During the Victorian period there was huge competition between head gardeners of wealthy country estates to cultivate the very best apples. In their desperation to produce different fruits with amazing colours, delicious flavours or novelty appeal which could be served at their employer’s tables throughout the seasons they created types such as Hoary Morning, Blenheim Orange, Knobby Russet and Laxton’s Epicure. At the height of this competitive period Britain produced more varieties of apples than anywhere else in the world. There were over 2000 varieties meaning you could eat a different kind each day for more than 6 years.
A pair of Queen Victoria’s stockings and a detail of her monogram (a feature on all her undergarments). The stockings are made of hand-stitched silk and are believed to have been the Queen’s favourite design during the 1870s. Victoria wrote a description in her diary of an occasion in her early married life when Prince Albert knelt before her and rolled her stockings up her legs. She so enjoyed this moment that she also told her Prime Minister at the time, Lord Melbourne.
Manchester Museum was opened in 1835 and by 1850 housed the combined collections of two local societies - The Natural History Society and The Geological Society. Despite a shared interest and shared premises these societies did not get on well. The Natural History Society wanted to charge visitors a penny to view their exhibits while The Geological Society believed entrance should be free. Their collections were displayed in separate areas of the building and so they reached a compromise that admission to the Geological Society’s rooms would be free. However a further argument erupted when The Natural History Society introduced an umbrella stand where visitors had to leave their umbrellas and canes at the cost of one penny. The Geological Society eventually introduced their own umbrella stand in retaliation.
A cardboard miniature model of ‘The Great Wheel’ which was one of the main attractions at the Earl’s Court Empire of India Exhibition of 1895. The model was sold in kit form for people to assemble at home. The original (also known as ‘The Gigantic Wheel’) was 308 feet (94 metres) tall and 270 feet (82 metres) in diameter and had 40 cars which could each accommodate 30 people. The cars were all fitted with electric lights and were divided into second class and first class (first class being more luxuriously decorated and divided into smoking and non-smoking cars). The wheel was supported by one tower on each side which both featured promenade platforms at their summit.
The wheel was a hugely popular attraction but had its fair share of difficulties, including a delayed completion date. A year after it opened it malfunctioned at 9:00pm trapping several dozen people near the top. To keep the visitors calm while workmen tried to repair the wheel the Grenadier Guards were positioned at the base to play music while sailors climbed the framework delivering food and drink. The wheel was finally fixed by 7:00am the next day. Upon disembarking, each visitor was given £5 in compensation from the management.
In Britain, Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday during the Christian festival of Lent. In the 19th century it was a day on which children, especially daughters, who lived away from home returned to visit their parents. This custom particularly applied to apprentices and young domestic servants who were given the day off to spend time with their families. Traditionally they would bring their mothers a gift of a bunch of flowers and a cake. This cake was called a Simnel cake and was a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and on top. Originally the cake was colourfully decorated with flowers and preserved fruits, though by the end of the Victorian era this decoration had been replaced by 11 or 12 marzipan balls arranged in a circle. Depending on their number these were meant to symbolise Jesus’ apostles minus Judas or those same apostles and Jesus. Traditionally the Simnel cake was reserved for Mothering Sunday but is now made and eaten throughout the Easter period in Britain.
A silver waist clasp set with an opal made in the late 1890s for Liberty’s department store in London. Liberty specialised in selling unusual and artistic products and in 1899 it launched a line of ‘Cymric’ jewellery. Inspired by Celtic designs, Cymric jewellery contained flowing lines and semi-precious gemstones or enamels. Although the jewellery looked hand crafted it was actually mass produced and affordable which made it extremely popular.
Hi everyone! Just a quick note to apologise for the lack of posts recently. Life has been incredibly hectic and the blog has taken a bit of a back seat. Posts should be more frequent now. I’m also working my way through a backlog of questions (there are around 60 at the moment on a huge variety of topics so it’s taking a while XD). Sorry to those of you who have been waiting for answers but I’ll get there eventually! Thanks for continuing to support the blog!
Tempest Anderson was a Victorian doctor who specialised in the treatment of eye conditions. He was also an accomplished amateur photographer and one of the world’s first volcano chasers. Anderson was born in York in 1846 and travelled all over the world to witness volcanic eruptions first hand. By 1900 he had visited the majority of volcanoes in Europe and North America, and had documented many eruptions including those of Vesuvius and Krakatoa. He reputedly always kept two packed bags in his bedroom - one full of clothing for hot climates and the other for cold climates, so that he could travel anywhere at a moment’s notice. He was one of the first people to document the phenomenon of pyroclastic flows and his discoveries were enthusiastically received by the scientific community. Throughout his career he took thousands of photographs, many from the mouths of active volcanoes, which he displayed to the public back in England in his highly popular magic lantern shows.
A selection of photographs of shop fronts in the English town of Shrewsbury taken in 1888 by the amateur photographer and shop owner Joseph Lewis della-Porta. The ten most popular retailers on the Victorian high street were, in descending order, milliners and dressmakers, boot and shoe shops, book sellers, butchers, wine and spirit merchants, fruiterers and greengrocers, corn chandlers (who sold items such as corn, wheat, flour and animal feed), watch and clock makers, confectioners, and opticians.
In the Victorian period chirruping was a noise made by fluttering the lips which was primarily used to show affection towards small children and pets. It was also used by prostitutes and their clients as a means to signal their interest. People who chirruped in public were sometimes arrested for causing a public nuisance.