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TALES FROM AROUND THE VICTORIAN WORLD.

YOUR VICTORIAN HUB FOR ALL THOSE LOST TALES OF VICTORIAN LIVES PAST

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“Puffing Billy”

Wonder what Stephenson would have made of todays railways? His might have only travelled at a slow speed…but at least it ran! Which is a lot more than can be said of todays British trains.

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ 1890.

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‘On the 27th of September, 1825, George Stephenson drove his engine “Locomotion”-a name that was afterwards changed to “Puffing Billy”- from Brusselton to Stockton on the Stockton and Darlington railway, a distance of twenty miles, in what was then thought the quick time of five hours. She ran for thirty years and was afterwards used as a pumping engine. In 1857 she was restored to her original state and placed on a pedestal in the North Road railway station at Darlington. This engine is often confounded with another of George Stephenson’s engines which now stands in a conspicuous position on the High Level Bridge at Newcastle. North Country folk seem at first to have called all engines by the famous name of “Billy.” The New Heading contains a picture of the Darlington Billy.’

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Curious people in Central Africa

You certainly can never accuse the Victorian writers of being overly politically correct in their scribings!

I wonder if they did have their own taboo words? One suspects not…from their lofty position of superior beings, they seem to regard any other races and nationalities as second best.

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young;’ 1890.

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‘The Akkas are a  race of pigmies dwelling in Central Africa. They are dwarfs only in the sense of being short, for they are not otherwise more deformed or uglier than many savage tribes of full-sized folk. It is said that they waddle so much when they walk that they cannot carry a full dish without spilling some of its contents. They are cunning and of low intelligence, but are excellent hunters, for which reason they are protected by the people among whom they have settled, who employ them for the purpose of procuring food supplies. The New Heading to the Pocket-book contains a picture of an Akka and a native hut.’

“Learned Queen Bess”

Well, makes a change, this is a fairly innocuous tales for the littl’uns.

Taken from Little Folks a Magazine for the Young; 1890.

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‘”Good Queen Bess” might also be called “Learned Queen Bess,” for she was one of the most accomplished women of her time. We are told that she translated several works from Greek and Latin, that she wrote in Latin, that she spoke French, Italian, German, Spanish and Latin, and that she wrote English verse as easily as prose. When she visited Cambridge in 1564-the year, by the way, of Shakespeare’s birth-an address was delivered to her in Greek verse and she returned thanks for it in the same language. But besides being no mean scholar, Elizabeth was a true lover of literature, which reached the height of its glory in her long and brilliant reign.’ 

Marsden Rock

Not so sure I’d want to make my way up those ladders! Think I’ll stick to a picnic on the beach thank you very much…

Taken from Little Folks a Magazine for the Young; 1890.

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‘Near South Shields there is a vast picturesque mass of rock that once upon a time formed part of the mainland, from which it has been sliced off by the sea. At high water, Marsden Rock, as it is called, is sixty yards from land, but at low water it is possible to walk out to it across the sands. A large refreshment room has been made in the rock, and it is thus a popular resort of picnic and pleasure parties. There is a picture of Marsden Rock in the New Heading.’

Beheading Alligators

Good old Victorians; heavily into conservation!

Besides that, seemingly, no tale is too gory for 19th century parents to tell their ‘Little Folks.’

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Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

‘On the river Guayaquil, in South America, sportsmen find a “happy hunting-ground” in the mud banks there, where alligators most do congregate. These ugly and treacherous creatures are detested wherever they exist, and any, even the cruellest method is employed for killing them. One plan is adopted on this river which seems to be brutal, but in this case the end no doubt justifies the means. As the tide goes out the alligators bury themselves in the soft mud and lie there in a sleepy state until the returning water brings with it fishes and reptiles upon which they prey. Armed with a sharp edged axe the hunter wades in top-boots across the mud, and jumping on the drowsy beasts shoulders, hacks at the neck until he severs the head from the trunk. In vain does the aroused alligator strike out with its tail, or turn itself round and round in the hope of “throwing” its executioner, who is placed beyond reach of claw, teeth or tail. all the same the hunter must have great presence of mind, strong nerve, and a sure foot.’

Dressing the Wells

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘In the third week of every June, the town of Buxton, in Derbyshire, holds high holiday. The springs and fountains are decorated with boards of quant and tasteful designs, in which flowers are lavishly used. Banners, flags and triumphal arches adorn the streets, while bands of music enliven the town, and many old English sports are revived for the time. This period of mirthfulness is a survival of the ancient custom of dressing once a year the mineral and other wells for which Buxton is famous.’

What are Nardoo Stones?

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young.’ of 1890.

(A typical Victorian explorer’s and writer’s supercilious take on natives living in their own country.)

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‘The Nardoo is a plant that belongs to Australia..As it yields food supplies to the natives of the Darling and other districts where it is found, it is regarded as valuable. The natives are amongst the least civilised of human beings, and it is interesting to note that they use stone for grinding the nardoo seeds into flour, just as the remote ancestors of the British folk used hand-stones to grind their corn. The nardoo hand-stones are called wallong, by the natives. They are round or oval and of various sizes, the largest being 6 inches in length, 41/2 broad, and 3 inches thick. They have hollows cut in them to enable the hand to grasp them more easily. In grinding grass or seeds a little water is sprinkled by the left hand, while the stone in the right hand grinds the seeds until they form a sort of gruel which runs off the sandstone slab by a channel into a piece of bark, or a wooden bowl. The mess is then baked in ashes, or eaten as it is, the native using his crooked forefinger as a spoon.’

The History of a Statue

(I wonder if this statue was ever created? I can find no reference to it at all. But then again, during WWII 60% of Kaiserslautern was destroyed by allied bombing! How different the world might have been had Frederick lived)

                      Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘When the late Emperor Frederick was Crown Prince of Germany he visited an orphan asylum in the town of Kaiserslautern. Noticing an ailing, sad-looking boy amongst the inmates, he took him in his arms and promised to be his god-father. The poor child, rather frightened at first at the affection of a stranger, at length grew very friendly with the Prince, and began to play with the medals and other decorations on the distinguished visitor’s breast. Then some years afterwards Frederick became German Emperor, a post which he filled for only a few months, when he died to the grief of the whole world. The folk of Kaiserslautern resolving to raise a statue to his memory, decided that it should represent the Prince with the baby in his arms tugging at the medals and crosses. Considering how many statues are erected nowadays that possess neither interest nor merit, this one will at all events be interesting. Let us hope it will be meritorious as well.’

May-day Hymn on Magdalen Tower

(Nowadays, I believe the little ‘ragamuffins’ simply hurl themselves into the river)

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ dated 1890.

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‘Every May-day morning, at five o’clock, a Latin hymn is sung on the top of the beautiful tower of Magdalen College, Oxford, by the men and boys of College Chapel. after the grace, as the hymn is also called, the bells ring out a merry peal. Hundreds of sightseers are attracted to the spot. Hearers they cannot be called, for the urchins of the city cause such a din in the street by the blowing of small horns that the music aloft is heard only now and then above the tootle-tootle of the penny trumpets. It is not easy to tell how this May-day custom arose. Music of some kind, it is believed, has been sung on the tower top every first of May morning since the year 1498. There are those who say that by the early part of this century the climbing of the tower for the singing of the catches and other light music had become only an excuse of the choristers to annoy the folk below by pelting them with eggs and other missiles. The choir and horn boys have been at feud for many years, the latter having defied all the efforts of the police to bring about peace. Some authorities trace in this quaint ceremony an allusion to the feast of the goddess Maia of classic times; but others hold that, since the month is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the celebration was devised in her honour.’

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