The origins of the traditional awning
As a culture valuing tradition in many respects, citizens of the UK are quite fond of traditional Victorian awnings. After all, there’s a lot to love about them – they have a distinct look that brings to mind the bygone era of the 1800s, grounding the excessively modern pace of the street today, and their build is as reliable today as it was in years past. But where did traditional Victorian awnings come from, and why are they called that to this day?
Though awnings as a concept date as far back as antiquity, with multiple robust awnings protecting attendees of Roman Coliseum fights from the weather, it’s not exactly those ancient, operated by manpower awnings that come to mind when we talk about traditional awnings. Nonethelss, these awnings are the progenitor of those Victorian classics we use nowadays, and they utilised certain mechanisms that can still be found in an awning today – the main body of the awning is still made out of canvas, even if it is no longer the same one used for sails of ships, and the technology of utilising rope structures was already in place in ancient times.
As many other aspects of culture, awnings soon spread over the entirety of Europe, arriving in countries like Spain, Portugal and, of course, the UK. It was in the Victorian era, the 19th century, when awnings became widely used. As consumerism bloomed, awnings became commonplace, offering shelter to both clients visiting shops, as well as the goods sold. They were made from cotton, were retractable, and were finished with a distinct scalloped edge. Though they extended over the entire width of the sidewalk, one of their main draws was that they never overtook the architecture – if anything, they were a subtle touch that only served to enhance the beloved Victorian architecture.
Fast-forward to today, technology has evolved, but the look of awnings has stayed the same. The type of awnings that became popular in the 19th century became an instant classic, permanently etched into the UK cultural landscape. That’s why, while the interior has become more refined, the traditional Victorian awnings still look traditional. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
(image source: http://www.putneyblinds.co.uk)