Victorian Toys: Facts and Information

Although Victorian children from rich families had more toys than those from poor families, even they didn’t have access to the range of different toys available to today’s children.

Many Victorians lived in cramped conditions, and there simply wasn’t the space for the children to play indoors. As a result, many popular Victorian toys were designed to be played with outside.

Victorian toys were often much simpler than the toys of today, and they often required the children playing with them to use their imagination to get the most out of them.

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The 19th century opened up a new realm of play for children all over Europe and the United States. It was the first time that children began to have time to play and to have lives that resemble those of modern day children.

Alysha M Paige (Boston Children’s Museum)

Different Types of Victorian Toys

Skipping Ropes

With wooden handles and cotton cord ropes, skipping ropes were a very common toy in the Victorian era. Predominately played with by girls, a Victorian skipping rope’s handles were sometimes decorated with paint, and the more expensive versions sometimes had metal fittings at the end to stop the handle from getting worn. The rope usually passed through the centre of the handle and was tied off with a knot at the end.

Many of the skipping ropes manufactured in Britain in Victorian times were exported to other countries.

Victorian Toy Soldiers

For most of the Victorian period, toy soldiers were made from solid lead or tin and most were imported from Germany or France. As a result, they were expensive and they were mostly the play-things of the wealthiest children.

In 1893, William Britain perfected a method to create hollow metal toy soldiers. This dramatically reduced the price of the figures and resulted in an increase in sales throughout all social classes.

Victorian toy soldiers were considered to be a boy’s toys, and they were usually purchased already painted.

Victorian Marbles

Marbles in the Victorian era were either made from glass or clay?? Marble scissors were developed in the 1840s in Germany as a manufacturing tool for shaping blown glass marbles, and ceramic (china clay) marbles were also produced. China marbles didn’t chip as frequently as glass marbles did, and they were often glazed or painted in bright colors and with intricate patterns. Glass marbles were also highly decorative.

Victorian Glass Marbles
Victorian Glass Marbles

The cheapest marbles were made from clay. They were unglazed and were sometimes painted, usually in a single colour.

Some marbles were also ground down from small cubes of limestone. These marbles were heavier than the common clay marbles, and they were often not completely spherical.

Ring Taw was the most commonly-played game using marbles in Victorian times, It involved treating a ring on the ground with chalk, and placing marbles inside the circle. Players then took turns flicking other marbles at the marbles in the ring, trying to knock as many of them as possible outside of the circle.

Clay marbles were the most common, whereas the more expensive china and glass marbles would only have been played with by the children of rich families.

Victorian Building Blocks

Just like today, young Victorian children enjoyed playing with building blocks. Made from wood, and sometimes decorated with painted letters of the alphabet, Victorian building blocks were often homemade, but they could also be purchased in sets contained in wooden storage boxes.

Victorian Building Blocks
Victorian Building Blocks

Some of the building block sets were more elaborate than the standard wooden cubes. They were shaped into columns and windows, allowing the child to create more realistic-looking buildings.

Victorian Children’s Tea Sets

Made from either porcelain or faience (glazed ceramic ware), tea sets became increasingly popular around the middle of the 19th century. Children’s tea sets resembled regular tableware and all of the items (the cups, saucers, and teapots, for example), were fully functional. The only difference was that they had been resized to fit the hands of a child.

Mostly played with by girls, in the early years of the Victorian period, the rich could afford childrens’ tea sets. But, as demand increased, tea sets became more affordable, and companies that had once only focused on making adult-sized tableware began to mass-produce tea sets for the toy industry.

Victorian Rolling Hoops

Either made of iron or wood (usually ash), Victorian rolling hoops were incredibly popular, and they were played with by both boys and girls.

They were used to carry out an activity called hoop rolling, hoop bowling, or hoop trundling. The aim was to propel the hoop by rolling it, using careful touches of a stick to maintain its course.

Child playing with a Rolling Hoop
Child playing with a Rolling Hoop

Getting a wooden hoop to trundle with a stick was quite easy, but it was hard to make it turn sharp corners. Metal hoops were often controlled by hooked sticks. It took longer to learn how to control a hoop with a hook, but once mastered, it allowed for more dramatic maneuvers. Some children became so good at hoop trundling they could make their hoops turn ninety degrees, or complete tight circles without them toppling over.

Girls mostly used wooden hoops, whereas boys tended to favour metal ones.

From the 1840s, some Londoners complained about the ‘Hoop Nuisanse’, and for a while, due to the number of shin injuries given to pedestrians by out-of-control hoops, London’s police started to confiscate iron hoops being trundled in the city’s streets and parks. The mathematician Charles Babbage was particularly against children playing with hoops because he was worried that the toy would get tangled in the legs of horses, potentially causing injuries to both horse and rider.

Victorian Kaleidoscopes

Kaleidoscopes were telescope-shaped optical devices used to generate beautiful symmetrical patterns (by means of mirrors and pieces of cloured glass) seen when you look through the lens. The pattern could be altered by rotating the tube, causing the pieces of glass to shift their positions.

Invented in the early part of the 19th century by David Brewster, kaleidoscopes quickly became a popular craze the ‘kaleidoscope mania’ continued into the first few years of the Victorian period. Kaleidoscopes started out as objects made for everyone, and they only really became a toy exclusively for children later on in the 19th century and the early-20th century.

In the early-Victorian era, kaleidoscopes would have been a common sight on the streets of the UK’s towns and cities. People used to use kaleidoscopes when they were walking, and there are lots of historical reports of people bumping into things as a result of not looking where they were going.

By the middle of the 19th century, the demand for kaleidoscopes had dropped, and rather than being made-to-be handheld, mobile items, kaleidoscopes were produced with stands and were sold as curiosity pieces for Victorian parlours.

Victorian Rocking Horses

Wooden rocking horses were popular in Victorian Britain, but although they were being mass-produced in the latter part of the nineteenth century, rocking horses were an expensive toy and would only have been found in the homes of wealthy families.

The horse’s body was made from wood and it could be rocked backward and forwards on a pair of wide bow rockers by a child astride the horse’s back. The saddle was usually made from leather, and the horse’s mane and tail were often made from real horsehair.

In 1880, a safety stand was introduced, and rocking horses were made hollow to reduce their weight, further increasing their stability.

Victorian Rocking Horse
Victorian Rocking Horse

Some rocking horses were even fitted with a secret compartment accessible from the horse’s underbelly.

Most rocking horses manufactured during the Victorian era were painted a dappled grey colour.

Victorian Dolls

Dolls were made from a range of different materials in the Victorian era, such as wood, cloth, wax, composition (a mixture of sawdust and glue), papier-mache, and porcelain.

The most expensive dolls were the ones made from porcelain, and they were crafted by companies such as Germany’s Dressel and Schilling.

Most dolls from this era were smaller than the dolls of today and were made to resemble girls, young women, or babies. They often had highly-detailed and lavishly-decorated clothes, representing the fashion of the time.

Augusta Montana, an English doll-maker, brought out a range of dolls inspired by Queen Victoria’s children.

Other dolls represented professions. Ballet dancer dolls and nurse dolls, for example, were very popular.

Pull dolls, were dolls with mechanical functions. Children could open and close the pull doll’s eyes by tugging on a wire running down the back of the doll from its head.

Victorian Dolls’ Houses

Victorian dolls’ houses were incredibly realistic and straddled the line between display piece and toy. For most of the Victorian period, although the dolls’ houses were manufactured in the UK, much of the miniature furniture was made in France and Germany and had to be imported.

Dolls’ houses were very expensive toys, and only the children from wealthy households would have had been lucky enough to have had one to play with.

By the end of the 19th century, factory-made dolls’ houses were available, but even though they were often poorly constructed compared to the handcrafted alternatives, their prices were still beyond the budget of many ordinary families.

Spinning Tops

A spinning top is a toy with a sharp point at the bottom and a squat body. It can be spun on its point, and due to the gyroscopic effect, it will remain in motion until it loses energy and topples.

Brightly coloured snipping tops were popular toys in Victorian England. Constructed from wood or tin, Victorian spinning tops were mostly designed to be set in motion with a twirl of the fingers, but some were made to spin by pulling a cord coiled around the body of the spinning top. These were known as whip tops (or whip and tops).

Victorian Toy Theatres

Made from paperboard, toy theatres could be purchased both plain (to be coloured at home) or already decorated. They were sold at theatres and toy shops. The size of toy theatres varied, but most were between 20 cm and 40 cm wide.

Paper sheets, usually consisting of four actors (or one actor in four different poses) and some scenery, based on the most popular Victorian theatre productions of the day, could be purchased along with an abbreviated script booklet, so that the play could be reenacted in a toy theatre. The actors and scenery were either black and white (to be coloured by the person who bought the sheet) or pre-coloured, and they were usually cut out and pasted to card and then attached to wire slides so that they could be used with a toy theatre.

Oil lamps were often used to provide dramatic toy theatre lighting.

Toy theatres were bought by both children and adults. Many of them were built, but never played with, and were viewed as items of theatre memorabilia than true toys.

Famous toy theatre shops included W.G. Webb (Finsbury, London), and Benjamin Pollock (a business that still exists today in the form of Pollock’s Toy Museum in Scala Street, London).

The popularity of toy theatres started to diminish in the 1870s.

Thaumatrope

Thaumatropes were optical toys. A card disk was attached to two pieces of string at its edges. When the string was pulled taut and twirled in the fingers, the disk would pin and the images on either side of the disk would appear to merge.

The designs varies, but popular ones included bare tree / tree in bloom, bird / cage, empty vase / flowers.

In addition to combining images, thaumatropes could also be used (like a simple flipbook) to suggest motion.

Cup and Ball

As the name suggests, this toy consisted of a wooden (or in some cases, ivory) cup on a stick with a ball on a string attached to the stick. The idea was to flip the ball up and catch it in the cup.

These toys varied in size. Some were less than 10 cm tall and had a ball made from a large bead. Others were more than 30 cm tall and included a golf ball-sized ball.

Cup and ball toys could be simply made, but many were decorated with carving and painted in bright colours.

Victorian Footballs

Victorian footballs were made from leather and had laces to keep the ball together. They used to absorb water, becoming really dense and painful to head in wet conditions.

Those who couldn’t afford a real football made their own out of bundled sheets or rags.

Victorian Board Games

In addition to the classic games of chess, draughts, dominoes, and backgammon, dozens of other board games and tabletop games were invented during the Victorian period. These included Ludo (based on an Indian game and patented by Alfred Collier in 1981), Maricout (1882), Chinese Chequers (also known as Halma), Asalto, an early version of the Game of Life, Hoppity, Reversi, Agon, and Bizingo.

Other tabletop games included magnetic fishing, tiddlywinks, spillikins (pick up sticks), snakes and ladders, and lots of cards games (whist was particularly popular).

Victorian Board Game
Victorian Board Game

What toys did poor Victorian children play with?

Children from poor families in Victorian Britain would’ve had cheaper (usually homemade) versions of some of the toys owned by the children of the rich. For example, dolls made from cloth rather than porcelain, clay marbles rather than ones made from glass, footballs made from balled rags, simply carved cup and ball games, and spinning tops. And obviously, there would be some toys that the Victorian poor could only dream of. Elaborately decorated and furnished dolls’ houses, for example, and optical toys, and painted sets of toy soldiers.

What outdoor games did the Victorians play?

Much of the Victorian child’s play took place outside. Skipping ropes, rolling hoops, and skipping ropes would all have been used outside of the house, but they also played a lot of ‘playground games’ too. Hopscotch (with a numbered grid chalked onto the street) was popular, as were games like Blind Man’s Buff, and lots of different versions of chases games and tag.

What was the most popular Victorian toy?

The kaleidoscope craze in Britain had started to wane during the reign of Queen Victoria, so the most popular toy during this period would have been one that could be played by rich and poor alike. Because the game required several of them in order to play it, there were probably more marbles produced during the Victorian era than any other toy. Rolling hops, quoits (an early form of ring toss), and skittles were also very popular.

James Starley: Facts About the Victorian Inventor

Here are some facts about James Starley.

  • James Starley was born in the Sussex village, Albourne, in 1830.

  • When he was nine years old, he started to work on his father’s farm.
  • He invented ingenious ways of catching rats on the farm, using parts from an umbrella and willow branches.
  • When he was a teenager, he moved to Lewisham, London. He found work as a gardner, but made extra money by mending watches and inventing things to solve problems.
  • One of his early inventions was a device that allowed a duck to pass through a gap in a fence, but stopped rats from following it.
  • James Starley fixed his employers sewing machine and then improved its design, and this led to him getting a job with Josiah Turner, a partner of the men who had manufactured the sewing machine.
  • Around 1860, James Starley and Josiah Turner started their own company, the Coventry Sewing Machine Company.
  • By 1868, the company was producing bicycles. It soon became one of the key companies at the centre of the British bicycle industry.
  • With William Hardy, James Starley made a version of the penny-farthing.
  • The company’s most famous bike was the Ariel, made from all metal and released in 1870.
  • James Starley was constantly looking for ways to make his products better and more efficient. He invented the tangent spoke wheel, differential gears (used the manufacture of cars today) and he came up with ways to perfect the bicycle chain drive.
  • He married Jane Todd and they had a son called William Starley.
  • James Starley died in Coventry in 1881. He was 51 years old.
  • His son and nephew, John Kemp Starley, carried on making bicycles after James’ death. John Kemp Starley went on to make the Rover Safety Bicycle.
  • James Starely is sometimes known as “the father of the bicycle industry”.
  • Starley’s factory in Coventry is now home to the Museum of British Road Transport.
  • In a 1999 vote, James Whittle was voted the third most important person in Coventry’s history.
  • There is a statue of James Starley in Coventry.

What next? Discover facts about some other famous Victorians.

Penny Farthing: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about the penny farthing.

  • The Penny Farthing was the first machine to be called a bicycle. Its name came from its large front wheel and smaller back wheel, which resembled the largest and smallest coins of the time.

  • It was popular in the late 19th century in Europe and the United States. Because the Penny Farthing, or high wheel bicycle, was expensive to make, it was usually only purchased by wealthy young men.
  • The front wheel often measured just over 2 metres in diameter. The machine had solid rubber tyres, a cast iron frame and pedals attached directly to the wheel hub.
  • The larger front wheel and small back wheel supposedly made the machine easier to ride. However, many riders found it difficult to get on and off the bicycle, and there were many injuries.
  • Some riders even died from falling off the bicycle, because of its height. When coasting downhill, riders had to take their feet off the pedals and put them over the handlebars.
  • The bicycle was designed by a British Victorian inventor, James Starley. In 1878, the Columbia bicycle factory opened in the United States, and the machine became popular there.

Penny Farthing

  • The Penny Farthing lost much of its popularity in the late 1880s when Starley’s nephew invented the Rover Safety Bicycle. Its most noticeable feature was a saddle much closer to the ground.
  • Around the same time, John Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre. This new technology meant that smaller machines with smaller wheels could be ridden safely and comfortably.
  • Today, several US cities have the Penny Farthing bicycle as their symbol. It also featured in one of the most famous television shows ever, The Prisoner.
  • In 2006, Joff Summerfield spent over two years riding around the world on a Penny Farthing. The national Penny Farthing championship races are held every year in Tasmania, Australia.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Facts About the Creator of Sherlock Holmes

Here are some facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish writer and doctor, born in May 1859 in Edinburgh. He is best known for creating the world’s most famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes.

  • He studied medicine for several years at the University of Edinburgh. Doyle later worked as a doctor on a Greenland whaling ship and a surgeon on a ship sailing to West Africa.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle started writing short stories in his late teens.
  • The first Sherlock Holmes story,  A Study in Scarlet, was published in an 1886 magazine.
  • Sherlock Holmes, was based on a professor at Doyle’s university, Joseph Bell.
  • Doyle also wrote other books and short stories, including 3 Professor Challenger novels.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Arthur Conan Doyle was more successful as a writer than as a doctor. His first medical partnership was a failure and when he set up his own eye care practice, he had no patients.
  • Doyle was interested in spiritualism and was a member of the ‘Ghost Club’. He believed that a photograph of fairies was real, and that the magician Houdini had supernatural powers.
  • He was a skilled golfer, footballer and cricketer. He was captain of his local golf club, and played in 10 first class matches for Marylebone Cricket Club.
  • Doyle twice ran for Parliament, but lost both times. He received a Knighthood for his writings on the Boer War, and he also helped to free two wrongly convicted men from prison.
  • At age 55, Doyle was too old to fight in World War I, so instead, he formed a battalion of volunteers. He also predicted the war with Germany several years before the war started.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died from a heart attack in July, 1930 and is buried in Minstead, Hampshire. There is a statue of Sherlock Holmes near his birthplace in Edinburgh.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous Victorians.

Louis Pasteur: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Louis Pasteur.

  • Louis Pasteur was a French biologist and chemist. He is best known for his research into the cause and prevention of various diseases, as well as finding vaccines for anthrax and rabies.

  • He was born in Dole, France in December 1822.
  • Before becoming interested in science, Pasteur studied painting and drawing.
  • He taught at a school in Dijon and in 1848 became professor of chemistry at Strasbourg University.
  • He married the daughter of the university’s principal, in 1849. They had 5 children, although 3 died at an early age and these losses were partly responsible for Pasteur becoming a scientist.
  • Louis Pasteur realized that tiny organisms, known as germs, carry bacteria and cause disease.
  • He helped the silk industry, by realising that microbes were destroying silkworms.
  • Louis Pasteur came up with the idea that a person must either be left or right handed.
  • He was a devout Catholic.
  • He invented the process of pasteurization, which is widely used today for milk and beer. The rapid heating process, which kills harmful germs, still bears his name.

Louis Pasteur

  • Pasteur invented the rabies vaccine after treating a boy bitten by a dog, and also came up with the word ‘vaccination’. He also devised vaccines for tuberculosis, cholera and yellow fever.
  • He was afraid of catching diseases from people and would never shake anyone’s hand. He also encouraged doctors to sanitize their equipment and wash their hands before surgery.
  • Pasteur was honoured by the London Royal Society and the French Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor, one of only 75 French citizens to receive the award.
  • Louis Pasteur died in 1895 from a stroke. He is buried in the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and his crypt is engraved with some of his research and findings.

What next? Learn more about Robert Koch and Joseph Lister, two other scientists who worked during the reign of Queen Victoria.

Prince Albert: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Prince Albert.

  • Prince Albert was the husband of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. They were married for 21 years until his death in 1861 at age 42.
  • Albert was born in Germany on August 26th, 1819 and studied music, art history, law and philosophy. It was decided he would make a suitable husband for Queen Victoria and they were married in 1840.

  • In 1841 he became chairman of the Royal Commission, set up to promote the arts. He became a successful art collector, buying valuable and quality paintings.
  • Albert was good with the Royal finances and by 1844 had enough money to buy a house on the Isle of Wight for the family. Osborne House was designed to look like an Italian villa.

Prince Albert

  • At first Prince Albert was not really poplar with the British people. He became the Queen’s private secretary after the death of the Prime Minister in 1848, and this helped to improve his public image.
  • Prince Albert helped to organize the Great Exhibition of 1851 to celebrate the might of the British Empire. He used money from the exhibition to build some of London’s museums.
  • The Victoria and Albert Museum was founded in 1852. It was originally referred to as the Museum of Manufactures, and then the South Kensington Museum before gaining it’s current name in 1899.
  • Albert also helped to address the problem of child labour in factories and workshops. He supported more modern universities and took an interest in science, the arts and industry.
  • Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were shot at several times by assassins. On one occasion, Albert his wife’s life by pushing her out of the path of the bullet.
  • Prince Albert died in December, 1861 after being ill for 2 years. He probably died from typhoid, although other historians suggest that he may have had cancer.
  • Despite Albert’s request that no statues of him be built, there are dozens including London’s Albert Memorial. The towns of Lake Albert in Africa and Price Albert in Canada are named after him.

What next? Discover more facts about the Victorians by visiting our Victorian resources page.

Rowland Hill: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Rowland Hill.

  • Rowland Hill was an English inventor, teacher and social reformer. He is famous for coming up with the idea for the basic postal service, including stamps.
  • He was born in 1795 in Kidderminster and at the age of 12 taught other students. In 1819 he opened a revolutionary new school which had heating, a science laboratory and a swimming pool.

  • Rowland Hill worked on a plan to colonize parts of Australia during the 1830s. The colony would have no convicts and would have all the good qualities of British society.

Rowland Hill

  • His interest in the postal service began when he was 8 years old. His family could not afford to pay the postage and sent Hill to sell his old clothes to afford it.
  • In the 1830s, postage was paid by the recipient, not the sender. Hill argued that there should be a better system and came up with a flat rate, regardless of distance.
  • Adhesive stamps were already being used to pay taxes and Hill felt they could be used to pay postage too. Hill presented all his ideas in a series of pamphlets.
  • The Penny Black was issued in May, 1840 and was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp. Today, an unused Penny Black stamp can be worth as much as £4,000.
  • In 1843, Hill became chairman of the London and Brighton Railway. He introduced many changes including comfortable trains and low fares and helped make Brighton a popular place to live.
  • Rowland Hill died in 1879, in Hampstead, London where a local street was named after him. He is buried in London’s Westminster Abbey and has a memorial in Highgate Cemetery.
  • Hill’s home town of Kidderminster has the Rowland Hill Shopping Centre. There is a statue of him in the town, as well as statues of him in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous Victorians, or visit our Victorians resources page.

Michael Faraday: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Michael Faraday.

  • Michael Faraday was an English scientist, and one of the most important scientists of all time. He is known for his discoveries in chemistry, electricity and magnetism.
  • Faraday was born in 1791, just outside London. His first job was in a bookshop, allowing him to read lots of science books, and he later attended lectures at the Royal Society.

  • In 1825, Michael Faraday created the Christmas Lectures, hosting them 19 times. The talks still take place today and have been hosted by Carl Sagan and David Attenborough.
  • His work led to advances in many areas of science. Faraday helped to develop the use of electricity in technology, helped to create electric motors and discovered the laws of electrolysis.
  • Faraday began experimenting with electricity in the 1820s. He constructed the first dynamo and came up with important theories about gravity and light.
  • Michael Faraday also carried out research into chlorine and invented a simple Bunsen burner. He came up with several new words that are still used today, including ion, cathode and electrode.
  • He was concerned about the environment and investigated industrial pollution in South Wales. He also helped to plan the Great Exhibition of 1851, and advised the National Gallery about cleaning their paintings.

Michael Faraday

  • Faraday refused to accept a knighthood and turned down a request to become President of the Royal Society. He also refused to help the government create chemical weapons, on moral grounds.
  • A workshop used by Michael Faraday can still be seen today, next to the only lighthouse in London, at Trinity Buoy Wharf, in the heart of London’s Docklands.
  • Streets in London, Nottingham, Swindon and other UK cities are named after him, as well as streets in Paris. Many schools are named for him, as is a small park, Faraday Park, located close to his birthplace in London.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous Victorians, or visit our Victorians resources page.

George Stephenson: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about George Stephenson.

  • George Stephenson was an engineer who built the first public railway to use steam trains. He also devised the miner’s safety lamp and built several bridges.

  • Stephenson was born in 1781 in Northumberland and learned to read and write at night school. He became an expert with steam machinery after fixing the pumping device in a local mine.
  • His first job was keeping a herd of cows out of the way of a horse drawn wagon. He was later hired to build a 13 km mine railway in 1820, the world’s first that was not pulled by animals.

George Stephenson

  • George Stephenson also devised a safety lamp for miners that would burn without exploding. An inventor called Davy invented a lamp at the same time, causing arguments between the two men.
  • In 1829, George Stephenson and his son Robert designed their famous steam train, the Rocket. The Rocket was so successful that virtually all other steam trains were modeled after it.
  • The Rocket featured in the opening day celebrations of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. However, the celebrations were overshadowed by the death of a local MP in the world’s first railway accident.
  • Stephenson is also credited with inventing the standard gauge for rail tracks which is still used all over the world.

George Stephenson railway

  • The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened in 1830. It was the first railway in which all the trains operated to a timetable and all passengers bought a ticket.
  • George Stephenson also designed the first bridge to cross a railway line at an angle, for extra strength. The bridge was built in 1830 at Rainhill and is still used today.
  • George Stephenson died on 12th August 1848 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. He was 67 years old and was suffering with pleurisy, a lung infection.
  • Today, Stephenson’s birthplace is a museum, and there is a statue of him in Chesterfield Station. Several schools are named after him and he appeared on the 5 pound note between 1990 and 2003.

What next? Discover some facts about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, another famous engineer, or learn more about the Victorians by visiting our Victorians resources page.

Who was Elizabeth Fry? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Elizabeth Fry, the English reformer.

  • Elizabeth Fry was born on 21st May 1780 in Norwich, England.
  • As a child she lived in Earlham Hall.

  • Her parents were very wealthy. Her father was associated with Gurney’s Bank and her mother was related to the founders of Barclays Bank.
  • When she was 18, Elizabeth was inspired by the American Quaker, William Savery. She began to become aware of the plight of prisoners, the poor, and the sick.

Elizabeth Fry

  • Elizabeth married Joseph Fry in 1800 and they had 11 children.
  • She visitied Newgate Prison and decided something must be done to improve the conditions for the women and children prisoners. She helped to set up the ‘Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners’ in Newgate, and in 1818 she gave evidence to the House of Commons.
  • She set up the Brighton District Visiting Society. The members visited poor families to offer support and charity.
  • In 1840 she started a nursing school. Apparently, she inspired Florence Nightingale, and some of the Fry nurses went with Florence Nightingale to help the wounded of the Crimean War.
  • Queen Victoria was impressed by Elizabeth Fry. She met with her on several occasions and provided funding for some of her causes.
  • Robert Peel was also a supporter of Elizabeth Fry.
  • Elizabeth Fry died on 12th October 1845. She suffered a stroke. She is buried in Ramsgate in a private burial ground.
  • Elizabeth Fry has appeared on the back of £5 notes.

Elizabeth Fry £5 note

What next? Discover some facts about other famous Victorians, or visit our Victorians resources page.