Look inside a Georgian townhouse

Look inside a Georgian townhouse

Ever wonder just what the inside of a typical London townhouse in an upper-crust neighborhood looked like? Of course there were variations in design, size, styling, and decor. These cutouts and floor plans give an idea of what was standard.

 

1750 London townhouse
1750 townhouse cutaway

 

The typical London townhouse of the 18th century was a brick-built, flat-fronted house on four or five floors with regularly spaced sash windows and often a canopy over the front door. As in the previous century, the ground floor was sometimes used as a shop or for running a business and the houses were built on the line of the pavement with no front garden.

 

Mayfair townhouse
A house on Charles Street in Berkeley Square
Georgian dollhouse
Georgian dollhouse (click for larger view)
1720 Georgian
Etching from 1720

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Regency Town House was built on what had already become the traditional layout for town houses. The domestic offices for the servants were in the basement, the formal rooms were on the ground and first floors and the bedrooms on the floors above. Due to higher land prices in towns, even large houses tended to be built upwards on long, narrow plots. At the back of the house there was a coach house, stable block and quarters for the coachmen and grooms.
Grosvenor plan

British History Online has several pages of house plans and descriptions for Grosvenor Square before 1926: HERE  Thanks to my pal and fellow Austen Author Jennifer Petkus for leading me to this site.

 

townhouse cutout

 

Not all Georgian townhouses were narrow, however. Wealth afforded wider street-front property in the posh residential neighborhoods such as Kensington, Mayfair, and St. James. Some of the mansions built within these districts leaned toward being independent houses rather than true townhouses with joined side walls. The image below of Lansdowne House on Berkeley Square is difficult to read, but note the corner location, enormous walled courtyard, and huge rooms. The map down further shows the location on a lovely single lot between two streets, another example of London city living.

 

1765 Lansdowne
Plans of Lansdowne (Shelbourne) House 1765, designed by Robert Adam as a private house and for most of its time as a residence it belonged to the Petty-FitzMaurice family, Marquesses of Lansdowne and earls of Shelbourne (hence the name Shelbourne on the plan).
Selfridge_LansdowneHouse_Greenwood'sMapLondon1830edited_wiki
Note Lansdowne House between Charles & Bolton Streets, SW corner of Berkeley Square.

 

A wonderful resource on English houses through the eras is this book, written in 1864 by Robert Kerr and available on Google Books: The Gentleman’s House, or How to Plan English Residences.

 

27 Comments for Look inside a Georgian townhouse

    • Yes, indeed. I often wondered if folks got plump from all the multi-course dinners in the evening. Maybe climbing the stairs helped keep weight down. Whoa to anyone with leg or foot problems. What a lot of rooms! Thank you for sharing.

  1. Fabulous post, thanks so much! I kept going back to Berkeley Square, but the frontage is all I’ve ever seen. It’s great to understand a bit more about what’s actually behind it. It’s a bit depressing to see the 1950s (or 70s) buildings that stand where the gardens of Devonshire House or Lansdowne House used to be, or a Pret instead of Gunter’s but hey, such is progress. Have you seen the Lansdowne dining room at the Met?

  2. Thank you so much for this post! It was nice to “see” more of a typical regency townhouse and to also see the floor plans.

  3. I loved this post! I looked at a lot of floor plans before describing Darcy’s townhouse in one of my stories (because the story ended once they got to Pemberley) so it was neat to see more! Something else few people know/recall is that rich families were essentially neighborhood developers and owned every house on the square that others leased. In my story I had Darcy own the townhouse outright but it be smaller and from a maternal grandmother (the homes from that era were smaller, and they had not remodeled as the family soon leased it out and rented something larger). For this particular Darcy, I wanted him to have a legacy to be proud of (owning the townhouse) even if it wasn’t the most opulent (a smaller house). Fun post!

  4. This is fantastic! I just finished the final proof of my novel today (YAY!!!!!), but now I think I’m going to change a family scene from the sitting room to the morning room. The sitting room gets way too much attention anyway! Thank you for this!

  5. Thank you, Sharon. Very interesting and puts you right in the crowded, busy city. I can almost hear the horses and carriages driving by. Makes you understand why they loved their lush country estates.

    • A “deed room” or “strong closet” (see Grosvenor layout) were secure rooms for keeping important documents, deeds for the estate, ledgers, and so on. Typically they were in a very secure location, thus usually adjoining the butler’s office, and were fireproof. The butler was the top household servant, and would be the only one (aside from the master) who had a key to the room. Important business dealings to do with the household management would take place in the butler’s office, so he needed ready access to documents. It would be unseemly to disrupt the family or master, or walk through private areas!

  6. I love this! So informative and I can’t help but believe Mr. Darcy’s house was more on the line of Lansdowne! Otherwise all my stories would not make sense. heh heh

  7. They seem to be short on bedrooms. Where would guests or children sleep? I like imaginary houses better for they can expand to hold a family of ten as well as all the needed servants with rooms left over for guests.
    I do wish I could have a large replica of a regency House.

    • Hi Nancy! I think the seeming “shortage” of bedrooms in the layouts is simply because the drawings stop at the second storey. Bedchambers would be on the upper floors, the number depending on the townhouse’s size.

  8. While not exactly Regency England, there are surviving town homes in Charleston, SC built in the same time frame, in the Georgian style, called Rainbow Row. The houses are SO tall, 4 or 5 stories, easy! Just the scale of them is intimidating on the street! But the layouts are similar and many still have the original carriage houses.

    • Never been to Charleston (Its on the bucket list!) but I know what you mean. San Francisco, among many other older towns in the US, has the same Georgian townhouse structure. Now they are often revamped into apartments, but if one knows what to look for you can see the stairs to the basement that once were servants’ quarters, for instance. Or the narrow back alleyways to even smaller apartments or teeny garages that once were the mews for horses and carriages. Pretty cool!

    • Comes down to different styles of architecture and living, I suppose. And perhaps the technical facts of heating as well. Modern central heating and cooling systems are efficient for wide open spaces and vaulted ceilings. Being able to shut doors to unused rooms and only heat a single room with the fireplace would work better. Even houses built in the 1970s tended to be boxy.

      But I bet the main reason was due to land being a premium. Rich or middle-class, building a house with everything wanted and needed meant utilizing space cleverly. Reminds me of how RV designers efficiently cram storage areas into teeny places.

      Still, when I envision Darcy House in London, I see an open foyer with a huge staircase. I can’t help it!

  9. Thank you for sharing this with your Readers. It´s absolutely stunning and I always love to read about all aspects of daily life which you provide in abundance.

  10. I just love things like this. So much the best part of history is the fashions homes and customs of the times rather than dates and politics. Thanks for sharing this I will definitely be checking it out again on my pc as it is a bit too small on my phone!!

    • I do SO agree! I’ve tried to delve into the politics of the day, but can’t stay interested. Of course, that is somewhat true of politics now! LOL!

      Yes, do check the pics out bigger! Some are a bit fuzzy, especially Landsdowne, due to the age of the drawing.

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