Sunday, 30 January 2011

Victorian Day at Ely Museum and Cathedral

Today the children and I had field trip with some UK home edders at Ely Museum and Cathedral. This was perfect as I was just starting to introduce my daughter to the Victorian era. We had just finish reading Charles Dickinson book Oliver Twist. Once we arrived the large group of children were split into 2 groups. Children 9 and up went with one museum worker and the 8 and under stayed with another worker. I have to admit this was the very first time I have had this happen to us. I chose to stay with my youngest as he still needs some guidance when attending field trips. There were some homeschooling children my daughter recognized and some of their parents went with them so I knew there would be some supervision but still it was a little disconcerting to be watching her go off in a different direction, (think Helicopter parent) plus it meant I couldn't get many photographs of her activities, which I like to use as a record of our activities and of course this blog. I did manage to get a few of her tho.

Before Princess was whisked away I got a picture of her dressed up as a Victorian little girl.

Little Man dressed up as a Victorian boy (as usual he would only wear this outfit long enough for me to snap a picture)

For some reason he hates to wear dress up clothes whereas my oldest loves to try new cloth styles:).

As Princess was was being lead away with her group we were told our group would get to experience first hand how poor children would be treated during the Victorian age. Princess's group would be experiencing how it would be if you were a rich child in that era. Upon hearing this Little Man cried out "I don't want to be POOR I want to be a RICH kid." Thankfully most adults laughed but I was so embarrassed:)! It was then explained to the group that each group would switch in a bit. I would love to say that calmed my Little Man down, but it didn't:(. I had to take him outside the room for a few minutes to talk to him and allow him time to settle down. Who knew he would find this so upsetting and that he even knew the difference between rich and poor at 6 year old. This is not exactly a big topic of discussion in our home! But now it will be!

Anywhoo, after calming down we went back inside and we were given lots of information of how a poor child would live. Several of the children acted out several of the jobs that might be expected of a young child.

First the adults who helped the children. We were pretending we lived in a rich family's house and were meeting the servants. The children would be servants in the house too. It was actually better to be working in a rich family's house than to be in the countryside, we were told.

Young girls were made to work in the kitchen. Their jobs would include sweeping, dishes, errands and things like that. We were told that it was common for young children to be working from 6 in the morning til 9 at night. Their were morning chores needed to be done before they could get breakfast and if they haven't completed their jobs then they would get no breakfast, the same went for lunch and dinner. Often while the rich owners of the house had fancy meals the children were given bread, cheese and onions to eat. Sometimes this would be be all 3 meals.

After a day of hard work the child would then find a place to sleep, it could be under the stairs, in a corner in the kitchen or even in the garden shed. They would only have a small blanket to keep warm if they were lucky.

Children were also expected to help on Mondays which was washing day. Here a child is grating soap into a big barrel of water

The clothes were added and a big stick is used to stir the clothes in hot water. We were told that some children would be forced to stand and stir for hours. It looked like back breaking work. Some children could only manage a few seconds before giving another child a turn.

Cloth being taken from the hot water and wrung out, this was often done be an adult as the children were not strong enough.

An Old Victorian clothes press (dryer). Clothes were pushed thru to completely wring out all the water from the cloth before hanging on the washing line.

On a side note I will never complain about doing laundry again:)!!

Adults usually hung the cloth as children could not reach but as soon as a child was tall enough to reach the clothes line they were expected to hang clothes. We were told that on washing days adults and children's hands were red raw from all the hot water and wringing of the clothes. Children would often pinch their fingers in the Victorian press and could lose their jobs and be put out in the streets which was worse than staying in the rich house.

Next we were told how boys were treated. Young boys around 4 or 5 would be chimney sweeps and climbers. The smallest and usually youngest boys would be forced to climb up the chimney to sweep soot of the chimney walls. This was very dangerous and it was not uncommon to have a boy suffocate inside. Older boys would be below using these chimney brushed to sweep the inside of a chimney. Boys were often put to work in the garden. They told a saying that I think still applies today to boys. One boy is does the work of one, two boys does the work of half a boy and three boys do no work at all. It was speculated that this may have been the reason there were more boys on the streets than girls.

After all the hard work the children were given a snack of bread, cheese and onion. Little man would not give it a try!

Next up experiencing and hearing about being a rich child in Victorian times. Their lives were much easier.
The Parlor where most children are not allow in except for very special occasions. Here the children were asked to help plan a Victorian party.

The lady of the house explaining her clothes and the rules of the Parlor to the children. Such as children should be seen but not heard. No fidgeting etc.

Teaching the children the proper way to curtsy and bow to the lady of the house.

Putting on a party dress for the girls and wearing a top hat for the boys.

Calling the servant to do a task for the lady of the house or for the children. Such as serving tea and drinks.

Using the Victorian doll house to explain to the children the different parts of a Victorian town house and want was done in each room. It was beautiful and fascinating.

After sitting still the children were given a Victorian biscuit called a jumble. I had never heard of if before. Little man enjoy this snack much better than the other:)

All in all I thought this was a perfect introduction to the Victorian era for my children. We are continuing to do our history lessons thru hands on learning. Asking the children later which they would rather be, both said a rich child. What a surprise!

I am linking this post up to


  1. Oh how awesome.. I wish my kiddos could experience this. I truly believe hands on is so meaningful. Your children are going to remember this for a lifetime..

    Thank you so much for your kind words on Jand B Learning! You are very special! God Bless

  2. What a totally cool outing! I love having children entering the time period and participating in the different activities that needed to be done back then. It sounds like your kids learned a lot!

  3. HI Anna-Marie,
    Great post and it looks like your children had fun (despite being "poor" :) ) and I learned alot just by reading this detailed post. I know your children learned so much! The facts you gave are fascinating! If I lived in the Victorian era, I don't think our family would have any clean clothes due to the tiring and dangerous process. It's hard enough for me to find time to iron! :)
    Glad you had a great weekend! Have a blessed week!

  4. Oh, forgot to say I clicked a vote for you today (Sunday) :)

  5. My grandmother had a clothes press dryer like that. I thought it was the coolest thing until my mom explained the only reason grandma still used it was because grandpa was too stingy to buy her a washer and dryer. (I come from a real old-fashioned German family. I know grandma is in heaven laughing a grandpa.)

    What a very cool field trip. Your children are getting a "living" education. I hope they realize how blessed they truly are. Wonderful post, Anna-Marie! Thank you for linking it up to A Day In Our Life Blog Hop. I voted for you.

  6. Hi Anna-Marie,
    Stopping in to say Good Monday Morning and clicked a vote for you today! Have a great day!

  7. HI April from the Johnson tribe we are doing a lot of hands on history right now since we are living in England. There is just so much for us to see and do it is great:)!

  8. HI Susan,
    Both kids really like these experiences and it is better than anything I could come up with. Plus I like going myself:).

  9. Hi Tracy,
    You iron really? I stopped doing that altogether it is worth it to me to send my husbands dress clothes to the cleaner. I have put in in the budget:)

  10. Hi Lynda,
    Funny that your Grandmother had one. It looked like a a lot of work. I will never curse my washer dryer UK combo again after seeing that:)

  11. Sounds like a fun field trip, but I'm glad I'm living in the days of electric appliances.
    Janet W

  12. I agree the modern world is so much easier for home makers but still I run out of time to complete everything I need to do in a day.:)

  13. I'm holding you to the "I'm never going to curse the washer/dryer again" comment!

  14. What a great field trip! Wish we had something like this closer to our school . . .

  15. Hi Renee,
    We are so lucky to be surrounded by all the wonderful museums and the history that England provides. I am a closeted history nerd and I hope it rubs off on my children:)