A Lookback at 19th Century Britain

One nation has much to tell just by looking at its homes. British home interiors, for one, have much history to tell.  Looking at its home posts, awnings, verandas, and houses, these are evidences that Great Britain has gone through a ride in history, harnessed by numerous events and battles, especially during the 19th century.

Image by Elliot Brown via Flickr, Creative Commons

Owing to the Industrial Revolution, 19th century presented an unparalleled expansion for Britain. From communication down to transportation, politics, and even home interior designs, the Victorian period has made its mark on Britain. Let us step back and see how the Victorian period affected modern England.

Flashback to the Queen’s Era

Known to be the longest reign in the history pages of England, Queen Victoria ruled England from 1837 to 1901 which saw a devastating turning point for each Brit. Though small, Britain is rich in natural resources such as coal and iron. With a great leader, it was during this era that saw the expansion of social, economical, and technological change. Most historians agree that England witnessed these tremendous changes during Victoria’s reign that it reached its height as a world power.

Apparently, the Victorian age has resembled the image of Queen Elizabeth, posing both responsibility and morality. Being the first monarch to have ruled alongside the popularity of photography, she was known and seen by most people, something that has been brought up to this very day. The Victorian era was divided into three periods due to its lengthened period. These three phases were early (1830-1848), mid (1848-1870), and late (1870-1901).

Unprecedented Revolution

Throughout the 19th century, Britain witnessed an unmatched industrial expansion. International trade, consumerism, rail networks, and steamboats, among others, were all in demand and increasing.

Image by Ingy The Wingy via Flickr, Creative Commons

The increased imports and exports made Britain the world’s most powerful trading nation during the 19th century. Though the early Victorian age was plagued with war, this did not stop Britain from achieving a successful industry. This economic and social advancement was mainly due to steam technology. Through steam power, production, manufacturing, and acquisition of raw materials were improved. After a few decades, the potential of steam engine as a viable source of power was realised and implemented on ships and locomotives. Trade was even brought to the seas by dominating both quantity and distance through the British India Steam Navigation Co., which was the largest shipping line in the world.

The society’s work ethic during that time was commendable. However, this also gave the Victorian era ’social troubles’ since everyone was contributing to production that it even involved women and children working in mining companies and factories.

Most architectures or buildings during that era boast of bees as a symbol or hard work and acceptance of the social order. They follow a social hierarchy where the top belongs to the royalty, aristocracy, church, artists, and professionals, followed by the workers. Through this societal order, work was valued to be the ladder towards the top. Under the protestant philosophy reigning during that era, their values were tied to a moral code strengthened by the concepts of self-help and improvement.

On the political side, early Victorian age presented the Reform bill voting rights to the masses which pushed for the new age of political progress. During this period, writers presented their resentment to the existing plight of the poor in their works. Moreover, even with a woman on the political throne, women’s rights were not given a political voice.

In the cultural aspect, England veered away from rationalism towards romanticism. As such, Victorian literature was on a roll with Charles Dickens as the most famous Victorian novelist. Almost all novels during that time portrayed and taught virtues such as respect, perseverance, love, and luck. Accordingly, all novels are aimed at improving morality of every human being. Victorian architecture, on the other hand, boasted Gothic revival and mixing these various architectural designs. Construction was able to incorporate steel and iron into their houses and buildings, while aesthetic additions such as awnings were introduced, improved, and remained.

Present Defining Moments

Significant developments have been seen in various fields during the 19th century, which has laid a sturdy foundation for the technological advancements and architectural structures the country is dressed with.

The Industrial Revolution brought upon housing booms which has now become a feature in most British cities. With the reduction of prices over materials such as bricks and glasses, most houses had the luxury to be built with these components. Hot and cold water was a common feature in every home. Victorian houses had extra rooms such as cellars, maid’s quarters, and outdoor living spaces such as verandas. Accommodations for servants were provided to have ease of access for labourers to get production of various tasks done in an instant.

Image by Robert Wallace via Flickr, Creative Commons

Awnings became a known feature in most houses. After the Civil War, awnings had an added feature of iron frames due to the mid-century industrialization. Canvass mills and sail makers searched for new markets. Due to this innovation, the awning industry came to develop awnings to business establishments’ fronts and windows. Today, the world is enjoying its functionality while seeing the past in this home feature.  Verandas, on the other hand, became a residential feature and have even spread throughout other countries and became widespread in colonial buildings. This Victorian Filigree architecture style was used by residential homes in Australia and New Zealand.

Agriculture has also improved during the 19th century, where cross-breeding of animals produced better qualities. The wide usage of electricity nowadays has been improved greatly with the steam engine. Without a doubt, the Industrial Revolution has greatly influenced urbanization. People were moving to the cities due to the demand for labourers, increase in demographics, and agricultural development.

Such was the Victorian age, a time of tremendous progress and change for Britain. The final decade of the 19th century was the turning point of Britain from Victorian to the Modern Era. Apart from making Britain an imperial power, this era has brought upon numerous contributions to the country, many of which are still currently seen from science, economy, architecture, and art. We should look back at the 19th century and be thankful for how it has molded the present England.

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