several million remaining.

Character and characteristics

While each period has its own idiosyncrasies and trademarks, there are some things that make all period homes particularly sought after. In contrast to quick fix new-build homes, they were built at a time when land, labour and quality materials were readily available. As a result, they benefit from bigger rooms and a far superior quality of build. Thicker walls are one feature of period homes that many new-build residents are especially unfamiliar with.

Because these strengths are essentially timeless, period properties have appreciated in value at a higher rate than other homes and continue to do so in the modern day. Research from Halifax shows that houses built before 1919 have increased in value by 461% on average from 1986-2011. Compared to an average increase of 357% for all properties, it’s a significant difference of over 100%.

So there are clearly a number of differences between period homes and modern builds, but what about differences between the periods themselves? Of course, styles don’t immediately change with a new monarch, but the eras roughly reflect the changing styles over the broad time periods.

Here is a guide to the main period property categories:

• Stuart (1603 – 1714)

The Stuart period was the era that fully brick-built homes became the norm. Because of this, Stuart buildings are also the oldest period homes available for the most part. Made from timber or with timber frames, they were extremely vulnerable to fire and eventually paid the price. In 1666, the Great Fire of London wiped out a massive 13,200 houses.

When homes were rebuilt, they had a typical style: brickwork construction, flat fronts and sash windows. This classic style went on to influence British homes for years to come because of its undeniable functionality and simplistic beauty.

In 1696 the window tax was introduced, which led to some homes having their window spaces bricked up. After its abolition, most properties were eventually refitted with windows, so this hasn’t had much of a lasting effect on today’s homes.

• Georgian (1714 – 1837)

One of the major features of Georgian homes is the use of classicism in their design. This is the Roman and Greek concept of order, harmony and formulaic standards. In building terms, this means symmetry, proportion and predictability. Rooms were sized in proportion to one another with tall windows also designed relative to room size.

Externally, homes were designed with perfect symmetry, central chimneys and often constructed in long identical rows. This was especially the case as the industrial revolution began around 1760. Long terraces were built for mill workers, which were eventually split into several homes.

But there were other European influences as well as classicism. Georgian homes often took on some of the styling of Palladian architecture. A common feature still prevalent on Georgian period homes are pediments. Inspired by Palladio’s work, they are used above windows and doors on a building’s façade.

• Victorian (1837 – 1901)

Housing in the Victorian era was largely a reaction to the huge increase in population. From 1841 to 1901 the British population more than doubled. As a result, there was a surge of terraced homes. Much like some of the Georgian homes, lines and lines of strong, stone terraces were constructed for workers in heavily industrialised areas.

In 1851, the abolishment of the window tax meant homes no longer suffered from the restraints of small, sporadic and even bricked up windows. Similarly, in 1850, the removal of the brick tax meant builders no longer had to use bigger bricks to minimise the impact of the tax.

In the years following, homes began taking advantage of the changes with large bay windows and English bond brickwork using smaller bricks. Victorian interiors, on the other hand, reflected the bold personality of the monarch herself. While the strong, contrasting colours will have changed in present day homes, what may remain are beautiful little intricacies like ornate skirting and coving.

• Edwardian (1901 – 1914)

Despite Edward VII’s reign lasting only 9 years from 1901-1910, the Edwardian era is generally considered to have ended in 1914 when Britain went to war. And although it was far shorter than the other periods, there was something of a housing boom. As a result, the Edwardians were able to develop their own specific style.

Much like Edward VII himself, the era was sociable, extravagant and individual. The houses reflected this. They were wider, with larger gardens for entertaining. Decorations on the outside of homes became the norm. Carved features, verandas and porches were amongst the trends. Windows were given multiple panels – not for practicality as in previous times, but for style alone.

Internally, Edwardian homes were known for their simplicity. Rooms were fewer in number, but larger individually – again, to enable social hosting. Bigger windows meant more light was allowed in, drawing attention to the elaborately designed features like fireplaces, tiled walls and staircases.

Owning a period property

If you own or are looking to purchase a period property, you will benefit from several long-standing qualities. Thick walls, larger rooms and more storage are three of the key aspects. And because the eras have their own particular style, you get a building with character. Compare this to new builds which are reasonably dull and poorly built, and you can see why period homes have maintained their appeal.

How do you design a period home in the modern day?

With the uniqueness of period properties comes the need to match or adapt your interior design. There are a few hints and tips that will help you make the most of your home’s style. Rule number one is to work around your home’s key features. This includes the possibly quirky shape of the room as well as any characteristic fixtures like doors, windows and beams.

Colours are also important. There are some classic colours for each era, such as burgundy and sage green for Georgian or purple and blue for Victorian. And when it comes to modernising the classic design, there are a few ways to do it best. Modern light fixtures can be added subtly and kitchen appliance integration will help play down the modern-vintage contrast.

Does “period property” mean the same as “listed property”?

While some people use the terms interchangeably, there is an important distinction between period and listed properties. Period properties are those from historic periods, but listed properties are buildings on Historic England’s National Heritage List for England (NHLE). As explained in our complete guide to listed buildings, they are protected from any structural changes without permission.

Anything from extensions to window renovation has to have permission from your local authority. The purpose is to protect the interest of the building and keep it as close as possible to its original form. To apply for changes, you must first speak to your local conservation officer. The process will take between 8-13 weeks and is more likely to be approved if the changes are well justified and minimise the impact on the building.

There are links between the two terms. Because listed buildings have a special architectural or historic interest, a large proportion of them happen to also be period properties. According to Historic England, all surviving buildings built before 1700 are listed. The same goes for the vast majority of those between 1700 to 1840 – covering most Georgian properties. In contrast, there is “particularly careful selection” when it comes to properties built after 1945.

Restoring period properties

There’s no doubt period properties can stand the test of time. Those we have today have already survived hundreds of years of family life, bad weather and wear and tear. But there comes a time when certain key features need repair and restoration to renew their beauty and function.

At Fortis & Hooke, we have a passion for restoring original wooden windows and doors. Our specialist methods make the restoration process hassle-free for customers and ensure long-lasting results for your windows and doors. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help you keep your home

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