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.

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.

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.

Charles Darwin Facts

Charles Darwin was an English scientist. He is most well known for his theory of evolution.

Here are some facts about Charles Darwin:

  • Charles Darwin’s father was a doctor and he really wanted Charles to study medicine at university. Charles started to train to be a doctor, but he was afraid of the sight of blood, and switched to studying the classics. However, Charles soon realised that his real passion was for geology (the study of the Earth and rocks) and botany (plant biology).

  • In 1831 Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle, a naval survey ship. Darwin was there to collect plant and animal specimens from the countries and islands the ship visited.
  • The voyage took five years. For Charles Darwin, the most important part of the journey was the time spent in the Galapagos Islands. These islands are the home to plants and animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Darwin noticed that each of the different islands was home to a different type of tortoise.
  • When the Beagle returned to England, and Darwin began to study the specimens he had collected in more detail, he realised that the differences in finches of the Galapagos Islands followed a similar pattern to those he had observed in the tortoises. The finches from all of the islands were similar, but birds from different islands had different beaks.
  • Darwin started to study other animals and plants, and he began to piece together his theory of natural selection which explains how populations evolve.
  • Darwin didn’t publish his findings straight away because he knew that they would be extremely controversial and upset many people.
  • On the Origin of Species finally came out in 1859. It was a massive talking point because it challenged the truth of the creation story found in the Bible.
  • Today, Darwin’s theory of natural selection has been accepted (by most people) as scientific fact, and new fossil discoveries are constantly adding to our knowledge of the different stages of evolution.
  • Darwin’s appears on UK £10 notes, and a statue of him has been placed in the main hall of London’s Natural History Museum.
  • More than 120 species have been named after Darwin.

Click here to find out some facts about other famous Victorians.

Joseph Lister Facts

Joseph Lister was a British surgeon who made surgery safer for patients by introducing sterilization techniques.

Here are some facts about Jospeh Lister:

  • Joseph Lister studied at the University of London and he entered the Royal College of Surgeons when he was 26.

  • Lister worked as a professor of surgery at universities in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
  • His greatest contribution to medicine was to promote the use of carbolic acid as an antiseptic. Lister was heavily influenced by Louis Pasteur‘s work on bacteria. After studying Pasteur’s findings, Lister soon realised that severe changes needed to happen to prevent so many people dying after surgery, due to infection. Traditionally, surgeons wore dirty aprons, surgical instruments were unclean and surgeons didn’t even wash their hands before carrying out operations. Lister tested what would happen if the surgical instruments and bandages were treated with carbolic acid, and he was pleased to see that infection was significantly reduced.
  • By 1879 Lister’s ideas had been accepted by most hospitals in Britain. Carbolic acid was used on bandages and was even sprayed into the air during operations to kill bacteria and reduce the risk of the wound becoming infected.
  • Lister also made other contributions to medicine. He was the second man in England to operate on a brain tumor, and he worked out a method of repairing kneecaps with metal wire.
  • In 1897, he was made Baron Lister of Lyme Regis.
  • In 1901, although he had retired as a surgeon, he was asked to give advice about antiseptics and sterilization when Edward VII had his appendix removed.
  • Lister died in 1912, aged 84.

Joseph Lister

Find out about some of the other famous Victorians by clicking here.

Robert Peel: Facts and Information

Robert Peel was the British Prime Minister from 1834 to 1835, and from 1841 to 1846. He most well-known for starting the first police force in Britain.

Here are some facts about him:

  • Robert Peel was born in Bury, Lancashire in 1788.
  • He was an excellent student, and he attended Oxford University, studying classics and mathematics.

  • His father, Sir Robert Peel, was a very wealthy textile manufacturer, and he was also a Member of Parliament.
  • As a result of his father’s influence and political connections, Robert Peel became a Member of Parliament when he was only 21.
  • Robert Peel held a number of government posts (in both England and Ireland) before becoming Home Secretary in 1822.
  • In 1829, Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan Police Force based at Scotland Yard. He employed 1000 police constables and they became known as ‘Bobbies’ or ‘Peelers’.
  • The ‘Bobbies’ were quite unpopular at first, but they did succeed in reducing crime in London.
  • Robert Peel was twice the Prime Minister of Britain. His first term (from 1834 to 1835) was as leader of a minority government, but his second term (from 1841 to 1835) saw him as leader of a Tory (Conservative) majority.
  • During his time as Prime Minister, Peel reintroduced income tax in order to reduce taxes on goods.
  • In 1844 Peel introduced the Factory Act, limiting the number of hours that women and children were permitted to work in factories.
  • Robert Peel served as MP for Tamworth from 1830 to his death in 1850. He is credited with breeding the first Tamworth pig, by crossing pigs local to Tamworth with pigs from Ireland.
  • Robert Peel had five sons and two daughters.
  • He died in 1850 following a riding accident.
  • Robert Peel is often referred to as the founder of modern conservatism, and as the father of modern policing.

Robert Peel

Click here to find out about other famous Victorians.

Lewis Carroll Facts

Here are some interesting facts about Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.

  • Lewis Carroll’s real name is Charles Dodgson. He used the name Lewis Carroll when he was writing his children’s books and composing his poems.

  • He was born in 1832 and died in 1898.
  • Lewis Carroll was a teacher of maths at Oxford University.
  • Lewis Carroll was one of eleven children. When he was growing up, he often spent time playing literary games with his brothers and sisters.
  • He was also very keen on drawing as a child.
  • Lewis Carroll often used to take the three daughters of his friend, Dean Liddell, for days out and boat trips on the river. It was on one of these trips that he first told the story that became Alice in Wonderland. The story was first published in 1865.
  • Carroll wrote another Alice book. This one was called Alice Through the Looking Glass and it was published in 1865.
  • As well as writing children’s books, Lewis Carroll also enjoyed writing poetry, and he was a keen letter writer.
  • Lewis Carroll produced several works about mathematics when he was working at Oxford University, and he invented the Carroll Diagram (sometimes known as the Lewis Carroll Square), a method of grouping data which is still taught in maths lessons to today.
  • Lewis Carroll loved puzzles and games. He was a very keen chess player, and there are lots of references to chess (and other games) in his books for children.

Lewis Carroll

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William Morris Facts

William Morris was an English artist, poet and politician. He was incredibly creative and he produced decorative art in a range of different forms, including: textiles, furniture, wallpaper, stained glass windows, book design and tapestry. Below are some facts about William Morris. Some the information you will probably already know, but hopefully some will be new to you.

  • William Morris lived and worked during the Victorian era. He was born in 1834 and he died in 1896.
  • He earned a degree from Exeter College, Oxford. After his graduation he started to work as an architect.
  • William Morris was friends with the painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and he soon stopped being an architect in order to become a painter.
  • In 1859 William Morris married Jane Burden. Soon after they had a house built for them on Bexley Heath. The house was called Red House and was designed by Philip Webb. William and Jane designed all of the interiors and decoration themselves. They spent about two years getting the house just right, doing much of the work themselves. They were so happy with the results that they decided to start their own fine art craft work company.
  • In 1861 their company, called Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co., started to make furniture, tableware, soft furnishings and wallpaper. All of the items produced were handcrafted.
  • By the mid-1860s, William Morris concentrated on designing wallpaper. His patterns were inspired by the natural world, and these are some his best-known works of art.
  • In 1875 William Morris started a new company, Morris and Co.
  • William Morris wrote many poems during his lifetime. Most of his best work is heavily influenced by the Icelandic sagas.
  • He set up the Kelmscott Press in the early 1890s. This company published books which contained beautiful illustrations.
  • In 1883 Morris joined a political party called  the Social Democratic Federation. He also helped to start a new party called the Socialist League.
  • When William Morris died in 1896, his doctor said that Morris had carried out the work of ten men during his lifetime.

A famous William Morris quote is:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

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Robert Louis Stevenson: Facts and Information

Robert Louis Stevenson was a famous Victorian author. He mainly wrote mystery and adventure stories, and his books are still read and enjoyed today.

Here are some facts about Robert Louis Stevenson:

  • Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850. His family were wealthy and, as a child, he was looked after by his nanny, Alison Cunningham.

  • When he was twelve, Robert Louis Stevenson, his parents and his nanny went on a five month holiday. They visited France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Italy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson was a sickly child. He was exceedingly thin and frail, and he suffered with coughs and fevers.
  • When he was just sixteen he wrote The Pentland Rising, a story based on an historical event. His father paid for 100 copies to be printed in pamphlet form.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson went to Edinburgh University. He started to study engineering, but soon switched to studying the law. He passed his legal exams, but in his heart he knew he wanted to be a writer.
  • In 1876 he went on a canoeing trip to Belgium and France with a friend. He kept a journal of his travels and used it to form the basis of his first book, An Inland Voyage.
  • In France, Stevenson met an American woman called Fanny Osbourne. He fell in love with her.
  • In 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson travelled all the way from Britain to America to see Fanny Osbourne, and they got married in 1880. They decided to live in Britain and set up home with Fanny’s twelve year old son (from her previous marriage), Lloyd.
  • In 1881 the Stevenson family went on holiday in Scotland. It rained for days on end, and to pass the time Lloyd made up an drew a map of an imaginary island. The map made Robert Louis Stevenson think of pirates and treasure, and inspired him to write Treasure Island.
  • Treasure island was first published as a book in 1883. It was very successful and turned Robert Louis Stevenson into a well-known writer.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson continued to experience health problems as an adult. He suffered with chest infections and was often so ill he couldn’t leave his bed.
  • In 1886 he wrote both The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Kidnapped. Much of the writing was done from his sickbed.
  • From 1888 to 1890, the Stevenson family spent two years sailing around the Pacific Ocean islands. Robert Louis Stevenson decided to build a house on the island of Upolu, in Western Samoa. He carried on writing, but found it increasingly difficult as his illness become worse.
  • In December 1894, Robert Louis Stevenson died. He was only 44 years old. His body was buried on Mount Vaea, Upolu.

Facts About Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a famous nurse. She is best known for the work she did to care for the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, but she also made a big contribution to changing the way in which hospitals were run. She was a celebrity in Victorian times and she has continued to be spoken and written about to this day.

We’ve put together some great Florence Nightingale facts for kids, teachers and parents – we hope you find this information both useful and interesting.

Key Florence Nightingale Facts – (Before the Crimean War)

  • Florence Nightingale was born in Florence (Italy) on 12th May 1820.
  • Her mother was called Fanny and her father was called William. Florence also had an older sister called Parthenope. They were a very wealthy family.
  • Florence grew up mingling with other rich children and spent much of her time visiting friends and attending parties.
  • On 7th February 1837, when she was 16 years, old Florence was convinced that she had heard the voice of God calling to her. She believed that God wanted her to carry out some special work.
  • When she was in her twenties Florence began to take an interest in how the sick people in the villages around her home (in Romsey, Hampshire) were taken care of. She started to believe that God wanted her to be a nurse.
  • Her parents were both shocked and angry when she told them that she wanted to learn more about nursing  at a Salisbury hospital. At the time nearly all nurses came from poor families.
  • Florence and some of her friends visited Kaiserwerth (in what is now Germany). The town was home to a hospital famous for training nurses. One year later, in 1851, Florence Nightingale recieved three months training at the hospital in Kaiserwerth.
  • Florence returned home as a trained nurse. She put these skills to good use as from 1851 – 1853 she cared for her mother, father and sister who had all become ill.
  • In 1853, when she was 33, she took a job running a small private hospital in London’s Harley Street.
  • Her father realised that Florence was really serious about helping the sick and injured and promised to pay her £500 a year. This was a massive sum of money in Victorian times.
  • In 1854 Florence helped to tend people suffering from cholera.

Florence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale and the Crimean War

  • In 1854 the Crimean War started between the Turks (and the British and French) on one side and the Russians on the other.
  • William Russell, a journalist for The Times, reported that British troops were dying becasue there weren’t enough doctors, nurses and medical supplies.
  • Sidney Herbert, a friend of Florence’s and the member of the government in charge of the military, wrote to her and asked her to organise a group of nurses and head for the Crimea (in Turkey).
  • On 4th November 1854 Florence Nightingale and 38 other nurses arrived at Scutari, an area of the city of Constantiople. The main British hospital was located there and Florence was not impressed by the conditions. The hospital was dirty, the drains were blocked, rats and fleas were everywhere.
  • At first the doctors did not want the help of Florence Nightingale and her nurses, but they soon changed their minds when the number of wounded soldiers continued to grow.
  • Florence made lots of improvements to the hospital in Scutari. She had the drains cleaned, sorted out a supply of drinking water, filled the hospital stores with clean sheets and bandages, set up a nursing timetable and made sure that the soliders were well fed and cared for.
  • Florence became very popular. The soldiers used to call her the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ because she used to walk the hospital wards at night to check on her patients.
  • The Crimean War ended in 1856 and Florence returned to England. She was a national heroine and many Victorians bought ornaments of Florence Nightingale to display in their homes. Florence also received thousands of letters from the public thanking her for the work she had performed during the war.
  • Queen Victoria invited Florence to meet with her in Balmoral, Scotland. They discussed Florence’s experiences and how military hospitals could be improved.

Life After the Lamp – Facts About the Second Half of Florence Nightingale’s Life

  • In 1859 Florence Nightingale wrote a book about caring for the sick called Notes on Nursing.
  • Florence Nightingale was convinced that all nurses should be properly trained, and in 1860 she set up the Nightingale Training School (for nurses) at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. The nurses who completed the training were known as Nightingale Nurses.
  • Florence carried on writing letters and reports about ways to improve health care. Her work became known in other countries and the Nightingale Nurses often went to work abroad, sharing Florence’s methods and ideas.
  • From 1861 to 1865, Florence gave advice on how best to care for soldiers wounded in the American Civil War.
  • Florence Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross (from Queen Victoria) and the Order of Merit in 1907 (from King Edward VII). This was the first time the Order of Merit had been awarded to a woman.
  • Florence Nightingale died in 1910, aged 90. She is buried in a Hampshire churchyard. Her simple tombstone bears only her initials and the years in which she was born and died.

Florence Nightingale wasn’t the only women who made a name for herself by caring for the wounded troops of the Crimean War. Check out some facts about Mary Seacole, another Victorian lady who risked her life to tend the suffering soldiers, and read about some of the other famous Victorians.