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February 2021

What are some of the key characteristics of a Georgian property?

Spanning from 1714-1830 the Georgian era is named after the Hanoverian Monarchs George I, II, II and-IV who reigned continuously throughout this period. During this era in Scotland architects were inspired by elements and forms from Classical Roman and Greek architecture. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Edinburgh known as the ‘Athens of the North’ and where the greatest movement of Greek Revivalism saw public buildings in the city take the forms found in Greek temple architecture.

Georgian domestic architecture similarly displayed elements of classical architecture such as pilasters, architraves, and friezes.

Buildings were principally constructed from masonry typified by Ashlar: finely dressed stone blocks, laid in courses, and used mainly for facing walls on front elevations. It was the most expensive form of facing stone and was mainly used on street frontages.

Rubblework or roughly dressed stone was most often used on basements and rear elevations.

Sash windows are used throughout and consist of two glazed sashes which slide vertically in a frame. Windows originally were subdivided into several panes by an arrangement of timber astragals. Numbers of panes can vary from street to street but six panes in each sash are most common. As the first floor or ‘piano nobile’ was considered the most important floor in a Georgian property it accommodates the principal drawing room. Ceilings were high and cill heights lowered to create floor-to-ceiling windows meaning that these elegant spaces benefit from maximum daylight.

The Georgian interior often boasts rooms with decorative details such as delicate plasterwork cornices, dado panelling and fireplaces. Carved timber mantelpieces were common and large mirrors were placed over them to increase the sense of light in the room. Later mantelpieces were made from marble, the most expensive Statuario marble being reserved for the drawing rooms, black marble or slate was most often used for dining rooms.

Symmetry is an important feature in these interiors, and many have dummy doors to achieve this. However, these doors often have a practical function not just preserving proportions but also concealing storage in the form of an Edinburgh Press: a shelved wall recess.

Although the Georgian houses in Edinburgh’s New Town appear to conform to pleasing overall uniformity the plans and detailing of the individual properties vary hugely which all contribute to their enduring desirability.

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