The Victorians

A sketch of Queen Victoria by E Landseer, 1839, SHC ref PX/59/120

A sketch of Queen Victoria by E Landseer, 1839,
SHC ref PX/59/120

The Victorian era lasted from 1837 until 1901. It was one of the most important periods in history because so much happened! It was named the Victorian era after Queen Victoria.

When Victoria came to the throne in 1837 most people lived in small towns or villages and many worked on farms. People also travelled by horse or on sailing ships. By 1901 people travelled on electric trains and watched films in cinemas. Never before in history had the lives of ordinary people changed so quickly.

Victorian Surrey

Copy of a coloured poster titled 'Broadwood Pianofortes', 1904 SHC ref 7568/1/4

Copy of a coloured poster titled ‘Broadwood Pianofortes’, 1904 SHC ref 7568/1/4.

Before the 1800s Surrey’s main industry had been farming. But during the Victorian era a large number of factories were built so goods could be mass-produced to sell overseas. This was known as Industrial Revolution. The factories in Surrey made a variety of different goods. Dennis Bros. Ltd was based in Guildford and was making motorised tricycles by 1900 while the Broadwoods, Surrey residents, made pianos for wealthy Victorians at the John Broadwood and Sons London factory.

One of the reasons for this sudden change was the development of the railways. Surrey’s first steam railways were built in the 1840s and were soon transporting people and goods across the county. The railways meant wealthy businessmen built their country houses in Surrey and could still quickly travel to London. New towns like Woking and Redhill were built close to railway lines. Towns like Guildford and Farnham grew dramatically.

The large growth in population also created a grisly problem. The churchyards and cemeteries in London were becoming overcrowded; there was too little space to bury the dead. Parliament responded by creating a cemetery at Brookwood near Woking in 1852. Brookwood cemetery covered over 2,000 acres and is still one of the largest cemeteries in Europe today. A special railway line, the Necropolis Railway, transported the bodies to the cemetery.

Scale drawing of elevations and section of proposed extension to female block and Brookwood Asylum (25 May 1899-12 Jun 1899) SHC Ref 3043 PLAN 19

Scale drawing of elevations and section of proposed extension to female block and Brookwood Asylum
(25 May 1899-12 Jun 1899) SHC ref 3043 PLAN 19

Later in the Victorian era people began to do more to help the poor and disadvantaged. Brookwood Asylum was opened at Knaphill near Woking in 1867. It was responsible for looking after up to 450 pauper (poor) lunatics. In contrast, the Holloway Sanatorium, in Virginia Water, offered private care to middle and upper class patients.

Tinted colour postcard of the Shah Jahan Mosque, 1905 SHC ref PC/160/ALB1/85

Tinted colour postcard of the Shah Jahan Mosque, 1905
PC/160/ALB1/85.

As transportation and communication improved people began to learn about other people and cultures around the world. Britain’s first Mosque, the Shah Jahan, was built in Woking in 1889. It was built by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, who set up the Oriental Institute, a school that helped students from Asia and other cultures to learn British language and culture. The Mosque was built as part of an ambitious project to build a place of worship for all faiths. A Synagogue, Hindu Temple and Church were also planned but after Dr Leitner died only the Church was built.

Links to related pages

Link to the Victorian Activities page
Link to the A Few Famous and Interesting People in Victorian Surrey page
Link to the Life in Victorian Times page
Link to the Victorian Childhood page
Link to the Victorian Industry and Technology page
Link to the Victorian Crime and Punishment page

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