According to Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the noted authority on nineteenth-century architecture, Richard Norman Shaw, whom he calls "an architectural Picasso," had an enormous influence on building styles of the 1880s and '90s. Norman Shaw was the dominant force in the shift away "from the High Victorian" made by himself and other architects, "notably his early partner Nesfield, Webb, Godwin, and J. J. Stevenson. Of all this group, Shaw was unquestionably the most successful, the most typical, and the most influential, though not the most original" (206). In fact,

Except for Pugin, no architect since Robert Adam had so much effect on English — and for that matter also on American — production. Moreover, his influence lasted for some thirty-five years, rather longer than did Adam's. Yet it is not possible to define the Shavian mode clearly as it is the Adamesque or the Puginian. An architectural Picasso, Shaw had many divergent manners which he developed successively, but of which none — except the High Victorian Gothic — was ever entirely dropped. Each of these manners, down to the very end of his long practice, found in turn a following. [206]

Shaw designed country houses like Cragside, churches, city mansions like Lowther Lodge, artist's studios like that for Marcus Stone, and governmental offices like New Scotland Yard, but perhaps his greatest influence on both architecture and the look and feel of London streets appears in his London houses. Hitchcock credits a single building — Shaw's J. P. Heseltine house of 1875 at 196 Queen's Gate in South Kensington — with unleashing

a flood of the most individualistic house-design London had ever seen. Stucco-fronted houses of builders' Renaissance design were still being erected on contiguous sites when this tall gabled façade rose, totally oblivious of old and new neighbours. Cut brick, moulded brick, terracotta, all of the brightest red, surround very large mullioned windows in a composition that is gratuitously asymmetrical at the base but symmetrical in the upper storeys below the crowning gable. For fifteen years such houses proliferated in the Chelsea, Kensington, and Earls Court districts of western London. The best are by Shaw himself, such as those at 68, 62, and 72 Cadogan Square — the first of 1879, the others of 1882 — and those at 8-11 and 15 Chelsea Embankment of 1878-9; but more are by other architects, and the vast majority by builders. [215-16]

As time permits we'll try to take photographs and otherwise obtain images of as many of these buildings as possible. — George P. Landow

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Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963.

Jones, Edward, & Christopher Woodward. A Guide to the Architecture of London. 2nd ed. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1992

Last modified 18 November 2015