Regency style is associated with the Regency era (1811-1820), which occurred during King George III's mental illness. This was the reign of George IV as Prince Regent of the United Kingdom.
The UK's involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, which resulted in shortages of some traditional building materials and high taxes on others, was a major influencing factor of the Regency style. This slowed construction across the country until the victory at Waterloo in 1815. Much of the Regency architecture was constructed after this time period, using materials that had been used during the shortages.
Regency style is sometimes considered a continuation of, or a component of, the Georgian period (which is generally considered to have begun in 1714 and lasted until approximately 1837).
Regency style, as an aesthetic movement, encompasses not only architecture but also other forms of design. This includes both home furnishings (such as wallpaper, textiles, and other decorative arts) and painting, as well as clothing styles.
The late-Georgian treatment of classical revival architecture distinguished one type of Regency style architecture. Regency architecture of the neoclassical style, described as refined elegance, incorporates simple symmetrical proportions and elements of Greek and Roman architecture.
While many Regency structures served religious, educational, commercial, and other official purposes, the style is also associated with upper and middle-class housing during the period. During the Regency period, homes were frequently brick constructions with decorative features. This distinguished them from their Georgian contemporaries, who tended to lack ornamentation and to have flat facades with windows and doors set back from the frontage.
Regency row houses (or terraced houses) were very popular during this period, with symmetrical proportions and flat or shallow roofs.
These Regency-style townhouses are located on Marlborough Place in Brighton.
Individual homes frequently had columns next to the front door, which were topped by a fan window. The rows of houses were sometimes arranged in the shape of a crescent, with other elements of classical architecture incorporated at the row's entrance.
Tall, thin windows with small panes of glass were common in neoclassical Regency style homes. Some windows (especially those facing the garden) reached all the way to the ground. Other residences featured curved bow windows with simple proportions.
Another common feature of Regency homes was balconies. They were frequently made of fine ironwork, with delicate curves that complemented the simple classical lines of the columns and windows.
Evolving Regency Styles
Later, the Regency style diverged from the classical approach into other stylistic revivals, such as medieval (also known as Gothic Revival and lasting well into the Victorian period), Indian, Chinese, and other international influences. These interpretations were embellished with fanciful columns, moulded cornices, and other decorative elements made of modern materials, such as stucco or plaster, rather than stone, and reinforced with iron reinforcements.
This departure was incorporated into country homes associated with the picturesque and romantic movement in architecture, reflecting the public's taste for buildings inspired by medieval design and association with nature.
With its complex and irregular shapes and forms that blend well with the natural landscape, this style was promoted as an appropriate design for rural settings. As a result, the Gothic Revival Regency style was frequently used for country homes and houses in rural or small town settings.
John Nash and the Regency Style
One of the most prominent Regency architects was John Nash. Nash (1752-1835) had a long and varied career that peaked under the patronage of Prince Regent (later King George IV).
Nash reinterpreted the Georgian style Royal Crescent of Bath for the creation of Regent's Park and Regent Street (1811 onwards), resulting in a masterful combination of freedom and formality in the neoclassical adaptation of the Regency style.
The Royal Brighton Pavilion, which Nash worked on from 1815 to 1822, is at the opposite end of the Regency spectrum. The Pavilion, with its Indian and Chinese influences and lavish decorative interiors, epitomises the departure from the classical revival and the emergence of a more fanciful interpretation of the Regency style.