The Queen Anne Style of Architecture
Keywords: Queen Anne, Queen Anne style, Sir George Gilbert Scott, J.J. Stevenson, On the Recent Re-action of Taste, House Architecture, London School Board, Red House Bayswater, Victorian Board School, Norman Shaw, E.R. Robson, sweetness and light The Queen Anne style ostensibly was based on the architecture produced during the reign of Queen Anne (1701-1714). In practice, Queen Anne was an eclectic style incorporating Classical, Flemish and French Renaissance influences. Queen Anne gained support as the Gothic Revival declined in popularity during the 1870s and 80s. The younger generation of architects reacted against the strictures of Gothic and ‘defected’ to Queen Anne, which combined freely-treated Classical details with the adaptability of Gothic planning. Sir George Gilbert Scott, the venerable Gothic Revivalist, called Queen Anne a ‘vexacious disturber of the Gothic movement,’ but many of the pioneers of Queen Anne emerged from within Scott’s office. J.J. Stevenson, for example, codified the shift with his essay ‘On the Recent Re-action of Taste’ (1874), and subsequently published House Architecture (1880), an unusually temperate architectural manifesto that proclaimed the merits of the style. He signalled this transition with the Red House in Bayswater, an exemplary Queen Anne house designed for his own occupation (1871). G.F. Bodley and Thomas Garner designed the London School Board offices on the Embankment (1873) in a rich Queen Anne style. Foremost among the Scott alumni was Robson, who established Queen Anne as the style of the Victorian School Boards, thanks to his pioneering designs and extensive publications.
As a versatile and informal style, Queen Anne could be applied to the freely planned, multi-storey buildings that were essential for accommodating unprecedented numbers of children. Unlike Gothic, it had no religious dimension; it therefore allowed schools to transcend denominational rivalry. Although the style drew on the past, in particular the simple brick vernacular of the Jacobean, Queen Anne and early Georgian periods, it was adapted to the exigencies of the present and the radically new building type.
Scotland Yard, London, by Norman Shaw
The Queen Anne style emerged as part of the Domestic Revival in English architecture. The red brick houses of Norman Shaw, J.J. Stevenson and others were a response to the lack of picturesque architecture in London. These architects developed a style that stepped deftly between ponderous Victorian Classicism and the dogmatic Gothic Revival. Principally used in the affluent neighbourhoods of the West End, the Queen Anne style ‘flourished because it satisfied all the latest aspirations of the English middle classes.’
A Norman Shaw house designed for the illustrator Kate Greenaway in Frognal, 1885
Robson did not directly address the rhetorical properties of the style, but the middle class associations remained pertinent when he adapted it for use in working class schools. The Queen Anne Board Schools gave form to Progressive middle class values and served as beacons of enlightenment or, in Robson’s words, as ‘sermons in brick.’
A Queen Anne style church, St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park by Norman Shaw
For more information on Victorian Board Schools, please see: