With its high society intrigue, gossipy plotlines, raunchy love scenes and gravity defying hair do’s, all set against the backdrop of spectacularly sumptuous homes, Netflix series Bridgerton has rewritten the rules for small-screen period drama. The Shonda Rhimes exec-produced series gained 193 million hours of viewing time for its second series in the first three days – the highest for any English-language Netflix series in this time frame.
Whether you love it or hate it – or love to hate it – its impact is undeniable, offering an irresistible twist on classic 19th-century tales of the upper classes, imbued with a modern sensibility. It has also reignited our passion for all things Georgian, with both domestic and overseas house hunters placing the hallmarks of the period at the top of their wish lists: perfectly symmetrical pedimented entrances, stucco facades, Doric columns, sash and fanlight windows and cavernous glass houses are all in hot demand. It’s a phenomenon some estate and buying agents have likened to the ‘Notting Hill effect’, when, in the 1999 movie, a doe-eyed bookseller played by Hugh Grant fell for Julia Roberts’s movie star – and thus sparked a buying frenzy in W11.
Based around the historical romance novels of American author Julia Quinn, the two series of Bridgerton so far (yes, a third and fourth are in development), showcase some of England’s finest Georgian and Regency houses, palaces and streetscapes, including Ranger’s House, backing onto Greenwich Park in SE10, which plays the façade of the Bridgerton family home, and the Grade I listed Royal Crescent in Bath.
With Bridgerton being viewed by audiences across the world again, he says, his office has seen an uptick in buyers, especially international, who are keen to buy in to this quintessentially British style, even from as far away as Singapore and Australia; offers have even been made through virtual viewings.
Throw in elegant external symmetry that is often mirrored in interiors, whether it’s a grand manor, city townhouse, former rectory or cottage, and it’s no surprise Georgian architecture so often grabs our hearts – and our wallets. Homes of the era – officially classed as those built between 1714 and 1837, also taking in the Regency era of 1811-20, when King George III was deemed unfit to rule, and his son ruled by proxy – can often command a hefty 20 per cent over similarly sized homes in the same area. In prime central London, however, independent residential property consultancy inhous.com says a Georgian pad can achieve a premium of 60 per cent over a similarly sized Victorian house on the same street. Those with their original mews houses at the rear should increase this further.
Their prices have also been given an added boost by the pandemic, according to James Pace, head of sales in Knight Frank’s Kensington office. ‘Covid has given the Georgian house a renaissance,’ he says. ‘Often designed to have one or two main rooms per floor, the arrangement means everyone has their own space and privacy within a family house. This is a shift away from the lateral space that buyers often wanted pre-pandemic.’
Matthew Leonard, a director of Winkworth estate agency in Bath, also says he is bracing himself for another wave of interest from Bridgerton fans. Here, expect to pay upwards of £2m for a Grade I listed six-bedroom Georgian house in the centre, and more than £600,000 for a four-bedroom renovation job in the hills just outside the city. But while Bath, Winchester, Exeter, Canterbury, Salisbury and Norwich are the traditional honeypots of glorious Georgian architecture, it’s well worth looking beyond the usual suspects to find Georgian treasures that may also be better priced.
In the Georgian quarter of Canning, for example, bordering Liverpool city centre and Toxteth, you can buy an immaculate seven-bedroom terraced house for about £900,000. Chichester in West Sussex, Farnham in Surrey, the Hampshire market town of Lymington, Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire and Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, also make good hunting grounds.
The real joy of any Georgian house, though, says Andrew Cronan, a senior associate director with estate agency Strutt & Parker, is their flexibility – depending on your budget, of course. ‘Two-storey houses are wide and fat, perfect for apartments after conversion, while the five-storey townhouses continue to work with modern family living,’ he says. ‘The lower ground floors that were once the kitchens become the granny flat, annexe, or a cinema/games/media room, and the ground floor itself opens up to become the family hub with the kitchen. Base teenagers on the 4th and 5th floors, far away from their parents, and it means you need never move.’
The era’s usually relatively unfussy interior details also means they are immune to the vagaries of passing interiors fads – go the full Bridgerton with Chinoiserie wallpaper, acid-hued paints and elaborate drapery, or just keep the look simple. Fine art auctioneers cheffins.co.uk reports of allthe traditional furniture on the market, Georgian and Regency is the most sought after, as it’s easy to mix up with pieces from other eras, and is currently in particularly hot demand by millennials.
If your heart is set on owning a Georgian gem, there are a few things to watch out for, though. As they are often Grade I or II listed, you’ll need to be wary of what can and can’t be changed, such as internal layout or exterior features. Hancock always advises clients to ask for a full structural survey before buying, as this type of house is not normally blessed with a damp proof course. ‘These didn’t come into play until the turn of the 20th century,’ she says, ‘and damp can be a problem if you’re not careful.’
Another potential pitfall, adds Harry Gladwin, partner at The Buying Solution, is the ‘gentrified Georgified’ house, where someone came into some money and decided to give their modest house the ‘Georgian pile’ look by tacking on a Georgian wing. ‘This can often create a Jekyll and Hyde house,’ he says, ‘where one or two Georgian rooms at the front of the house make way for a warren of far smaller, older rooms that are compromised as two different styles are melded together.’