Places, people or events associated with Queen Victoria, or the Victorian period in Britain,

The old operating theatre

Old Operating Theatre, Southwark

This is a Victorian operating theatre, where proceedings were watched by an audience of gawping students and operations were conducted without anaesthetic or antiseptic.  I mean, you really can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like, can you? The Old Operating Theatre is reputedly Britain’s – some say Europe’s – oldest operating theatre. 

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London’s forgotten cathedral

Southwark Cathedral - soaring nave arches

Head west out of London Bridge Station.  If you’re very careful, you will discover London’s third Anglican cathedral, Southwark; it’s easily missed.  Hemmed in between the colourful and vibrant Borough Market and the occasionally vulgar Montagu Close, and often hidden by dark Victorian railway arches over which trains ceaselessly rattle and clunk in and out

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Visit the Tower of London

Tower of London

The Tower of London has been sitting on the north bank of the Thames, watching the tides of a great city ebb and flow, for around a thousand years.  The city has grown up around it and it is part of it; it is impossible to imagine London without the Tower.  Think of all that

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The Vampire of Dent (and other stories)

Dent, Cumbria

You’ll find the small village of Dent, sometimes known locally as Dent Town, on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales.  This was once part of Yorkshire’s West Riding but is now inside the county of Cumbria.  The narrow roads through achingly beautiful Dentdale seem never-ending; it’s almost a relief to arrive amongst Dent’s old

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The London Stone

London Stone, Cannon Street

Every now and again, you come across a reference to ‘The London Stone’.  Not ‘a London stone’; The London Stone.  Use of the definite article tells you right away that this is Something Quite Important.  Never heard of it?  Tut-tut.  To be honest, I worked in and around London for years and was completely unaware

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The Empire on which the sun never set

Fleet at Spithead in 1897

Britain, the global superpower On 22 June 1897, Queen Victoria returned from her Diamond Jubilee parade in London having had a wonderful day.  Loyal crowds lined the streets to see their monarch, a tiny plump old lady clad in black, pass from Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to

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Poor Britain

Rookeries of London

The squalor of industrial society Britain experienced the massive socio-economic upheaval that comes with industrialisation before anywhere else in the world.  A wealthier Britain was emerging, with expanding middle and urban working classes: it was the birth of the consumer society; but there was also widespread and, in places, abject, poverty.  It is in fact

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How Britain got the vote

Reform Bill! King William IV

How we got to exercise our franchise People can be hopelessly optimistic, but are perhaps increasingly fairly cynical, about Parliament and politicians.  However, things could be a lot worse – and of course there’s nothing new about incompetent, or even dodgy, politicians.  In 18th and early 19th century Britain, Parliament was particularly corrupt and unrepresentative. 

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The George Inn at Borough

I wonder how many pints of ale have been supped here?  Let me see: if just twenty people drank a modest 4 pints every night, that would be, er, 29,200 pints a year – 2,920,000 for every century.  But the revenue generated by that amount of beer would not be enough to make the place

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Kipling’s House

Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's House in Sussex, England

We travelled to Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s Sussex home for 34 years, through the impossibly pretty village of Burwash, all whitewash and weatherboard.  You reach the house down what Kipling described as “an enlarged rabbit-hole of a lane” to arrive in what is now a car park.  I wondered how it had all looked when the

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