|Headquarters||1 Priory Gardens, London, England|
|HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG, GCVO (Patron)
Lord Briggs of Lewes (President)
Sir David Cannadine FBA FRSL FRHistS, Harry Handelsman, Lord Howarth of Newport CBE PC, Sir Simon Jenkins FRSL, Griff Rhys Jones, Fiona MacCarthy OBE FRSL, (Vice-Presidents)
Christopher Costelloe (Director)
Professor Hilary Grainger (Chair of Trustees)
The Victorian Society is a UK charity, the national authority on Victorian and Edwardian architecture built between 1837 and 1914 in England and Wales. As one of the National Amenity Societies, the Victorian Society is a statutory consultee on alterations to listed buildings, and by law must be notified of any work to a listed building which involves any element of demolition.
The founding of the Society was proposed in November 1957 by Anne Parsons, Countess of Rosse at her remarkably-preserved Victorian home at 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington (Linley Sambourne House), with the intention of countering the widely prevalent antipathy to 19th and early 20th century architecture. From the 1890s into the 20th century, Victorian art had been under attack, critics writing of "the nineteenth century architectural tragedy", ridiculing "the uncompromising ugliness" of the era's buildings and attacking the "sadistic hatred of beauty" of its architects. The commonly-held view had been expressed by P. G. Wodehouse in his 1933 novel, Summer Moonshine; "Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks."
The first meeting was held at Linley Sambourne House on 28 February 1958. Among its thirty founder members were the first secretary John Betjeman, Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Nikolaus Pevsner, who became Chairman in 1964. Former Bletchley Park codebreaker, Jane Fawcett, managed the society's affairs as secretary from 1964 to 1976.
The Victorian Society has a sister organisation in the United States, the Victorian Society in America, founded in 1966 in New York City, by such champions of historic preservation as Brendan Gill, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and Margot Gayle; it was borne from the outrage they felt at the 1964 destruction of New York's magnificent Pennsylvania Station. As of 2017[update] the Victorian Society in America is based in Philadelphia with 12 registered chapters, mostly in the Eastern United States.
The society has worked to save numerous landmark buildings such as St Pancras Station, Albert Dock in Liverpool, the Foreign Office and Oxford University Museum. Its campaigns have not always been successful, notably its failed attempts to save the Euston Arch from demolition in 1961.
As well as being a statutory consultee on works to listed buildings the Society also:
- Provides advice to churches and local planning authorities on how Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes can be adapted to modern use, while keeping what is distinctive about them.
- Advises members of the public on how they can help shape the future of their local Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes.
- Provides information to owners of Victorian and Edwardian houses about how they can better look after their buildings.
- Helps people understand, appreciate, and enjoy the architectural heritage of the Victorian and Edwardian period through its publications and events.
Examples of their work with churches include making complaints against proposals of church PCCs to use upholstered chairs during renovation, and appealing against proposals to raise money by selling original features.
A recent campaign of the Victorian Society has taken on the preservation of Victorian gasometers after utility companies announced plans to demolish nearly 200 of the now outdated structures. Christopher Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said in regards to the group's efforts, "Gasometers, by their very size and structure, cannot help but become landmarks. [They] are singularly dramatic structures for all their emptiness.”
The Victorian magazine
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- Turnor, Reginald (1950). Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. Batsford. OCLC 520344.