Victorian Architecture & the Buildings of Kingsland

The 19th century was a time of expansion and change, reflecting a successful industrial revolution, a great empire and social and monetary growth. Nowhere was this more exemplified than in the realms of architecture and building. Victorian architecture embraced styles ranging from ‘Rectory’, Gothic, Romanesque, Classical and Elizabethan to name but a few. Mercer (2003) has provided an excellent overview.

The new buildings on Kingsland have elements of many of these styles. However, the houses on Kingsland Estate do not reflect the work of a single builder or estate planner. Consequently, compared with many other Victorian housing estates, Kingsland is unusual in the diversity of its architectural detail, but restrained by conservative attitudes in a small market town. Herein lies the charm, interest and importance of Kingsland to scholars of the Victorian period. A Victorian Society leaflet in 1991 comments “It was always intended that the suburb should have a high-class ambience and that was achieved from the start; the presence of a leading public school obviously helped. None of the houses has been demolished and there has been minimal in-filling, so that the whole area provides an excellent example of a late Victorian suburb in good health.” “Since most of the houses were built around the same time, there is a common theme in their design, ie red-brick, various degree of asymmetry, terracotta decoration and black-and-white-gables –“.

During the latter half of the 19th century, Shrewsbury had several good architects and builders. The former included men such as E. B. Benson, A. B. Deakin, A. E. Lloyd Oswell (architect for Shrewsbury High School for Girls on Town Walls, and for the Sentinel Wagon Works in Harlescott), Pountney Smith and A. H. Taylor. The local builders included W. Bowdler, James Cock Jnr, J. Gethin, Oliver Jones, R. Price, J. Parson Smith and H. H. Treasure. There was an array of mass-produced building and decorative materials – Lilleshall Bricks, bricks made locally in Copthorne, and roofing tiles from Ruabon and from J. Parson Smith. Glazed tiles for walls and fireplaces, encaustic tiles for floors and terra cotta tiles were available from local factories such as Craven Dunnill, Maw and Minton. Cast iron was a widely used material in Victorian times, and excellent fireplaces were made at Coalbrookdale. The other important factor in this new development of Kingsland was an ample supply of skilled yet inexpensive labour.

The School Buildings

Work on the School buildings began in 1879 when Treasure sought permission for a tramway to be built from a brickworks at Copthorne to Kingsland. This was needed to carry the large amount of bricks needed for the development. This tramway is clearly marked on the OS map for 1882.

The House of Industry (or School Building as it was later known) was an imposing but rather plain structure, set high on the south bank of the Severn for all to see. It was originally designed in 1760 by the local architect T. F. Pritchard. In 1872-1882, Mr (later Sir) Arthur Blomfield was commissioned to adapt the building for school use. Internally, he refurbished throughout leaving only the original oak balustrade staircase. Externally, he sought to relieve the building of its austere appearance by adding a higher roof, dormer windows, low chimneys and the cupola, thus giving a pleasing effect in the classical style. Stylistically, some of the work on the School building is attributed to Sir Arthur’s nephew, Reginald Blomfield, who was working in his uncle’s office at the time. The Blomfields also designed School House (2 Ashton Road) in a Queen Anne style which complemented the main School building. The School Chapel which is in Gothic style was also designed by the Blomfields, but Kempe designed much of the interior. Both the main School building and the Chapel are now Grade II listed.

The first three school boarding houses were built in Ashton Road by their housemasters at their own expense: these were Rigg’s (1882), Churchill’s (1882) and Moser’s (1886). All were designed by the London architect William White (1825-1900) whose specialty was polychrome brickwork – a little of which can be seen in Moser’s (built by Yates of Shifnal). Willink and Thicknesse of Liverpool were the architects for Ingram’s Hall (1900) and W. A. Forsyth the architect for Oldham’s in 1912.

The high-pitched gable roofs and warm mellow bricks present an attractive facade of Victorian buildings in Ashton Road.

Next chapter: Other School Buildings/Canonbury


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: