High Victorian Gothic

Last updated
St. Pancras railway station by Sir Gilbert Scott St Pancras Railway Station 2012-06-23.jpg
St. Pancras railway station by Sir Gilbert Scott

High Victorian Gothic was an eclectic architectural style and movement during the mid-late 19th century. [1] It is seen by architectural historians as either a sub-style of the broader Gothic Revival style, or a separate style in its own right. [2]


Promoted and derived from the works of the architect and theorist John Ruskin, though it eventually diverged, it is sometimes referred to as Ruskinian Gothic. [3] It is characterised by the use of polychrome (multi-colour) decoration, "use of varying texture", and Gothic details. [4] The architectural scholar James Stevens Curl describes it thus: "Style of the somewhat harsh polychrome structures of the Gothic Revival in the 1850s and 1860s when Ruskin held sway as the arbiter of taste. Like High Gothic, it is an unsatisfactory term, as it poses the question as to what is 'Low Victorian'. 'Mid-Victorian' would, perhaps, be more useful, but precise dates and description of styles would be more so." [5]

Among the best-known practitioners of the style were William Butterfield, [6] Sir Gilbert Scott, [7] G. E. Street, [8] and Alfred Waterhouse. Waterhouse's Victoria Building at Liverpool University, described by Sir Charles Reilly (an opponent of Victorian Gothic) as "the colour of mud and blood", [9] was the inspiration for the term "red brick university" (as opposed to Oxbridge and the other ancient universities). [10]

In the 1870s, the style became popular for civic, commercial, and religious architecture in the United States, though was uncommon for residential structures. [11] It was frequently used for what became the "Old Main" of various schools and universities in the late 19th century United States. [4] The Stick Style is sometimes considered the wooden manifestation of the High Victorian Gothic style. [12]


United Kingdom
United States

See also


  1. Campbell, Gordon. "Victorian style", The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Oxford University Press 2006. accessed 22 June 2012 (subscription required)
  2. McAlester, p. 198
  3. Garrigan, Kristine Ottesen. "'Ruskinian Gothic: The Architecture of Deane and Woodward, 1845–1861' by Eve Blau", Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians , Vol. 42, No. 1 (March 1983), pp. 78–80 (subscription required)
  4. 1 2 Browning, pp. 300–301
  5. Curl, James Stevens. "High Victorian", A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Oxford University Press 2006, Oxford Reference Online, accessed 22 June 2012 (subscription required)
  6. Crook, J. Mordaunt. "'William Butterfield' by Paul Thompson", The English Historical Review , Vol. 89, No. 350 (January 1974), pp. 131–133 (subscription required)
  7. Stamp, Gavin. "Sir Gilbert Scott's 'Recollections'", Architectural History , Vol. 19, (1976), pp. 54–73 (subscription required)
  8. Stamp, Gavin. "High Victorian Gothic and the Architecture of Normandy", Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians , Vol. 62, No. 2 (June 2003), pp. 194–211 (subscription required)
  9. Powers, p. 1
  10. The term was coined by Edgar Allison Peers, professor of Spanish at Liverpool University, writing under the pseudonym "Bruce Truscot"; in Redbrick University, 1943, he compares two fictional universities called Redbrick and Oxbridge. See: Oxford English Dictionary , "red brick, n. and adj.", OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press, accessed 22 June 2012 (subscription required))
  11. McAlester, p. 200
  12. McAlester, p. 256
  13. Bearman, Robert (1988). Stratford-upon-Avon: A History of Its Streets and Buildings. Hendon Publishing Co Ltd. p. 10.
  14. "THE KIRNA, B8323". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 27 December 2018.

Related Research Articles

John Ruskin 19th-century English writer and art critic

John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.

Red brick university term for British universities founded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

A red brick university was originally one of the nine civic universities founded in the major industrial cities of England in the 19th century. But with the 1960s proliferation of universities and the reclassification of polytechnics in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, all British universities founded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in major cities are now sometimes so called. Six of the original redbrick institutions, or their predecessor institutes, gained university status before World War I and were initially established as civic science or engineering colleges. Eight of the nine original institutions are members of the Russell Group.

Keble College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Keble College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its main buildings are on Parks Road, opposite the University Museum and the University Parks. The college is bordered to the north by Keble Road, to the south by Museum Road, and to the west by Blackhall Road.

Alfred Waterhouse British architect

Alfred Waterhouse was an English architect, particularly associated with the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, although he designed using other architectural styles as well. He is perhaps best known for his design for Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London, although he also built a wide variety of other buildings throughout the country. Besides his most famous public buildings he designed other town halls, the Manchester Assize buildings bombed in World War II and the adjacent Strangeways Prison. He also designed several hospitals, the most architecturally interesting being the Royal Infirmary Liverpool and University College Hospital London. He was particularly active in designing buildings for universities, including both Oxford and Cambridge but also what became Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds universities. He designed many country houses, the most important being Eaton Hall in Cheshire, largely demolished in 1961-63. He designed several bank buildings and offices for insurance companies, most notably the Prudential Assurance Company. Although not a major church designer he produced several notable churches and chapels. He was both a member of The Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he served a term as President, and a Royal Academician, acting as Treasurer for the Royal Academy.

Gothic Revival architecture Architectural movement

Gothic Revival is an architectural movement popular in the Western world that began in the late 1740s in England. Its momentum grew in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.

Victorian architecture series of architectural revival styles

Victorian architecture is a series of architectural revival styles in the mid-to-late 19th century. Victorian refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. However, many elements of what is typically termed "Victorian" architecture did not become popular until later in Victoria's reign. The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles. The name represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it followed Georgian architecture and later Regency architecture, and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture.

All Saints, Margaret Street Church in United Kingdom

All Saints, Margaret Street, is a Grade I listed Anglican church in London. The church was designed by the architect William Butterfield and built between 1850 and 1859. It has been hailed as Butterfield's masterpiece and a pioneering building of the High Victorian Gothic style that would characterize British architecture from around 1850 to 1870.

Old South Church United States historic place

Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts, is a historic United Church of Christ congregation first organized in 1669. Its present building was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears, completed in 1873, and amplified by the architects Allen & Collens between 1935–1937. The church, which was built on newly filled land in the Back Bay section of Boston, is located at 645 Boylston Street on Copley Square. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970 for its architectural significance as one of the finest High Victorian Gothic churches in New England. It is home to one of the older religious communities in the United States.

Charles Herbert Reilly British architect

Sir Charles Herbert Reilly, was an English architect and teacher. After training in two architectural practices in London he took up a part-time lectureship at the University of London in 1900, and from 1904 to 1933 he headed the Liverpool School of Architecture, which became world-famous under his leadership. He was largely responsible for establishing university training of architects as an alternative to the old system of apprenticeship.

Frederick Thomas Pilkington British architect

Frederick Thomas Pilkington was a British architect, practising in the Victorian High Gothic revival style.

OShea and Whelan

O'Shea and Whelan was an Irish family practice of stonemasons and sculptors from Ballyhooly in County Cork. They were notable for their involvement in Ruskinian gothic architecture in the mid-19th century.

Bedford Block United States historic place

The Bedford Block is an historic commercial building at 99 Bedford Street Boston, Massachusetts in an area called Church Green. Built in 1875 in a style promoted by John Ruskin called Venetian Gothic. The style may also be referred to as Ruskinian Gothic.

<i>The Seven Lamps of Architecture</i> Essay on architecture by John Ruskin

The Seven Lamps of Architecture is an extended essay, first published in May 1849 and written by the English art critic and theorist John Ruskin. The 'lamps' of the title are Ruskin's principles of architecture, which he later enlarged upon in the three-volume The Stones of Venice. To an extent, they codified some of the contemporary thinking behind the Gothic Revival. At the time of its publication, A. W. N. Pugin and others had already advanced the ideas of the Revival and it was well under way in practice. Ruskin offered little new to the debate, but the book helped to capture and summarise the thoughts of the movement. The Seven Lamps also proved a great popular success, and received the approval of the ecclesiologists typified by the Cambridge Camden Society, who criticised in their publication The Ecclesiologist lapses committed by modern architects in ecclesiastical commissions.

Prudential Assurance Building, Liverpool office building in Liverpool, England

The Prudential Assurance Building is a Grade II listed, Victorian Gothic revival style office building located on Dale Street in the centre of Liverpool, England.

Great Hall of the University of Leeds building at Leeds University

The Great Hall is a grade II listed Gothic Revival building located at the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England. The building is primarily used for formal occasions such as graduation ceremonies and university students' examinations. Its undercroft was previously utilised to house the university library collections before the Brotherton Library opened in 1936. The Great Hall is one illustration of the many diverse styles of buildings on the campus of the University of Leeds; it is an example of red brick architecture associated with the term red brick university.

Victorian restoration movement to refurbish and rebuild Church of England churches and cathedrals

The Victorian restoration was the widespread and extensive refurbishment and rebuilding of Church of England churches and cathedrals that took place in England and Wales during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria. It was not the same process as is understood today by the term building restoration.

Polychrome brickwork Use of bricks of different colours for decoration

Polychrome brickwork is a style of architectural brickwork which emerged in the 1860s as a feature of gothic revival architecture, wherein bricks of different colours were used in patterned combination to highlight architectural features. It was often used to replicate the effect of quoining and also decorate around windows. Early examples featured banding, with later examples exhibiting complex diagonal, criss-cross and step patterns, in some cases even writing using bricks.

Bishops House, Birmingham

The Bishop's House in Birmingham, England was designed by Augustus Pugin as the residence of Thomas Walsh, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham. It was situated opposite St Chad's Cathedral, on the corner of Bath Street and Weaman Street in Birmingham City Centre.