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Victorian

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Although ubiquitously employed, the term 'Victorian' is seldom defined as an architectural style. In The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture (4th Edition, 1991) one is referred to the entry on English architecture and there the term is introduced on a defensive note 'But Victorian architecture is not all license and exuberance'. It continues '[There is] a respect for the past, a historicism taken very seriously as a matter of religious or social responsibility. The license is usually paramount in domestic, the seriousness in ecclesiastical architecture.' This moral aspect of Victorian architecture is most readily found in ecclesiastical architecture, particularly that of the Anglican Church, and one of the best exponents of the style is Sophia GRAY (1814-1871). As with those of Gray, the churches of BAKER and his office, as official architect to the Anglican Church, also reflect the style [although in this restrained form on this site termed Kentish Style]. The license of domestic Victorian architecture derived from the pattern books and the products of industrialisation, corrugated iron being the pervasive roofing material, the structure embellished by prefabricated catalogue components (MacFarlanes of Scotland being at the forefront). Hence balustrades, railings, columns and roof combs all lent to being pre-styled in the prevailing taste for Adamesque decoration, including the stucco-work of ceilings being translated into pressed steel. It is thus apparent that the most exuberant expressions of the style would be in the homes of the nouveau riche - the ostrich palaces, homes of the mining magnates, or of the entrepreneurs that followed in their wake. (See Greig, D.1971. A guide to architecture in South Africa). The term Victorian is now often used as a blanket term for all the contemporary eclectic styling throughout South Africa, but it should be remembered that until the end of the Anglo-Boer War the Free State and Transvaal were independent Republics and attracted architects from European, rather than British tradition. Hence the need for a separate style term, 'Wilhelmiens'.