Bang Up to the Elephant

Advice on Victorian Homes from Stuart and Mathew.

It’s a crisp, sunny, late Friday afternoon in London. Spring is in the air, the brightly painted front doors of Primrose Hill are gleaming in the sunshine, and we are discussing a new instruction on a house that is about to be added to our extensive portfolio of Victorian homes. As we stroll across NW3, we talk about what we both love about Victorian housing and the advice we give to anybody thinking of buying or selling a property from the era.

Britain’s rise to economic and political dominance in the Victorian period brought with it the construction of more than six million homes, and, like so many Londoners, we have a special place in our hearts for the feature-rich homes from the era, which are so perfect for preservation, renovation and addition. We also have many years of experience with this style of property and wanted to share a few essential thoughts about buying and selling Victorian homes.

Preparing to buy

Victorian housing is arguably the most popular residential stock in London. You face competition as a buyer, so be prepared. Get your mortgage agreed and as much as possible lined up in advance, so that when you make your offer you stand out as the people a seller wants to go with.

We advise buyers to get their own second survey, a more detailed one than the lender’s survey. That said, even full building surveys are finite in scope, and you need to shop around for the best product. Some surveyors look at a property from the street, while others climb a ladder to make a close visual inspection of the roof and chimney stacks. But when it comes to Victorian housing, some properties have historical baggage due to ground movement.

This is not a case of doom and gloom or over-caution. In fact, the imperfections and signs of ageing that imbue Victorian homes with the character and personality we love are rarely signs of present danger. To put it bluntly, a wonky door or a floor that does not respond well to a spirit level are not signs that a house is falling down, but simply part and parcel of living in a house built sometime between the 1840s and 1900s on London clay.

But for your own peace of mind and to make yourself the most viable buyer in the queue, get your survey done and, if you intend to do work on the house, get a builder in to give their pragmatic and honest response to your plans for the place before completion.


A huge number of Victorian homes are in conservation areas, especially in East London. But when it comes to conservation areas and conservation of energy (and your money) you do not need to worry, you just need to think laterally.

Whilst it’s true that a conservation area restricts you from putting double glazing in, there are other measures you can embrace to improve the house’s EPC rating. We have recently sold a gorgeous Victorian mansion apartment near to the Hurlingham Club in Fulham, where viewers were pleasantly surprised by the EPC rating of C. Despite the single pane windows that adorn a magnificent facade, the owners had taken other measures – like installing a high-quality boiler – which increased the EPC rating. Victorian homes aren’t natural candidates for a great EPC certificate, but you can mitigate that by taking all the measures available to you, some of which are profoundly economic when weighed against factors such as reduced bills and sellability.

Sellers have a choice. They can address two major facets of owning a Victorian house – its building control history and its energy efficiency – in advance of selling or they can, effectively, leave that to the next owner. But, naturally enough, the value of a property will reflect which of these two routes the seller has taken.

Preparing to sell

Not only was the number of houses built during Victoria’s reign enormous, but there was variety in the purpose and demographic for which these houses were designed. Victorian terraces in London built as practical housing back then are now sought-after by people looking to create stunning, design-led homes. This inevitably means a legion of homeowners wanting to change the layout and nature of the property, and to extend the footprint.

Our advice to sellers is to be fully clued up about the fact that in a lot of Victorian houses’ and apartments’ layouts have been changed, and interior elements altered or removed, without the correct license to alter. This may have been done either by current or previous owners. A buyer’s solicitor will unearth these changes and, unless there are the appropriate permissions, significant delays or obstacles can arise in the selling process. This is a particular issue for people selling leasehold Victorian flats.

These details will bring sellers and buyers into close contact with the world of planning departments, retrospective consents from freeholders, building control, and, on occasion, in the case of Grade II-listed properties, English Heritage. All of these scenarios and departments are well known to us, and there is no challenge we cannot navigate you through, but we would strongly advise people even beginning to think about selling their Victorian property to address these potential issues up front and, ideally, enter the market with a clean bill of health for their property when it comes to the paperwork on permissions and consents.

In an era when material information is becoming more and more important, and up front knowledge and action is more and more crucial, Story of Home are happy to meet with you and advise on these subjects at the earliest stage, before you have decided whether you are going to sell or which agent you are going to instruct.

Preservation and restoration

In our experience, there are very few people who are attracted to buying a Victorian home because they want to gut it. Buyers are prepared to pay a premium when they see that period features have been retained in a property. It’s of huge appeal.

The expansion of the railways and the industrial revolution had a profound impact on Victorian housing construction which is visible to this day, because these combined advances meant that building materials could be mass-produced and moved around the country. Under no other circumstances could Welsh slate roofs have become ubiquitous throughout the English capital, or the sheer volume of bricks needed to build six million houses have been produced.

More than a century on, design-conscious homemakers instantly recognise the period details that make us appreciate Victorian housing – the steep pitched roofs, bay windows, ornate gables, decorative brickwork and ironwork, exposed flooring, tall skirting boards and original bannisters. Our buying clients see these features in a property and are prepared to pay a premium for it, as it is all money off a renovation project.

When we are out and about in Victorian London, we are constantly noticing painted front doors, pathways with mosaic tiling, original or expertly renovated sash windows and shutters. These are the kinds of features people house-watching from the street want to see. If your property has these, you are ticking every box as the seller of a beautifully designed period home.

Bang Up to the Elephant

This Victorian phrase, meaning “perfect” or “complete”, became a popular one in London in the latter part of the nineteenth century. At Story of Home, we have an array of Victorian homes that warrant this description. Some have been kept or restored in a way that is faithful to the period, others are a fusion of period features and contemporary design.

The Victorian houses and apartments in our portfolio reflect the enormous variety of homes that were built in the period, unified by the intrinsic appeal of its over-arching style and detail. We have a lovely Victorian townhouse next to the church on St. John’s Church Road in Hackney, with outstandingly high ceilings, even on the top floor. Among a myriad of period details is its original 1875 curved banister, with 150 years of stories to tell.

The ceiling heights of these gorgeous homes often make the walls resemble a respectable art gallery; a wonderfully spacious family home we have for sale on Dartmouth Park Avenue, close to Hampstead Heath, typifies the period’s suitability for hanging canvasses. The Dartmouth Park home also offers a stunning large space on the lower ground floor for family living, centered around an impressive kitchen. The kitchens in Victorian properties were typically built small, as purely functional rooms for preparing food, not for eating in and certainly not for gathering in. These days, we want the kitchen to be the spacious heart of the home, and the proportions of Victorian properties mean that contemporary additions to create combined kitchen and living spaces are hugely successful and often the most significant renovation that homeowners undertake.

Currently under offer with us is an apartment in Hurlingham Court that exemplifies the very best of Victorian mansion block living. Despite being a generously sized, daylight-filled, three-bedroomed home with views across one half of the city, the apartment also has the cosy atmosphere of a Parisian garret.

The Victorian mansion blocks were the first truly European-style apartments to be built in London, with beautiful attention to detail, internally and in the buildings’ stunning façades. In contrast, though of the same lineage, is the Victorian industrial architecture of the property we have on the market at Independent Place, a former bible factory in Dalston. Living here is about big spaces and exposed steel beams. Independent Place and other Victorian warehouse conversions offer an opportunity for people who love period property but want the New York loft apartment feel.

What all our Victorian properties have in common is a stylish romance to the homemaking stories they offer. There is something deeply pleasing in the fact that houses built en masse for fundamentally practical purposes in the wake of the first industrial revolution remain such a profound and quintessential draw to the design-led Londoner in the midst of the tech revolution. In an age when we live a more and more visually streamlined and virtual existence, the imperial bricks, mortar, floorboards, and sash windows of the Victorian home have never been more appealing and important to Londoners who want to make homes in style.

Our team are always ready to advise you on your search for a Victorian home or your plans to sell one. Call us anytime on 020 7867399 or email