Victorian Drawing Room
English Drawing Room
Creative Commons AttributionEnglish Drawing Room - Credit: Angus Kirk

The Forsyte Saga opens with a gathering in the Victorian home of family elder, old Jolyon.

Much of the Saga takes place in domestic settings, and the house owners' decorating tastes are important to the story. The older Forsytes' drawing room would have fallen somewhere between the 1875 example preserved by the Victorian Society at Linley Sambourne House and the Regency room pictured here.

The drawing room was a feminine realm because Victorian ladies tended to be at home most of the day, and this is where they would receive visitors. The drawing room was characterised by "cheerfulness, a refinement of elegance and what is called lightness as opposed to massiveness," according to Victorian Gothic House Style.

The elaborate styles of Victorian Gothic or Arts and Crafts would have been fashionable choices for young couples such as June Forsyte and Bosinney.

Stanhope Gate, London
Hyde Park, London, 1833
Public DomainHyde Park, London, 1833

One of the most expensive areas of London real estate in the nineteenth century and today, Stanhope Gate lies between Hyde Park and Green Park.

 

Google Map

 

The map shown was drawn in 1833, the year that John Galsworthy's family began to invest in city property and relocated to London from the country.

Soames and Irene Forsyte live in Montpellier Square (now spelled with one 'l'), just south of Hyde Park:

 

Google Map
Hyde Park
Hyde Park, 1890
Public DomainHyde Park, 1890 - Credit: Camille Pissarro

Hyde Park was the playground of the rich and respectable in Victorian London. Older people drove out in their carriage-and-fours, or phaeton with matched pair, while the young rode out on horseback each day.

Here the young men 'strutted their stuff' on hired horses, while marriageable young women demonstrated an elegant seat.

Introductions were made, relationships were formed, and future partners discerned through the fairly informal rituals of this Royal Park.

Events in In Chancery are sparked here for Val Dartie and his cousin Holly Forsyte.

Victorian Houses
Foscombe Park 1866 Victorian Gothic country house
Creative Commons AttributionFoscombe Park 1866 Victorian Gothic country house - Credit: Trevor Rickard

In Victorian Houses and their Details, Helen Long reports that the population of England and Wales increased from 9 million to 36 million between 1801 and 1911, with the greatest increase occurring during Queen Victoria's reign. The number of homes built increased prolifically too. The peak building periods were during John Galsworthy's early years, from the late 1860s to late 1870s, and around 1900. It is not surprising then that building projects such as Robin Hill form part of the fabric of his narrative.

The building boom included large houses in spreading suburbs as well as modest terraced and semi-detached properties. Galsworthy's father commissioned three houses during his son's first 11 years, moving the family into one after another. These were sprawling neo-Gothic mansions with large grounds, intended to give the children a healthy environment. The family never quite settled in the countryside, and they eventually moved to Cambridge Gate near Hyde Park.