How was the food in Victorian times

17 facts about Victorian England that will leave you puzzled at first

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Grieving families have taken portraits of the deceased.

1. Women's panties were open at the crotch. No really.

The bottom layer of every woman's outfit consisted of a pair of underpants like the ones pictured above. However, these underpants only covered both legs, but not the "pubic area". This was supposed to make it easier for women to use the toilet, and also because the clothes were so heavy and consisted of several layers that kept everything hidden anyway. TL; DR, Victorian vagines had direct line of sight to the floor. © H. Finley / Museum of Menstruation /

The bottom layer of every woman's outfit consisted of a pair of underpants like the ones pictured above. However, these underpants only covered both legs, but not the pubic area. This was supposed to make it easier for women to use the toilet - also because the clothes were so heavy and consisted of several layers that kept everything hidden anyway.

tl; dr: Victorian vagines had direct visual contact with the floor.

2. Which is one of the reasons menstruation was a bloody nightmare in those times.

Many historians believe that, in the absence of commercial sanitary napkins and because women wore so many layers, most women did nothing and bled unrestrainedly into their underwear. Other "solutions" have included using a baby's diaper held in place by a belt, or using lard to put sheep's wool inside the vulva. Phew

3. Oh yes, women were very hairy too, everywhere. ©

Things like women's razors didn't exist, and although depilatory creams existed, they were highly toxic and only intended for use on the face, hands, and arms. And so armpits, legs, and genitals were abundantly hairy ... and hidden under several layers of fabric, so it didn't really matter.

4. The Thames was full of manure and dead animals, so it was almost possible to cross the river on foot. © / Creative Commons

Until 1860, thousands of tons of feces were dumped into the Thames every day because there were no sewers. Oh yes, by the way, it was also the main source of drinking water in the city. Thousands of people died of dysentery, cholera and typhus. But they believed it fouled air makes them sick. Nope.

5. The streets were just sickening too.

A Lady Harberton reported in 1891 that her long dress had two cigar stubs, nine cigarettes, a pork pie, four toothpicks, two hairpins, a slice of cat meat, half a boot sole, a plug of tobacco (chewed), straw, mud, scraps of paper and other street litter (poop ) collected during a short walk around London.

6. By the 1860s, dresses grew so wide that women often got stuck in door frames. © / Creative Commons

In the "crinoline era" (1850-1870) several (always richly decorated) skirts were draped over a large wooden hoop to create really massive outfits. Aside from locking doors, women clad in crinoline often light candles as they walk past, so the trend isn't too lasted a long time. The satirical magazine Punch advised husbands to register their wives with fire insurance.

7. Contaminated and adulterated food was widespread.

Before pasteurization was invented, milk could spread tuberculosis. You couldn't really trust other groceries you bought either, especially in big cities. Unscrupulous traders sold rotten meat camouflaged with the fat of fresh meat; Bakers used alum and chalk to make bread look whiter. Other tricks included adding arsenic to pickles and other canned foods to create a spicier taste. And probably death too.

8. Queen Victoria had her cooks cook a pot of curry a day, even though she hated it. ©

She reportedly hated anything that was spicy, but as Empress of India she insisted that curry be available all the time just in case an "oriental visitor" came by. It wasn't very delicious, however. The recipe stipulated that curry powder should be added to the ingredients already cooked at the last minute so that it was fiery hot and powdery.

9. However, she enjoyed all other foods and ate them at the speed of light. © Universal Pictures

Victoria had been brought up strictly and was not allowed to eat much as a child. So when she became queen, she vowed to make up for lost time. She also ate incredibly quickly, which was a problem for her guests as they had to stop eating when Queen Vic finished a course, even after the guests had only had one bite to eat. In the 1880s she had a BMI of 32, so by today's standards she would be obese

10. Toothpaste was made from charcoal and honey.

A magazine featured a recipe for a "dentifrice" which stated that "charcoal and honey, made into a paste, are great for cleaning teeth." Charcoal? Maybe. But honey? Nah, that'll just make your teeth rot even more.

11. And women tied flesh on their faces.

A beauty advisor instructed women to "cover their heads with thin slices of raw beef every night, which will keep the skin wrinkle-free and give the complexion a youthful freshness."

12. "The Dog-Faced Boy" was one of the most popular attractions in London and Liverpool in the 1870s. © Illustrated Police News /

He was a Russian named Fedor. He and his father Andrian have been described as "two of the greatest human curiosities of our time". Their faces were completely hairy, making them look like Skye Terriers. Andrian died as a result of alcoholism, but Fedor continued to delight with his "appearances" for years afterwards.

13. Boys wore dresses until they reached school age. © Facebook: the.vintage.everyday

More affluent families, regardless of gender, mostly dressed their toddlers in white, ruffled dresses (the richer the family, the more lace and ruffles the dress had), and both boys and girls wore the same bonnets. Seems to make sense.

14. Almost 50 percent of children died before they reached the age of five. © / Creative Commons

The highest mortality rates were in the slums, particularly in London's infamous Seven Dials, and Angel Meadow, a slum in Manchester so terrible it was nicknamed "Hell on Earth". Over 30,000 workers, mostly Irish immigrants, were crammed into 2.5 square kilometers. Many of Angel Meadow's children had to fend for themselves and ate food scraps, and some even ate stray cats.

15. Grieving families commissioned portraits of children's corpses, with the lifeless bodies often presented as if they were still alive. ©

Rich people hired a photographer to take the picture, but poorer people often relied on draftsmen. A kind-hearted artist named John Callcott Horsley would often visit morgues for free to draw pictures of children who had recently passed away. This post-mortem image was often the only image of the child the family ever had.

16. Wealthy people ate fried veal ears for some reason.

In the voracious but strangely frugal Victorian era, nothing was wasted. Whole calf heads were boiled for dinner, and their little brains were cooked as a side dish: pink lumps floating in butter sauce. The ears of the calves were shaved, boiled and then fried. It must have felt like you were invited to dinner at Hannibal Lecter's.

17. And Darwin couldn't help plastering strange animals. © Flickr: socsci / Creative Commons

Charles Darwin not only studied rare animals, he also enjoyed eating them. He joined a Cambridge society called the Glutton Club, and he and his friends ate weird dishes like hawks, squirrels, maggots, and owls. On his voyage of discovery on board the beagle, he ate iguanas, giant tortoises, armadillos and a puma.

This article first appeared in English.


04.01.2019, 14:51

An older version of this post incorrectly stated that doctors in Victorian England fingered women to combat hysteria. Find out more here.