Despite variations in style, the use of local stone and local building methods give unity to this street
Gradually the furnishing of homes large or small, became a process of accumulating a vast collection of objects, ornamental, useful and useless. The correct taste of the eighteenth-century householder would have been shocked by the number of ill-designed, unhappily ornamented things that were crowded into rooms. Englishmen of all classes loved their homes and design of stair parts balusters, spindles, newel posts, finials was treated with some importance, and although the inhabitants of a couple of rooms in one of the back-to-back houses in the slums of Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham or Manchester, had little reason to love the hovel where they lived, yet the word "home" meant much to them: they resented being turned out, as they frequently were, for non-payment of rent. Everywhere improvements were being made in methods and materials for building; generally they- were misused. The whole land was changing. The forests had practically_ disappeared two hundred years before; now the countryside itself \%-as threatened. No estate was safe, no landowner could be certain that on the borders of his park some factory would not gush smoke into the air. The stage coach gave place to the railway. All rural areas near an industrial town were begrimed, and when a once-clear river reached such a town it was polluted. The progress of the river through the mid-nineteenth century town was thus described by Charles Kingsley:
"Dank and foul, dank and foul,
By the smoky town in its murky cowl;
Foul and dank, foul and dank,
By wharf and sewer and slimy bank;
Darker and darker the farther I go,
Baser and baser the richer grow
But even in the darkened streets of the towns thousands of windows were gay with miniature gardens, for the window-box, with its few sooty plants, often represented the poor townsman's only contact with nature. Towards the middle of the century he had another;; for the aspidistra was introduced, and from its cultivation arose the queer, snobbish legend that every flourishing leaf of the plant represented a hundred pounds of a family's annual income.
Although he was becoming a specialist in solid comfort, it could still be said that above all other things the Englishman demanded privacy. To quote "A Sketch of National Character" published in the European Review with various designs of stair parts balusters, spindles, newel posts, finials during 1825: "His own mind is the castle of his opinions, into which it would be as great a crime for you to break, as it would be for one not having a legal warrant to break into the castle of his house. Even in the construction of that house, you find evidence of that power which loosens him from all other matters, and binds him to himself; for, however inconvenient it may be for his weighty self, and his weightier spouse, to waddle up and down half a dozen flights of trap stairs, he will consent to have no family either in the floor above him, or in the floor under him. Be the house large or small, palace, or pile of chip-boxes, he must, when he goes out, be able to lock the door, and put the key in his pocket; and when he is in, there must be nothing about the pile, save the earth, the Englishman and the sky."
DESIGN OF STAIR PARTS BALUSTERS, SPINDLES, NEWEL POSTS, FINIALS THE VICTORIAN HOME
Like the Elizabethans before them, the Victorians had an appetite for profusion. The country was again dominated not only by a new rich class, but by newly created wealth. Industrial development brought immense riches to the nation, and once again the English, because of their industry and shipping, found themselves, to repeat a quotation made earlier, "competitors for the domination of the earth". Again it could be said "no wonder that their hearts distended with pride, and, hardening in their strength, gloried. A new sense of exaltation possessed the country-, the exaltation of knowledge and power."
The exultant belief in their country, in progress and in them, made the Victorians demand magnificence in interior design like the design of stair parts balusters, spindles, newel posts, finials; but they also demanded comfort, and the result was ostentation. The Elizabethans `had little sense of comfort, but they had a sense of fitness and an eve for beauty. The Victorians parted with all sense of fitness, and the houses of the rich resembled the Stuart houses of the early seventeenth century, and could be described in much the same words. Everything was overdone; everything was complicated by a vulgar profusion of carving and embellishment; every article sagged under masses of ornament. Taste had thickened.2 Simplicity was confused with poverty; good proportion in architecture was neither understood nor recognised; and so far as the visual arts were concerned, England became a country of the blind.
Architecture ceased to express the needs of life: the love o£ picturesque effects, the romantic taste for Gothic, and the writings of John Ruskin all helped toyconfuse the ideas of the nobility, the gentry and the new, aggressivelyprosperous middle classes. Houses were no, longer designed with an eye to good proportion: they were put into fancy dress-something old or something foreign. Buskin, who hated the orderly beauty of classic architecture, urged people to destroy its harmonious effects by adding Gothic features and oddments of ornament to their houses. "Do not be afraid of incongruities," he said;"do not think of unities of effect. Introduce your Gothic line by line and stone by stone; never mind mixing it with your present architecture; your existing houses will be none the worse for having little bits of better work fitted to them; build a porch, orpoint a window, if you can do nothing else; and remember that it is the glory of Gothic architecture that it can do anything. Many people and some architects thought it could do everything, and as artistic merit in design of stair parts balusters, spindles, newel posts, finials was often measured by intricacy of design and elaboration of workmanship, the Victorian house, large or small, became a highly ornamental place, inside and out. Unfortunately this passion for ornament did not achieve gaiety; it imposed fussiness. A fresh generation of speculative builders adopted Ruskin's advice about building Gothic porches and pointing windows. The new suburbs that every city was thrusting into the countryside displayed a mixture of ideas, drawn from German castles, French chateaux and Italian Renaissance palaces. The simple, well-balanced masses of classic architecture were replaced by intricate and broken outlines. Roofs rose steeply and were variegated by gables, turrets and dormer windows, surmounted by tile or cast iron creating. Ornamental tiling was used, also horizontal bands of different coloured brickwork. English houses were no longer typical of England. Before the early nineteenth century, new buildings in town or country were regarded as improvements: in Victorian times they were disfigurements.