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Victorian Rustic Gothic c. 1840—c. 1890
|The cult of the picturesque had its beginnings
in eighteenth-century England among an educated elite—people of ‘refined
sensibilities’—and it was concerned not only with individual buildings but,
more importantly, with the environment in general. Natural and man-made
things which were attractive to look at—houses, gardens, open spaces,
forests, lakes, grazing cattle, gazebos, sham ruins—were seen as elements in
a huge, three- dimensional picture which needed to be artfully composed by a
designer possessed of finely tuned judgment. A favourite element in such
scenery was the small, ‘rustic’ house of highly contrived design known as
the cottage orni: John Nash built a whole village of them at his celebrated
Blaise Hamlet. By the mid-nineteenth century the middle classes had adopted
some of the rural aspects of the Picturesque movement and in doing so had
inevitably limited its application to buildings and gardens of modest size.
There was a somewhat sentimental concern for prettiness, quaintness and
In Australia, this attachment to a romantic image of a rural, vaguely medieval past gave a feeling of security to many expatriate Britons who, understandably, felt themselves to be the hapless inhabitants of a raw and sometimes hostile continent, half a world away from Home. When one was surrounded by grey-green eucalypts which implacably refused to respond to the changing seasons, what could be more comforting than a picturesque, gabled house in a fragrant garden of roses and lavender? As for the design of such a house, many pattern books were available to provide a wealth of models. J. C. Loudon’s Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture was published in London in 1833, and Calvert Vaux’s Villas and Cottages was published in America in 1857.
Victorian Rustic Gothic was an anti- monumental style suitable for application only to houses in the suburbs or the country. Its main characteristics are easily recognised: irregular massing, modest scale, and steeply pitched gabled roofs with highly decorated bargeboards. In Australia, the Rustic Gothic style was used for houses of brick, stone or timber construction; Carpenter Gothic, a term often applied to American timber houses, has in this book been restricted to timber churches (see VICTORIAN CARPENTER GOTHIC and FEDERATION CARPENTER GOTHIC). Although Rustic Gothic buildings were modelled on houses designed for the cold, damp climate of England, they were habitable enough in the antipodes, especially when provided with a veranda, an element that was also widely used in contemporary American houses in this style.
Greyclffe House, Nielsen Park, Vaucluse, NSW. John Hill, architect (atirib.), 1880s. A picturesque ensemble of decorated gables and dormers.
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.