There were maps and perhaps pictures on the wall. There would be a globe for geography lessons, and an abacus to help with sums. Children sat in rows and the teacher sat at a desk facing the class. At the commence of the Victorian age, most teachers were boys, but later many women trained as teachers.
Children wrote on slates with chalk. They wiped the slate clean, by drooling on it and pawing with their glaze sleeve or their finger! Slates could be used over and over. For writing on paper, children used a pen with a metal nib, dipped into an ink well .
What subjects did children learn?
Ladies and boys learned together in primary schools, but were separated in secondary schools. Both boys and damsels learned reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling and drill (PE).
Boys learned technology: woodwork, maths and technical drawing, to help with work in factories, workshops or the army when they grew up.
Ladies had lessons in cooking and sewing, to prepare them for housework and motherhood.
Children were often trained by copying and repeating what the teacher told them. Lessons included training in right and wrong, and the Christian religion.
How were children penalized?
Discipline in schools was often stringent. Children were hammered for even minor wrongdoings, with a cane. on the forearm or bottom. A teacher could also penalize a child by making them stand in the corner wearing a ‘dunce’s cap’. Another, very boring, penalty was writing ‘lines’. This meant writing out the same sentence (such as ‘Schooldays are the happiest days of my life’ 100 times or more.
Rich boys and schools for women
Boys from rich families were sent away to boarding school. Some ‘public schools’. like Eton and Harrow, set high standards.
Other schools were awful places, run to make profits for the owners. Boys in these bad schools were half-starved, ill-treated, and trained very little.
Ladies sent away to be trained as governesses were not much better off, as you can learn from reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Women and youthfull boys were trained at home by a masculine tutor or a female governess. The very first good women’ schools were began in Victorian times, such as the North London Collegiate School (1850).
Children were frightened of getting sick, and frightened too of some of the ‘cures’. For whooping cough, one cure was to gulp a spider in butter!
Victorian children did money sums (in pounds, shillings and pence). They knew about measures we no longer use such as poles, perches, rods, chains and furlongs.
Victorian children were usually dressed like miniature adults. Boy babies often wore skirts – later a boy might wear a sailor suit.
Children would run to meet the hokey-pokey man. He sold ice juice from a petite palm cart or barrow.
Some poor children wore second-hand boots or footwear, nicknamed ‘translators’.
One Victorian slang word for ‘children’ was ‘chavy’.
For parties, lots of little Victorian damsels wore crimson cloaks – perhaps because Little Crimson Railing Fetish mask was a favourite nursery story.
Children at boarding school were given horrid-tasting medicines such as brimstone and treacle. This made them go to the toilet!
If a child felt ill, the teacher might buy a cheap potion such as James Morrison’s Universal Pill – said to cure every ailment!
The Victorian explorer Richard Burton hated his school food. He had bread and butter, with watery milk, for breakfast; for dinner, a lumpy pudding the boys called ‘stickjaw’ with burnt meat and hard potatoes.
Supper was the same as breakfast. On Sundays the school cook made a pie from the week’s leftovers.
In class, children learned lots of lessons by heart – such as poems and their times tables.
On Fridays, the teacher would read out the marks for every child. If you did well, you went to the top of the class.
One rather unusual penalty was being sent to sit in the ‘coal-hole’ – where coal for the school fire was stored!
A to D
abacus This was a wooden framework with beads on it. It was used to help children with counting sums. agricultural gang This was a group of workers in the countryside, doing jobs like weeding, sowing seeds, and harvesting crops. Often these gangs would include youthfull children. barrel organ A musical instrument which was taken round the streets. It played music when the treat was turned. Often the owners of barrel organs had tame monkeys. Band of Hope Temperance organization which attempted to stop people, especially children, from drinking alcohol. boarding school A school where children live during term time, coming home for the holidays. Boys’ Brigade Youth organization began in 1883 in Glasgow. British Empire Countries ruled by Britain; later became the Commonwealth. cane Skinny stick used by teachers to hit children who misbehaved. census This is the record of people living at a certain time. It records how many people there are, where people live, their age and what they do. coal mine A place where coal is dug from under the ground. coal Remains of prehistoric trees, burned in fires. In Victorian times, coal heated homes and provided steam power for machines, trains and ships. contraception Another term for birth control, or stopping unwanted pregnancies. cotton Comes from a plant. It is spun into thread then woven to make cloth.
E to G
dame school A school run in her home by an elderly woman, known as a dame, where children were instructed basic reading and writing. diphtheria Infectious mouth disease that killed many children. emigrated To emigrate is to leave your own country to go and live in another. empress The female ruler of an empire, or the wifey of an emperor. factory Building with machines for producing goods in large numbers. factory commission A group of boys who travelled around Britain to investigate the working conditions of children in both factories and mines. fire grate The metal part of a fire and fireplace. globe A map of the world drawn on a sphere, useful in geography lessons. governess A woman who trained rich women and youthful boys in their homes, as a paid, live-in servant. grammar school Boys’ schools, began in the Middle Ages as an alternative to Church schools and providing free education to some boys.
H to L
hokey-pokey man Icecream-seller, originally usually Italian. hopscotch A hopping game played in the street or playground. hurdy-gurdy A mechanical violin, played by a street musician. industrial Revolution The era of rapid and good switch in industry and manufacturing with the growth of factories, beginning in the late 1700s. ink well A petite pot for ink, used by school children. logbook Diary or record book of events.
M to O
magic lantern A slide projector for showcasing pictures on a screen. maypole Tall pole with long ribbons, for dancing around on May Day. moral A lesson often in a story, about right and wrong. music hall Popular Victorian theatre with multitude acts such as singers, dancers and comedians. babysitter servant who cared for rich youthfull children in their nursery at home. nursery A room or several rooms where rich children would play and sleep. orphan Child with no living parents.
P to S
parliament Law-making bod made up of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and non-elected Lords. piecer A child who worked in a mill joining lumps of thread together. population The number of people in a country or city. public schools Fee-charging schools for children from richer families. Punch and Judy demonstrate A hand-puppet demonstrate which features Mr Punch and his wifey Judy. Common at the seaside in Victorian times. ragged school A school for poor children in the early 19th century. reformer Person who seeks switch for the better, to help others. reign The length of time a king or queen rules. school board A group of people who were responsible for the running of their local school after 1870. scullery Puny room with a bury, for washing up. shaft Deep vertical fuckhole leading down to the tunnels and underground workings of a coal mine. slates These were lumps of slate (like a vapid stone), sometimes set inwards a wooden framework, used for writing – with a special slate pencil. At the end of the lesson the slates were wiped clean with an old cloth. smallpox Disease causing fever and, in those who did not die from it, leaving ‘pockmarks’ on the skin. steam engine Engine driven by steam from water heated in a boiler, used to drive machinery. slum An area of bad housing, with poor hygiene and sanitation. Sunday School School to instruct Christianity: the National Sunday School Union was founded in 1803.
T to Z
wages Workers’ pay. wool Comes from sheep. It is spun into thread then woven to make cloth. workhouse Place where people without means of support (usually the very poor, youthfull and elderly) were sent to live; they got a food and a bed in come back for work. Most Victorian towns had a workhouse.