Victorian Architecture in England and Scotland8 April, 2011
A short walk through either Manchester or Edinburgh’s city centres will be enough to convince you of the rich Victorian history running through the cities’ veins. Hotels in Manchester and Edinburgh are plentiful and offer a fantastic opportunity to really take in these historic destinations.
Both cities experienced massive growth during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. The massive growth in the expansion of the British Empire and the rise of industries such as cotton and coal resulted in mass growth in technology and city growth.
To visit either city, HotelClub UK accommodation would be a good place to start. Many of the more prestigious accommodations in both cities have existed since the Victorian era and in themselves offer a unique insight into the past. Of course, many renovations have taken place since their original construction, but both cities have worked exceptionally hard to keep building in keeping with their cultural background where possible.
The Scottish capital originally had city walls and this area is referred to as the Old Town. However, towards the end of the 18th century over-population had forced city planners to extend Edinburgh, and architect James Criag won the competition to design what would eventually become Edinburgh’s New Town. The new settlement became a huge success, although many of the original plans were changed during the 19th century. Expansion was exceptionally quick, but a picturesque layout was maintained and is visible from the windows of many Edinburgh hotels.
Few Georgian buildings still exist in the new town layout, but its Victorian heritage has been much maintained. There is a distinct mix of old and new buildings, but during the 70s the New Town Conservation Committee stopped the tearing down of any distinct historical landmarks.
Quite stunningly, a very interesting example of Victorian architecture in Edinburgh exists within the walls of the city’s castle. A military prison and hospital were both built within its grounds during the 19th century in an attempt to improve and romanticise the landmark.
A similar Victorian boom occurred in the northern city of Manchester. Much of the architecture found in the city harks back to its days as the global centre for the cotton trade, when mass expansion and canal construction changed the city forever.
Many of the original cotton mills and warehouses have since been converted for other uses, but the city has ensured that the external appearance remains practically the same. Many architects and historians agree that the style of the buildings in the city, constructed during the Industrial Revolution, resemble that of Venetian architecture derived from Italy.
A brisk walk across Manchester will give you a host of Victorian buildings to look at. To the south and the east of the famed Albert Square, Manchester is flooded with Victorian buildings; furthermore, the Bridgewater Canal is also surrounded by Victorian architecture in this historic city.
Much like Edinburgh, Manchester has a host of monuments and statues erected during the 19th century. In Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens you can see a large monument dedicated to Queen Victoria, while in the Albert Square you will find statues dedicated to Prince Albert, James Frasier, Oliver Heywood and William Gladstone.
Deansgate, perhaps one of Manchester’s most famous thoroughfares, is full of Victorian architecture. The area is filled with shops and bars, but above the store lights, you can see the original buildings as they once were. Furthermore, Manchester Town Hall, the John Rylands Library and Manchester Cathedral are all exceptional examples of the Victorian gothic revival style.
Unfortunately, many of the most beautiful Victorian buildings were demolished during the Blitz bombings of the Second World War. Some were restored following the aftermath of the destruction, but unfortunately, changes in fashion and the expansion of the growing world encouraged architects to work on the principal that form should follow function.
A push to rebuild Britain’s destroyed heritage led to cheap short-term buildings, many of which have been replaced, while some of the more prestigious buildings were only replaced with a plaque. Today, however, the history of these cities is celebrated in the abundance of photos, paintings and recollections of these wonderful buildings.
In any given public house in either Edinburgh or Manchester you can usually see photos of the wonderful surroundings of life during the 19th century. Although both cities have worked exceptionally hard to maintain what they have left, it is always worth researching through books, libraries and online to find some fascinating photos of what life once was like.