Curious Trends


Gothic architecture and interiors

Linked to the current obsession with curiosities, collecting and all things Victorian is a renewed interest in ‘gothic revival’ architecture and interiors. After the classical themes of the 17th and 18th centuries, the mock-gothic style became fashionable as a reaction against classical order and symmetry. This was inspired directly by the gothic architectural style of the Middle Ages, which had predominated until the Renaissance.

Gothic revival style was largely copied from the medieval ecclesiastical architecture of churches and cathedrals. Pointed arches, castellated walls and stained glass windows are key elements.

Some examples of the style and its key features can be seen below in the photographs of newly refurbished Strawberry Hill at Twickenham. This was built in 1750 and housed famous collector Horace Walpole’s artworks and curiosities from around the world.

The colours red, blue and gold were also commonly used, due to the influence of illustrated medieval manuscripts. Gilded ceilings and fan faulting were also used as in the gallery at Strawberry Hill and later even more famously by Pugin in the Houses of Parliament. Walpole’s gothic ‘cottage’ is considered by some to be overadorned with cusped ceilings and ornate arches.

The rooms were darkly lit with wrought iron chandeliers to emulate the authentic candlelight of the middle ages. A baronial feel was provided by the addition of fake wooden beams.

There were large fireplaces made of stone or elaborately carved wood, often with arched surrounds. Cornices and bookcases were intricately carved with tracery (ribbing) and latticework. Well stocked libraries were especially prized features of the Victorian gothic castle. The library at Strawberry Hill was the first and most famous gothic library in England. Its arched bookcases were taken from an illustration of a doorway in Hollar’s Old St Paul’s.

Heraldic emblems, coats of arms, mythical beasts and the tree of life often appear in gothic interiors too as can be seen in this Cornish stately home and (below that) at Strawberry Hill:

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