London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details

VICTORIAN SOCIETY

Date of Creation:

1958 - 2001

Reference Code:

LMA/4460

Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Victorian Society. The collection principally contains case files compiled by the Society's Buildings Sub-Committee and relating to individual buildings for which listed building consent or statutory listing was sought. Remaining items comprise lists of members and a small selection of early printed items about the Society and its activities.

    The case-files provide contextual information regarding the discussions and decisions of the Victorian Society over individual buildings. They contain useful information for researching conservation and planning issues surrounding these buildings. Their primary value however is in recording the workings of the Society itself and the personalities and opinions of its members. With the records of English Heritage (also held at London Metropolitan Archives), local planning authorities, and other voluntary bodies (such as the Georgian Group, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Twentieth Century Society), this collection could help compile a comprehensive study into building conservation in England and Wales in the second half of the 20th century generally.

    The case-file series is incomplete (some files have been destroyed while others have been retained by the Society) and other principal records of the Society, such as minutes of the Council and of the Buildings Sub-Committee and issues of The Victorian magazine have not been deposited. The membership lists contain personal information about members and access to these files is restricted.

    Although based in London, the Society acted in the interest of buildings throughout Great Britain. There are a few instances where buildings overseas where also drawn to the Society's attention. The Society was not solely concerned with the exterior of buildings. It attributed importance to interior decoration and furnishings, and to commemorative monuments and street furniture erected broadly within the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

    The collection is rich in information about the Society. As well as recording the Society's cause celbres it also includes a large number of smaller Buildings and structures. It covers the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge at one end of the scale and street lamps in Cambridge and fonts in churches at the other.
Extent: 5.02 linear metres
Classification: ASSOCIATIONS
Site Location: London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description:
    Collection

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Administrative History:
  • The Victorian Society was founded in 1958 to raise awareness and promote preservation of architecture and design created between 1843 and 1914. At the time of its foundation, property developers, architects and widespread public opinion viewed Victorian design as ugly and it was swept aside in favour of Modernism. The Society was keen to preserve the finest examples of Victorian design but in order to do so, needed to devise standards for selecting the best. Early members included H S Goodhart-Rendel, John Betjeman, Christopher Hussey, John Brandon-Jones, Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Nikolaus Pevsner and the Society's first chairman was architect and town planner Lionel Brett, 4th Viscount Esher.

    The original objects of the Society were to:

    - draw attention to the merits and significance of the best of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, design crafts and decoration,
    - encourage the study of these, and that of related social history,
    - provide a point of contact for scholars of the period and to compile a register of research,
    - help to form a basis of aesthetic discrimination,
    - prevent the needless destruction of important Victorian and Edwardian buildings, and of their contents,
    - co-operate with the Ministry of Housing in the listing and protection of Victorian and Edwardian buildings of architectural and historic value,
    - make representations to local authorities and to give evidence at public enquiries.

    The Society's regular income consisted primarily of subscriptions from members. Benefits provided to members included town walks, building visits, Victorian-themed parties, conferences, lectures, and "The Victorian", a triennial magazine. Early promotional activities included organising an exhibition of Victorian paintings in 1961 and cooperating in a conference in 1964 about the challenges facing the preservation and use of Victorian churches.

    The Society is subdivided into regional branches to focus on surveying buildings outside London. Initially, these were Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham groups but by 2004, there were a further five: Leicester, Great Eastern, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and South Wales. The Society was governed by a Council who were advised by a separate Committee. A series of sub committees were responsible for managing the day to day running of the Society.

    The Buildings Sub-Committee is responsible for assessing the value of Victorian buildings when listed building consent affecting them is sought from local planning authorities. On the basis of this evaluation, it makes its views known to planning authorities, developers and English Heritage. The Society will provide evidence to public inquiries held relating to Victorian and Edwardian buildings. On occasions, it has mounted active campaigns to protect buildings of special significance. An early example was the 'Save the Arch' campaign to prevent the demolition of the arch at Euston railway station. Other notable campaigns focused on the restoration of the Albert Memorial and the replacement of a Pugin stained glass window in Sherburne Abbey.

    The Victorian Society began managing Linley Sambourne House in Stafford Terrace, London as a museum in Autumn 1980. The house, built in the 1870s, was formerly the home of Anne, Countess of Rosse (nee Messell) and was where, at a party in 1957, Anne proposed setting up a Victorian society. She sold the house and its contents to the Greater London Council in 1980. The museum is now operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

    The Society's offices have previously been at 55 Great Ormond Street, London WC1 and 29 Exhibition Road, London SW7. They are currently at 1 Priory Gardens, Bedford Park, London W4.
Creator: Victorian Society
Copyright: Long-term loan Copyright on these records rests with the depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • Deposited in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
  • BO2/090
  • BO3/006
  • BO3/092
  • BO4/027
Access Restrictions: These records are open to public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods.
Physical Condition: Fit
Arrangement: The collection has been arranged into 3 parts:
LMA/4460/01 Building Sub-Committee case-files;
LMA/4460/02 Publications;
LMA/4460/03 Membership lists.
Appraisal: The case-file series was weeded by the Victorian Society prior to accessioning. Plans, printed matter and memoranda were removed as well as whole files in some cases. During cataloguing, the series was appraised further. The basis for the appraisal has been made on the assumption that the files will be of interest to those researching: the history of the Society; issues and principals surrounding the preservation of Victorian architecture in the Twentieth Century; and the Society's standpoint on a particular building of prominence at a particular time. It was felt that the value of the collection is very much about judgments, opinions and actions of the Society itself rather than more general aspects of planning and architecture. Appraisal was carried out in the awareness that much of the information present in the files would be duplicated in those of the planning authorities, English Heritage, civic and national preservation societies, and architects' practices.