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.

David Livingstone: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about David Livingstone, the famous missionary, explorer and hero of Victorian Britain.

  • David Livingstone was born on 19th March 1813 in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

  • From the age of ten, Livingstone worked in the local cotton mill. He started off as a ‘piecer’, tying together broken threads of cotton) and then he worked as ‘spinner’.
  • His parents were very religious. His father, Neil, was a Sunday School teacher and he often read books Christian theology.
  • Livingstone’s parents were very keen for David to receive a good education. After working for 14 hours in the mill, he attended Balntyre village school. Hw was encouraged to read at home.

David Livingstone

  • David Livingstone wanted to become a Christian missionary. He attended Anderson’s College in Glasgow in 1836, and he studied Greek and theology classes at the University of Glasgow. He attended the London Missionary School in the late 1830s and he started to study medicine.
  • In 1840, David Livingstone set sail for South Africa as a Christian missionary.
  • During the 1840s, Livingstone made several expeditions from the mission base in Kuruman. He founded a mission at Mabotsa.
  • In 1855, David Livingstone was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfalls, which he renamed Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria.
  • Livingstone came to believe that his role on Earth was to explore Africa in order to discover routes for commercial trade. He believed that commerce would provide an alternative to the slave trade and would promote civilization and Christianity.
  • He resigned from the London Missionary School in 1857 (they wanted him to do more preaching and less exploring) and he became Royal Consul for the East Coast of Africa.
  • From 1858 to 1864, David Livingstone led the Zambezi Expedition. The aim was to open up a route into Africa’s interior. Unfortunately, the expedition was a failure. The Zambezi River proved impassable and Livingstone’s leadership qualities were called into question.
  • In 1866 Livingstone set out to discover the source of the Nile River. During this journey, he became the first European to see Lake Bangweulu and Lake Ngami.
  • During his journey to find the source of the Nile, David Livingstone completely lost contact with the ‘outside’ world. He was severely ill – suffering from cholera and ulcers.
  • The New York Herald newspaper sent Henry Morton Stanley to find David Livingstone. He found him on 10th November 1871 and apparently greeted him by saying, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”.
  • Stanley tried to convince Livingstone to return to England, but Livingstone was determined to carry on his explorations of Africa.
  • David Livingstone died on 1st May 1873 from malaria and dysentery in present-day Zambia. His body and his personal journal were shipped back to England by Chuma and Susi, his longstanding attendants. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.
  • David Livingstone married Mary Moffat in January 1845. They had six children, two of which were delivered by David Livingstone during his journey across the Kalahari Desert.
  • Mary died of malaria at the mouth of the Zambezi River on 27th April 1862.
  • Only two of Livingstone’s children married and had their own children.

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

Mary Anning: Facts About The Famous Fossil Collector

Here are some facts about Mary Anning, the fossil collector and paleontologist.

  • Mary Anning was born on 21st May 1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset.
  • Her father, Richard Anning, was a cabinetmaker and amateur fossil hunter.

  • When she was only fifteen months old, Mary Anning survived being struck by lightning. She was in the arms of a neighbour under an elm tree, when a bolt of lightning struck the tree. The lightning killed the neighbour who was holding Mary, and it killed two other women, but Mary was unhurt.
  • Mary attended a Congregationalist Sunday School ans she learnt to read and write.
  • Her father often took Mary and her brother, Jospeh, fossil hunting around the cliffs of Lyme Regis. They sold their finds to tourists.
  •  When Mary’s father died in 1810, the remaining family members focused on growing their fossil hunting / selling business.
  • Mary became an expert fossil hunter. She spent days looking for fossils in the cliffs around Lyme Regis.
  • Fossil collecting was dangerous work. The cliffs could collapse at any moment and landslides were common. Mary’s dog, Tray, was killed when he was hit by falling rocks.

Mary Anning

  • She found her first complete Plesiosaurus skeleton on 10th December 1823. She also found various pterosaurs and a Squaloraja skeleton.
  • Mary had an incredible understanding of fossils and dinosaur skeletons. It was said that she could just glance at a fossil and immediately work out what it was and which dinosaur it came from.
  • Mary Anning and her family sold fossils to museums and collectors all over the world.
  • She was good friends with the geologists Henry De la Beche, William Buckland and Richard Owen.
  • Mary was also in contact with the geologist Adam Sedgwick, one of Charles Darwin‘s tutors.
  • Although she knew more about fossils than many of the experts who visited her in Lyme Regis, because she was a woman and because she was a member of the working class, she wasn’t completely accepted by the 19th century British scientific community.
  • Mary Anning died on 9th March 1847. She had breast cancer.
  • Charles Dickens wrote an article about Mary, celebrating her life and achievements.
  • Anning is one of the main characters in the book Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.
  • Apparently, Mary Anning was the inspiration for Terry Sullivan’s tongue twister, She Sells Seashells.
  • Mary was good friends with Elizabeth Philpot, another fossil collector from Lyme Regis.

What next? Discover more facts about famous Victorians or visit our Victorians resources page.

John Cadbury: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about John Cadbury, the famous Victorian chocolate factory owner and businessman.

  • John Cadbury was born in 1802 and he owned a small chocolate company in Birmingham, England. He is famous for creating the modern chocolate bar by developing a process to harden chocolate.

  • Cadbury was a Quaker and was not allowed to join the military or go to university. He naturally turned towards business and he also founded the Animal Friends Society.
  • John Cadbury opened his first shop in 1824 – it sold silk and drapery. Cadbury installed a plate glass shop window, which at the time was quite advanced, and hired a Chinese man to work there.
  • Cadbury’s first chocolate factory opened in 1831 in Birmingham. By 1842, the company was producing and selling 16 varieties of drinking chocolate.

John Cadbury

  • John Cadbury and his brother were given their first Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1854. It meant they were the official cocoa and chocolate makers for the Queen.
  • In 1868, the Cadbury company manufactured and sold the first mass produced box of chocolates, in addition to selling individual bars and chocolate pieces.
  • John Cadbury retired from the chocolate business in 1861, and his two sons took over. In his later years he was in poor health; he died in 1889 and is buried in Birmingham.
  • In 1895, the Cadbury family purchased 120 acres of land near Birmingham, to house their workers. The village was called Bournville and is still seen as a model society.
  • By 1897, Cadbury was producing chocolate bars made with milk. In 1875, the company produced their first Easter Eggs, filled with sugar coated chocolate pieces.
  • Today, Cadbury is the second largest candy and chocolate company in the world. The company employs over 70,000 people in 50 countries.

What next? Discover some interesting Victorian facts, learn about some other famous Victorians, or find out about Victorian factories and their reform.

Lord Shaftesbury Facts

Here are some facts about Lord Shaftesbury, the English reformer and politician.

  • Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury was born on 28th April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London.

  • Until his father’s death in 1851, he was known as Lord Ashley.
  • Lord Ashley didn’t have a very happy childhood. He hardly saw his parents and he had an unpleasant time at the Manor House School in Chiswick. He did get on well with the housekeeper, Maria Mills. She used to tell him stories from the Bible to cheer him up when he was unhappy.
  • Shaftesbury was a pupil at Harrow School and then he studied classics at Christ Church College, Oxford.
  • In 1826 Shaftesbury became a Tory Member of Parliament. He was a supporter of the Duke of Wellington.
  • Shaftesbury was heavily involved in reforming lunatic asylums in Britain helping to provide better care and treatment of the insane.
  • He was also one of the key individuals responsible for bringing about reform of Britain’s factories, improving working conditions and limiting the length of the workday.

Lord Shaftesbury

  • Shaftesbury was president of the Ragged School Union, promoting the education of poor children.
  • Lord Shaftesbury was married to Lady Emily Caroline Catherine Frances Cowper. They had ten children.
  • He died on 1st October 1885. He was 84 years old. A funeral service was held in Westminster Abbey. Many people assembled to catch a glimpse of Shaftesbury’s coffin.
  • In 1893 the Shaftesbury Memorial was placed in Piccadilly Circus. The Memorial is topped by a statue of the Greek God, Anteros. The statue is called the The Angel of Christian Charity, but most people (incorrectly) call it the Statue of Eros.
  • Lord Shaftesbury was known as the Reforming Lord Shaftesbury and the Poor Man’s Earl, because many of the reforms he championed helped the poor and the working class of Victorian Britain.

What next? Find out more about Victorian factory reforms, learn about William Wilberforce (another famous British philanthropist and reformer), or visit our Victorians resources page.

The Reform of Victorian Factories

Industry in Britain boomed during the Victorian period. By 1851 there were more than 85,000 factories in Britain and many of the factory owners were becoming very wealthy indeed. In order to maximise their profits, some factory owners pushed their workforce to the limits, enforcing long working hours and employing children to carry out dangerous tasks for very low wages.

Click here to find out more about the conditions in Victorian factories.

Not all factory owners were like this, however. Some realised that workers carried out tasks better if they were happy and well looked after.

  • Robert Owen paid his mill workers fair wages and provided houses for them in New Lanark.
  • Sir Titus Salt founded Saltaire – a purpose built factory site with a modern mill and ample housing for his workers.
  • William Lever, an important businessman in the soap industry, set up Port Sunlight, another purpose built factory site, in Merseyside, and George Cadbury (the chocolate manufacturer), and son of John Cadbury, founded Bournville in Birmingham.

Unfortunately, not all factory bosses were so forward-thinking.

Parliament was forced to introduce numerous laws to change working conditions in the factories of Victorian Britain. These were known as the Factory Acts.

The Factory Acts

The numerous Factory Acts passed throughout the Victorian period gradually improved conditions for factory workers. They particularly focused on limiting the number of hours children were legally allowed to work.

  • Factory Acts of 1833, 1844 and 1847 made it illegal to employ children under the age of nine. They also stated that children under the age of 18 and women could not work more than 10 hours a day.
  • Many factory owners disagreed with the new laws and the laws were really hard to enforce. The limits only applied to women and child workers in mines and mills – men were still allowed to work for as many hours as their bosses demanded.
  • Reformers such as John Fielden and the Earl of Shaftesbury pushed to have the laws extended to all workers. In 1874 (when Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister) the 10-Hour Rule was applied to male workers and in 1878 the laws on working conditions were extended to all types of factories (and were no longer just applied to mills and mines).
  • In 1897 laws were put into place to allow workers to claim compensation for an injury they received at work.

What next? Visit our Victorians resources page.

How many children did Queen Victoria have?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had nine children.

  • Victoria, Princess Royal (the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria) was born in 1840. She became the Empress of Germany by marrying Frederick III, Emperor of Germany, and she died in 1901.

  • Edward Albert, the Prince of Wales (next in line for the throne) was born in 1841 and in 1863 got married to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Edward became Edward VII, King of England, following Queen Victoria’s death in 1901. He died in 1910.
  • Alice Maud Mary was born in 1843. She married Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse in 1862. She died in 1878.
  • Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, was born in 1844. He married Princess Marie of Russia in 1874 and he died in 1900.
  • Helena Augusta Victoria, born in 1846, married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and died in 1923.
  • Louise Caroline Alberta was born in 1848. She married John Campbell, Duke of Argyll and Marquis of Lorne in 1871. She died in 1939
  • Arthur William Patrick Albert, born in 1850, married Princess Louise of Prussia. He died in 1942.
  • Leopold George Duncan Albert was born in 1853. He married Princess Helena Frederica of Waldeck and Pyrmont, and he died in 1884.
  • Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore was born in 1856. She married Prince Henry of Battenberg and she died in 1944.
Queen Victoria and her children
Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children.

Victoria and Albert also had 42 grandchildren and more than 80 great-grandchildren.

Prince Albert only got to meet 2 of his grandchildren before his death in 1861, but Queen Victoria lived long enough to meet all of her grandchildren and many of her great-grandchildren.

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, was the last of Victoria’s grandchildren to pass away. She died in 1981 in Kensington Palace aged 97.

Find out more about Queen Victoria, or visit our Victorians resources page.

Victorian London: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Victorian London.

  • Queen Victoria reigned in Britain from 1837 until 1901, and the time that she reigned is generally known as the Victorian period. For much of that time, Britain had a huge empire stretching around the world.

  • Victorian London was the largest city in the world for much of that time. Its population grew from about 1 million people in 1800, to about 6.7 million in 1900 although many of the city’s residents lived in poverty.
  • Many of London’s most famous buildings and landmarks were built during the 19th century, including Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and Victoria Station.
  • The first lines on the London Underground were constructed in 1863. Today, there are 270 stations, with over 250 miles of track and the system carries over 3 million passengers every day.
  • One of the most famous people in Victorian London was the murderer, Jack the Ripper, who was never identified or caught. Today, a guided walk around Jack the Ripper’s London is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
  • Victorian London was well known for its fog, which was often extremely thick. Because it had a slight green colour to it, the fog was often known as a pea-souper. Apparently, people regularly walked into the River Thames because they couldn’t see where they were going.
  • The Great Exhibition took place in 1851 to showcase science and technology. Among the exhibits were the world’s largest diamond, an early fax machine and a machine that counted votes.
  • Geese were popular for Christmas dinner with Victorian London families. They were taken to the market with tar on their feet to protect them when they walked.

Victorian London

  • Victorian London was often featured in the novels of Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist. London’s prisons, such as Newgate Prison and Fleet Prison, were described, as was the Victorian Fog (see above).
  • The Great Stink took place in the summer of 1858. Raw sewage pumped into the River Thames dried in the hot weather and created a horrible and lingering smell in the capital city. This prompted the construction of the London sewerage system in the late 19th century.

What next? Discover more facts about London, learn about Charles Dickens, or visit our Victorians resources page.

Victorian Factories and the Machines of Industry: Facts and Information

From the mid-18th century industrial machines were being developed, changing the way in which goods were manufactured. Factories, built to house the machinery, dominated Britain’s urban areas and were the workplace of many. Here are some facts about the factories of Victorian Britain.

  • Factory towns, such as Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, Middlesbrough and Bradford (to name just a few), were dirty and overcrowded. Smoke from the chimneys of the factories used to coat the walls of the houses and make the streets grimy. The industrial areas around Wolverhampton became so covered in grime that it became known as the Black Country.
  • However, the industrial machinery and the development of the factory did bring wealth to the country. During the the reign of Queen Victoria, Britain’s exports went up dramatically and many businessmen made a lot of money.
  • One of the most valuable exports was cotton cloth. This was mainly manufactured in Lancashire and in parts of Scotland. It is estimated that the cotton industry alone provided jobs for more than 1 million people in the 1850s.
  • Some of the Victorian factories were incredibly large and employed more than 500 people.
Cotton Mill
A cotton mill.

Conditions in Victorian Factories

  • Life was very hard for workers in most Victorian factories. The working day lasted for twelve hours or more and Sunday was the only full day off. Some factories did allow the workers to go home early on Saturdays.
  • The machines were very loud and they thundered relentlessly all day long.
  • The workers had to move quickly to keep up with the machinery. Workers could be fined or sacked for falling behind.
  • In cotton mills, dust from the yarn covered the workers and got in their throats. In order to make sure that the cotton was kept strong, factory owners kept their mills warm and damp. This meant that the workers often suffered with lung and chest infections.
  • In 1851, more than 500,000 of Britain’s children were working – and many of these were working in factories. Factory owners often paid children a small fraction of the wages they paid to grown men and women.
  • Children, sometimes as young as six, carried out dangerous tasks, such as clearing blockages on spinning frames in mills.
  • Children in factories were often beaten when they made mistakes or worked too slowly.
  • Many workers were killed or injured by the machines they worked with. The didn’t have any safety features and they were slow to stop if a worker got caught up in them.
  • Many factory workers lived in overcrowded, poor quality housing. Built near to the factories themselves, these houses were dirty and they often didn’t have proper drains or separate areas in which to prepare food.
  • Diseases spread quickly through the populations of Britain’s factory towns. Many children died from measles and typhoid.

Conditions in factories did improve during the Victorian period. Click here to learn more about the factory reforms (coming soon!).

Discover more Victorian facts by taking a look at the Primary Facts Victorian resources page.

Queen Victoria Facts

Here are some facts about Queen Victoria, the 19th century British monarch.

  • Queen Victoria was the longest reigning British monarch in history. She was Queen from June, 1837 until her death in January, 1901.
  • She was born on May 24, 1819 and married her first cousin, Prince Albert in 1840. The couple had 9 children, all of whom married into European royal families, and Victoria was often known as the grandmother of Europe.

  • Although she had 9 children, Victoria was never happy at having to go through the experience of giving birth. One time she took chloroform, which helped many women realize they could give birth without pain.

Queen Victoria

  • She was the first monarch to live at Buckingham Palace in London. Queen Victoria’s coronation took place on June 28, 1838.
  • Queen Victoria was a prolific writer, writing about 2,500 words every day during her adult life. Although some of her diaries were accidentally destroyed, many of these 122 volumes survive to this day.
  • Victoria did not like smoking and had ‘no smoking’ signs placed in almost all the rooms in the palace. She also did not like using the newly invented telephone.
  • She enjoyed looking at art and was quite a talented artist herself. On several birthdays and anniversaries, she gave her husband a painting depicting nude, or near nude women.
  • Although the common image of Queen Victoria is of a serious looking woman, she had her fun side. She enjoyed a good joke, going to the opera, dancing and playing the piano.
  • Queen Victoria was devastated when her husband died in December, 1861. From that day on, she wore only black and was in a permanent state of mourning.
  • During her reign, there were at least seven attempts to kill her. Several of the would be assassins were sent to a mental asylum and were declared insane.
  • Queen Victoria could speak several languages, including Urdu and Hindustani. Although she never visited Canada, she declared Ottawa to be the capital of the province.
  • Named after the Queen, the Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 for acts of bravery during the Crimean War. Today, it is still the highest award for bravery, not only in Britain, but in Canada and Australia.
  • Although she treated her staff well, she did not care for Prime Minister Gladstone. Often, she would remain standing so that he had to stand too, despite the fact that he was in his 80s.
  • The Penny Black, the first adhesive postage stamp, was released in Britain on 1st May 1840. It was designed by William Mulready and shows Queen Victoria in profile.

Penny Black

  • In the UK, hundreds of streets and squares are named after Queen Victoria, and there are many statues to her. London’s Victoria station is named after her, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • Victoria Falls in Africa is named after Queen Victoria.
  • Many other places around the world are also named after her, including Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, the capital of the Seychelles Islands, several Canadian cities and two states in Australia.
  • Queen Victoria’s reign is also known as the Victorian Era or the Victorian Period.

What next? Learn more about Queen Victoria and the Victorians by visiting the Primary Facts Victorians resources page.