Ten Victorian houses
Victorian grand houses were often characterised by impressive Gothic Revival architecture, lavish Arts and Crafts interiors and superbly manicured grounds – discover ten of the best.
Built or developed in the reign of Queen Victoria, these shining examples to the architecture and decor of the era are open to wander around an inspect. Discover where Queen Victoria went on her family holidays or the place Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disreali called home. See how the Arts and Crafts movement influenced the decor inside these grand buildings, and even discover how cutting edge technology of the time was adopted with the first house to have a heated swimming pool. All free or discounted entry with a National Art Pass.
William Burgess was one of the great Victorian architects, and like the Pre-Raphaelites highly influenced by medieval Gothic architecture and the natural world. Knightshayes is a rare and compelling example of his artistic vision and wild imagination; gargoyles greet you at the main hall, beautiful birds and monkeys adorn the walls and the poetry of Robert Burns can be read on the ceiling.
One of the finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture, Mount Stuart is a beacon of innovation and imagination. Elegant architecture and flamboyant interiors meet cutting-edge Victorian technology; it was the first house in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool and the first in Scotland to be purpose built with electricity, central heating, a telephone system and even a passenger lift. The Horoscope Room's ceiling depicts the planetary alignments on the day Lord Bute was born.
Built by Queen Victoria as a seaside retreat, Osborne House gives the visitor a unique insight into the monarch's personal taste and intimate family life. The magnificent Italianate mansion has lavish state rooms as you'd expect, but there is also a miniature Swiss Cottage built by Prince Albert for his nine children and Queen Victoria's bathing machine on the property's private beach.
This Gothic Revival mansion may overwhelm with its ornate Victorian carvings, twinkling chandeliers and impressive grounds, but it was actually built as a family home. The Gibbs family lived here for four generations and you can browse their possessions (including ice skates and picnic sets) throughout the gloriously decorated rooms, as well visit the beautiful private chapel where they worshipped.
Red House, designed by Philip Webb, was commissioned, created and lived in by William Morris and was decorated by his Pre-Raphaelite friends; Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal and Ford Maddox Brown were regular visitors. It is an icon of the The Arts and Crafts movement, and contains unique wall paintings, furniture, stained glass and textiles.
Swoon at the white drawing room and gush at the stylised stained glass; Blackwell is one of the finest Arts and Crafts houses to visit in the UK. The closer you look, the more you are rewarded – leaf-shaped door handles, William de Morgan tiles, mosaic floors, wood carvings of berries and leaves, studded doors, curious window catches and many more aesthetic intricacies can be discovered throughout the house.
Built on the site of a medieval fortress, Cardiff Castle was given a new lease of life by Lord Bute – Britain's richest man in 1868 – who commissioned William Burgess to transform the building into a stunning Neo-Gothic palace. The apartments are adorned with richly decorated wooden carvings, stained glass and marble.
Home to one of the most unlikely but most memorable Victorian Prime Ministers, Hughendon Manor was Benjamin Disraeli's home from 1848 to 1881. A popular Victorian writer – more so even than Dickens at the time – Disraeli became a great friend and confidant of Queen Victoria, advising and helping her throughout her reign. The manor was remodelled in 1862 to create the Victorian red-bricked mansion we see today, and still houses Disraeli's impressive and beloved library.
Built in 1842, this family home gives insight into Victorian country life; visitors can see a highly decorated Romany Gypsy caravan from the era, traditional horse-drawn carriages and displays on carpentry and blacksmiths. Explore the intimate family library, Victorian toys in the day nursery and well-equipped kitchen painted in traditional blue to ward off flies.
Designed in the manner of a French chateau, John and Joséphine Bowes purpose built it as a museum to bring their love of the arts to the local community. Joséphine laid the foundation stone in 1869 and the couple collected over 15,000 objects to exhibit. The most-loved item is the magnificent life-sized mechanical Silver Swan, a musical automaton that is still operated daily.
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