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Who Were the Victorians? 20 Interesting Victorian Era Facts

What do turtle meat, poisonous pickles and a river of poo have to do with Britain's most powerful Queen? You'll soon find out in this epic list of Victorian facts!

Beano Team
Last Updated:  April 2nd 2024

Are you a history buff? Read on to find out if you know all of these interesting facts about the Victorian era! You won't believe some of them!

Or are you bored of Victorian Britain already? Then make sure you check out these ancient Egypt facts, these WW2 facts, or even take this totally daft quiz to find out how British you are!

1. Victorians are named after Queen Victoria

"The Victorians" is just our name for the people who were alive during the reign of Queen Victoria, so everyone between 1837 and 1901. Because the British Empire was so big at the time (we'll get on to that in a minute) - you didn't even have to be British to be Victorian. You just had to be alive when she was! Simple!

2. Queen Vic was pretty small

For maybe the most powerful British Queen ever, Victoria was really short - at only just 5 feet tall, or about the size of 5 Beanos! In fact, historians have joked that by the time she died she was as wide as she was tall. Bit rude!

3. Victoria's Empire was HUGE

The British Empire was almost at its biggest and most powerful during the reign of Queen Vic. In 1920, not too long after Victoria died, the Empire covered a quarter of all land on Earth, and was home to 412 million people! A phrase from the time described it as "the Empire upon which the sun never set". It was that big!

4. The Empire wasn't good news for everyone

A lot of British people got very rich from having a massive Empire (in fact, that was kind of the point) - but it was less fun for the people in the countries that Britain took over. There's a long list of pretty rubbish things Britain did during the Empire days, in places like India, China, Australia... actually, a lot of places!

5. Who didn't they invade??

@funk | giphy

In fact, it's easier to list the countries Britain hasn't invaded - because out of about 200 countries on Earth, there's only 22! To be fair this is throughout Britain's history - but a LOT of invading went on in Victoria's time. So, the only countries that Britain hasn't invaded are (ahem): Andorra, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Mongolia, Paraguay, Sao Tome and Principe, Sweden, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Vatican City. That's it.

6. Victoria's Empire changed Britain forever

Lots of really British things came out of the Empire, and things that became popular in Victorian times are still popular now. Britain's favourite food, Curry, started becoming popular during Victorian times - not least because the Queen herself was a big fan! Other things that were previously real luxuries, like tea and sugar, became more and more common because of imports from India and the Carribean.

7. Victoria loved a good meal

It wasn't just curry that Victoria liked! As the head of this mighty Empire, the Queen had the chance to sample some of the world's most exotic foods. She would regularly tuck in to plates of turtle meat, ostrich egg omelettes and bird's nest soup. Maybe we'll stick to the curry.

8. The Victorians were very busy!

@roberteblackmon | giphy

The Victorians were constantly building new stuff all round the world, like railways, bridges, factories, boats and more. This was closely linked to the whole Empire thing - the Empire gave them money which paid for all the new stuff, and the new stuff allowed them to keep on expanding into new places.

9. They invented lots of cool things

The Victorians laid the foundations for loads of the things we like today. They invented the first cameras, the first telephones, the first moving film, cars and typewriters to name just a few! All kinds of industries boomed during the Victorian period!

10. This made a lot of people rich

We mentioned already that there was a lot of money in Victorian Britain, and for the first time there were stories of people who were born poor but became rich. In the past, rich people were almost all born rich, but now there were lots of new opportunities for people.

11. But some people stayed very poor

Despite all the new money and amazing machines the Victorians had, many people in Britain were still really poor. Lots of children worked in horrible factories called workhouses, and it was very normal to get injured at work or die of disease.

12. Victorian Britain inspired lots of great stories

Dracula Jokes
Dracula Jokes

You probably have some idea of what Victorian Britain was like from stories written at the time. Just think of A Christmas Carol or Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, or even Dracula by Bram Stoker!

13. There were a few important science books published too...


In particular Charles Darwin wrote the Origin of Species (what is it with people called Charles and famous books?) - which was one of the first arguments for evolution. People at the time were outraged at Darwin's idea that humans evolved from monkeys. We now know Darwin was right, but people were very angry about it at the time! Other great Victorian scientists include Beatrix Potter, who discovered loads of cool things about mushrooms. You probably know her from her children's books - the Tale of Peter Rabbit!

14. Things started to change for women

For almost all of the Victorian period, women had basically no rights. They couldn't vote, or even own property if they were married. In the last few years of Victoria's reign things slowly started to change, but it wasn't until 1918 that any women got the right to vote. And it wasn't until 1928 that they got an equal say to men! This is extra surprising seeing as Victoria herself was a woman!

15. Victorian food

Victorians ate all kinds of stuff! If you were rich you could expect meat, and even some of this new stuff from the Empire like coffee and spices from India. But if you were poor you could expect things like potato peelings, beef dripping, rotten vegetables and basically anything you could find. No fair!

16. School time!

Before the Victorians, school was only for the wealthy. But in 1870 it became law that ALL children between 5 and 13 HAD to go to school. These schools weren't great in many ways - but they were a start!

17. The Thames was a right mess

Victorian London was GROSS. A fast-growing population and no sewers meant that the River Thames was the only place people had to go to the toilet. This meant literally tons of poo were dumped in the river every day - which spread loads of diseases as well as smelled awful. Things started to change after the "Great Stink" of 1858, when the problem got so bad the Government had to act!

18. Almost everything was dangerous!

There was no Health and Safety in Victorian times - so you could freely buy poison in chemist shops, and even things like sweets often had very dangerous ingredients in it. Back in those days, lead was used as a food colouring, which we now know you really shouldn't eat. Not if you like your brain, anyway. Often rotten food would be sold as fresh food, and getting ill was really common. People even used to put arsenic in pickles to make them more sour!

19. They had lots of daft customs

@jorgemariozuleta | giphy

Some Victorians were into pretty weird stuff. Like making jewellery out of human hair. Or stuffing dead animals to make them look like people. Or going to circus freak shows. We could go on.

20. Victorian fashion was pretty cool

Most Victorian outfits were quite straight-laced and boring, much like the people who wore them. But when it came to parties Victorians loved amazing big dresses with loads of folds and fancy frilly bits. Of course, it was the Victorian period - so these were often surprisingly dangerous and would often catch fire! Nooo!