Ten Victorian houses

  • 12 May 2015

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 this summer.


1. Knightshayes, Devon
Free entry with National Art Pass

William Burgess was one of the great Victorian art-architects; echoing the Pre-Raphaelites and Arts and Crafts movement, Burgess was 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.

2. Mount Stuart, Argyll
Reduced price with National Art Pass

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 astrological alignment of the owner, Lord Bute’s birthday.

3. Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Free entry with National Art Pass

Built by Queen Victoria as a seaside retreat, Osborne House gives the visitor a unique insight to the monarch’s personal taste and intimate family life. The magnificent Italianate summer house has lavish state rooms as you’d expect, but 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.

4. Tyntesfield, Somerset
Free entry with National Art Pass

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 throughout the gloriously-decorated rooms, such as ice skates and picnic sets, as well visit the beautiful private chapel they worshipped in.

5. Red House, London
Free entry with National Art Pass

The Arts and Crafts movement had a huge impact on Victorian aesthetics, popularising highly decorative and illustrative textiles, embroidery, stained glass, wallpapers, furniture and friezes often depicting Biblical fables, medieval fairytales and the natural world. Red House 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 and contributors.

Stained glass at Blackwell House

Stained glass at Blackwell House

6. Blackwell House of Arts and Crafts, Cumbria

50% off with National Art Pass

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 and curious window catches and many more aesthetic intricacies can be discovered throughout the house.

7. Cardiff Castle, Cardiff

Free entry with National Art Pass

Built on a medieval fortress, Cardiff Castle was given a new lease of life by Lord Bute – Britain’s richest man in 1868 – who commissioned no other than William Burgess to transform the site into a stunning Neo-Gothic palace. The apartments are adorned with richly decorated wooden carvings, stained glass and marble.

8. Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

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.

9. Scolton Manor, Pembrokeshire
Free entry with National Art Pass

Built in 1842, this family home gives insight into Victorian country life; visitors can see a highly decorated 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.

10. Bowes Museum, County Durham
Free entry with National Art Pass

Designed in the manner of a French chateau, John and Josephine Bowes purpose built the museum to bring their love of the arts to John’s local community. Josephine laid the foundation stone in 1869 and the couple collected over 15,000 objects to exhibit. The most-loved object is the magnificent life-sized mechanical Silver Swan which is still operated daily.

To get 50% off major exhibitions and free entry to over 220 museums, galleries and historic places, buy a National Art Pass.

Tags: Great days outMuseums and galleriesWhat to see