Georgian and Regency Era Timeline
The Georgian Era is normally defined as including the reigns of King George I, II, III and IV beginning in 1714. It includes the sub era of The Regency, 1811 – 1820, defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales, during the time his father George III was deemed unfit to rule. The Georgian era is most often extended to include the short reign of William IV, which ended with his death in 1837.
Although the formal Regency lasted from 1811-1820, the term Regency era often refers to the period 1795 – 1837 which encompasses the latter part of the reign of George III and the reigns of his sons George IV, as Prince Regent and King, and William IV. It is characterised by distinctive trends in British architecture, culture, fashion and politics. The Regency era formally ended in 1837 when Queen Victoria succeeded William IV.
Georgian Era Fireplace Design
The Georgian period was a time of immense social change in Britain, with the beginnings of Industrial Revolution, which intensified class divisions. The preoccupations of Georgian society were well portrayed in the novels of writers such as Jane Austen and Mary Shelley and the paintings of John Constable and the young J. M. W. Turner.
Many of our great stately homes in the UK were built or renovated using the wealth generated by improved agricultural methods.
Some of the great names of architecture contributed to the best designs of this time: Cohen Campbell, William Kent, James Paine and John Nash. Fine examples of distinctive Georgian architecture can be found throughout inner London, much of Bristol and Bath, Edinburgh’s New Town and of course, Georgian Dublin.
First half of 18th century
The first half of the century saw designers such as William Kent commissioned to provide grand, ornate fireplaces of strict proportions. The fireplaces were to form the focal centrepiece of grand stately rooms in the ‘Palladian’ influence; a style strongly based on the classical orders of temple architecture of the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
Mid 18th century
Fireplace design was revolutionised mid-century by Robert Adam. Fireplaces acquired a light, elegant, and less ornate appearance, displaying finer and sharper low relief carving. The use of inlaid coloured marble also became popular, providing a contrast to the remainder of the fireplace which was always worked from statuary marble.
Early 19th century
By the 1800s fire surrounds began to include roundels (concentric rings) where the jambs (legs) and entablature (superstructure lying horizontally above columns) met below the mantelshelf.
For a further guide to the anatomy of a fireplace see here: http://hurleymarble.co.uk/blog/marble-fireplace-parts-diagram/
Regency Era Fireplace Design
The opening years of the Regency were marked by greatly reduced spending, with Statuary marble becoming prohibitively expensive because of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). This restricted its use until after the victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when a long financial boom began. Most Regency architecture comes from this boom period.
The Prince Regent was granted little input into military or political matters, engaging instead in sensory pursuits. He became a great patron of art and architecture, and high society consequently underwent a small Renaissance. To finance this he borrowed heavily from the treasury, and a huge wealth gap in society was apparent at this time.
John Nash was the architect most associated with the Regency style; responsible for the large terraces of Regent’s Park in London. This style was widely disseminated. In the areas around Pimlico and Mayfair, John Soane’s more neoclassical style was also popular amongst architects.
The Regency period certainly saw a more reserved approach to the use of classical ornament. Corniced shelves were replaced with simpler shelves. Reeding (convex ridges) became popular on flatter legs or even on Greek Columns, supporting the fireplace header.
Reeding also became common on the frieze, as did acanthus leaves, Wedgwood ceramics or motifs from Greek and Roman mythology. Indeed a range of eclectic revival styles were emerging at this time with Gothic and even Egyptian influences used as an alternative to the main neoclassical stream.