Before Victorian times, the most common building materials were those local to the area – buildings of the local material are sometimes called of Vernacular style. So the Cotswold villages were built of white Jurassic limestone, much of central England had buildings of red sandstone, Cornwall towns in the south and Aberdeen in the north were built with local granites, and where there was no local hard stone, for example in Norwich, buildings were faced with flints.
Most of the early homes, especially those built in England, were built of stone, and enhanced with decorative “stone tracery”. The number of full-blown Gothic stone mansions was never large. Only the wealthy could afford such homes which required the labors of highly skilled stone carvers. The costly Gothic style was eventually translated into wood, and thousands of “Carpenter Gothic” houses still stand.
With the beginning of the railways and new manufacturing processes, previously locally produced building materials became available all over the country. This meant the end of all houses in the local area being built using the same building materials. Houses made of local stone, timber and straw could now, for example, be built of bricks from Bedfordshire and slate from North Wales.
Portland Limestone was the common white, often fossiliferous, the stone used across England for public buildings, e.g. most of Whitehall. Equally popular is the Bath Stone, orangish sandstone of great beauty. More highly coloured reddish sandstone is the Permian sandstone, which often weathers to give a deeply pitted and honeycombed appearance, for example on the walls of embankments on seaside towns.
The equivalent old dark limestone is the Permian Limestone, typically almost black with white quartz veins, and very hard but polishing with wear – much of Victorian Weston-Super-Mare is made from such stone.
The Victorian age saw a renaissance of brick. The local brick-making material for London was the London Clay, and these bricks are yellow or greenish-yellow in colour. Older, hand-pressed bricks are often irregular in shape and have lines and squeeze-marks – these are called Stock Bricks.
Later, as mentioned, the Oxford Clay bricks dominated, in the plain red of most modern bricks. Much railway architecture used a high-fired Black brick. Minton’s perfected the encaustic tile (i.e. with the colour in the material of the tile rather than just on the surface, and so more permanent) and thereafter tile-covered buildings, especially public houses, became common, with the second flourishing in art nouveau decorations after the turn of the century.
A Victorian house was a house constructed during the Victorian era, approximately 1840 to 1900. During the Victorian era, industrialization brought new building materials and techniques. Architecture saw rapid changes. A variety of Victorian styles emerged, each with its own distinctive features.
The most popular Victorian styles spread quickly through widely published pattern books. Builders often borrowed characteristics from several different styles, creating unique, and sometimes quirky, mixes.
Despite the availability of these new products, vast numbers of the working population in the countryside were still living in tiny cottages, hovels, and shacks well into the 20th century. In towns, poor people lived in back-to-back houses called terraced houses.