Rule Britannia!

Published on 23rd March 2017
What would you say are the greatest buildings in Britain? How would you decide on the criteria that would shape your selection? Would it be purely down to architectural excellence, or would other factors come into play? What about the way in which the building was used, the way it has evolved, the people who used it, the stories it could tell, and the impact that its existence has had on history? Would it need to have revolutionised architecture? We’re interested in your thoughts; we’d like to hear your views.

From Stonehenge to Battersea Power Station, Britain has had its fair share of impressive buildings. At Apropos though, we know that a building doesn’t just need to look great to be great, although it sometimes helps! While the rolling stately homes, the seats of political power, and the glorious structures of worshipful contemplation are easy to earmark for their greatness, the oft-overlooked gritty underbelly of industry and enterprise also play a central part in the advancement of British architecture.

Industrial chic has been widely lauded in the last few years of interior design, but the architectural developments of the industrial revolution are still being felt today. Although externally unimpressive to the modern eye, the vast brick carapace of Shrewsbury’s Ditherington Flax Mill envelopes an architectural wonder; the world’s first structural iron frame.

ditherington flax mill

With scores of buildings and hundreds of lives being lost to fire, particularly in the cotton mills of Britain’s industrial heartland, the 1797 construction of Ditherington Mill (which still stands today), revolutionised British building and British manufacturing. The fire-retardant frame also directly influenced the way that Britain looks today; surely a mark of greatness?

Equally great, but for entirely different reasons, our next nominee is the Great Yarmouth Row House. Although most of the original 16th century buildings were destroyed in World War II, the multifarious offspring of Yarmouth’s row houses can be seen in every town, city, hamlet and village of Great Britain. We’re talking, of course, of the terraced house.

Externally uniform, but ripe for internal customisation, row houses became the ultimate in space-saving, aspirational living and are still built, modified (often with an Apropos conservatory!) and loved today. We may not look at them with awe anymore, but don’t you think that their impact on Britain’s architectural and social landscapes is enough to make them great?

And from the house we lead naturally to the garden, Kew Gardens in fact. While the practical has dominated our search for greatness, there is always room for the sublime in architecture, and at Apropos we have a special place in our hearts for glass. They don’t come more glassy than the iconic Palm House of Kew.

Kew’s Palm House was completed in 1848 and is widely considered to be the world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure. Somewhere between a greenhouse and an orangery in status, a glance is enough to reveal the structure’s beauty and elegance. Its greatness however, comes from its ingenious design, which has allowed it to remain standing, vital and relevant, 166 years after its conception.

In the next few weeks we’ll be looking at more of the buildings that have made Britain great. We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions below, or on our social media pages. Do you have a favourite building? Why is it special, what does it mean to you?

To start planning your great British design with Apropos download your brochure today, or get in touch with our expert team on 0161 342 8200.

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