When 18 year old Princess Victoria pictured in the header
above, became Queen
in 1837 no one
dreamed she would reign for the rest of the century for another 64 years. The
name Victorian to describe the whole period is a misnomer as for some years at
the beginning of the era, Regency attitudes prevailed.
After 1840 when Victoria married Albert we see the heyday of Victorian attitudes
of prudery and a strict outwardly moral code that lasted until about 1890 when
Prince Edward the Prince Of Wales and his more spirited lifestyle was echoed in
society. Right - Prince Albert the Prince Consort.
Victorian prosperity for an elite was built on the development
of new machinery, new work methods and an underpaid workforce consisting of
adults and children living in wretched poverty. Many
people previously rural became urbanised by the new rail transport. Country
families often drifted into towns to stay with other relatives whilst seeking work.
By 1850 half the country's former peasants were squashed into
Britain's cities. The growth of industry, the building boom, the swift population
spurt and spread of the railway changed the character of Britain too rapidly for many to understand.
Small towns were overtaken by growing industries to become uncoordinated and sprawling industrial
dwelling areas. Rail towns such as Crewe soon developed as main rail
junctions. These towns were close to other industrial towns like Stoke On Trent which
became densely urban, spreading to make six joined towns.
By 1870 Britain had grown from 10 million at the start of the century to over
The railways moved goods, foods and people faster than canals or horse drawn
wagons. They were the greatest factor in transforming Britain into an industrial nation.
They were a huge employer of people either on the railways, building new tracks
or being a goods delivery service. Government legislation was affected as
suddenly Members of Parliament could get to London with relative ease from far
flung country regions.
The lives of millions were changed as suddenly the masses were able to travel
further than ten miles in one direction. Now all could manage rare day trips to the new coastal seaside.
Left - The Railway Station 1862 by
(Paddington, London, UK)
Carriages were divided into categories called classes and the 1st class rail
carriage was designed like a horse drawn coach. It had foot warmers, oil lamps and closed sides and roof. 2nd class
carriages were roofed, but open sided.
Picture to right - To Brighton and Back for 3s and 6d by Charles Rossiter.
3rd class carriages were simple unroofed trucks without seats.
In third class, passengers could be blistered by sparks and choked. In the open
sided carriage illustrated above an umbrella and a parasol are used for
protection. The man protects his top hat from flying sparks and another man dons
a blanket to keep off the chill and dusty smoke.
- A Summer's Day in Hyde Park by John Ritchie
1858. This shows the mixing of social classes.
Theclass divisions on the railway were echoed throughout the land. In church the
higher classes sat at the front in reserved pews and the lower classes at the
back. In dress, the wives of wealthy industrialists were clothed in conspicuous
finery as they were the social representatives of their soberly dressed
The new social class that emerged was the bourgeoisie middle class. An
outward display of wealth through clothing and possessions showed to those who were still climbing the ladder
that the former had reached the top.
Fashion-Era.com looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era. Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also
contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear. These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.
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