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Annmarie Adams on The Edwardian House

17 December, 2020

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (1994) review ‘The Edwardian House: The Middle-class Home in Britain 1880-1914, Journal of Historical Geography, Apr.1 1994, 211-212

Compared to its Victorian predecessor, the middle-class Edwardian house has received scant attention from architectural historians. This is somewhat surprising, given that the architectural  reforms which occurred in the first decade of the twentieth century have long been seen by scholars as the seeds of the so-called modern movement. British domestic architecture of this time, however, has been understood almost exclusively as the conclusion of trends which began during the reign of Victoria. This is despite the fact that major spatial and technological changes revolutionised the middle-class home in England during Edward’s reign, from 1901-10. Helen Long’s new book attempts to redress this imbalance in the literature.

Following the classic approaches to the British house pioneered by architectural historians such as Stefan Muthesius (who wrote the foreword of Long’s book), John Summerson, Donald Olsen, and Mark Girouard, Long sees the Edwardian house as a product of both social and architectural forces. The book’s organisation reflects this position. Sections one through four concern the social origins of the Edwardian house, while the following nine sections deal with specific building parts and materials, such as doors, windows, and built-in furniture, among others. The focus, throughout the text, is on ordinary, rather than extraordinary houses. Using mostly prescriptive literature and ‘ideal’ homes exhibited to the public at the time, Long shows how actual Edwardian houses compared to the idyllic images drawn by novelists, household advisers, and architects, among other experts… .

Following Muthesius’ The English Terraced House (1982) and more recent studies such as Tanis Hinchcliffe’s North Oxford (I992), Long attempts in The Edwardian House to explain the important roles played by builders, trade unions, manufacturers, and homeowners themselves during this prolific period. Stunning photographs illustrate the differences between particular materials and processes; one of the book’s appendices comprises an extensive analysis of the timber, marble, plaster, and metal trades, which is a much-needed contribution to our understanding of the economics of building materials.

Annmarie Adams on The Edwardian House

This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (1994) review ‘The Edwardian House: The Middle-class Home in Britain 1880-1914’, Journal of Historical Geography, Apr.1 1994, 211-212