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London
Snow Hill, Holburn, London, 19th century painting
Public DomainSnow Hill, Holburn, London, 19th century painting - Credit: wikimedia commons

Victorian London was a busy, bustling and dirty place, known for its thick smog and stench. The population of the city surged in the 18th century, leading to a sharp contrast between the rich new building projects in affluent areas and the overcrowded slums. Living conditions for the poor were terrible, and the streets were packed with beggars, desperate children, and vendors of everything from flowers and charms to cheap meat. Petty crime such as pick-pocketing was common. New buildings soon became covered in a layer of soot from the many coal fires, and the air was heavy with their smoke. The streets were lit with gas lamps; incandescent electric lights were introduced in some areas of London from 1882. 

Typical Victorian Houses on Cambridge Gardens, London
GNU Free Documentation LicenseTypical Victorian Houses on Cambridge Gardens, London - Credit: Cnbrb/Wikimedia Commons

The wealthier citizens of the city, such as the characters in Dracula, enjoyed large homes with running water, servants, and even electricity. A household would be run by a large staff, including maids, cooks and a butler. Food would be brought by the seller to the servants' entrance of the house, where the cook or housekeeper would make the purchase. Well-to-do Victorian ladies and gentlemen would not need to worry themselves with any of the dirty or menial tasks around the house.

 Wealthy Victorians would travel around the city in horse-drawn carriages, and public cabs were available for hire if needed. By the mid-1800s department stores began to appear, such as the famous Harrods, with the idea of encouraging customers to browse at their leisure. Theatres, opera houses and concert halls offered diverse entertainments, and brass bands could be heard playing in bandstands in the parks.

The Royal Albert Hall provided a grand stage for concerts from 1871, and the Great Exhibition of 1851 led to the establishment of the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The British Museum was also a popular attraction, which Van Helsing visits at one point in the book. 

Arts and Crafts style wallpaper
Public DomainArts and Crafts style wallpaper - Credit: Wetman/Wikimedia Commons

Victorian buildings tended to be tall and impressive, and Victorian furnishings very decorative and embellished. In 1880, the Arts and Crafts movement reacted against these overly ornate styles, and against machine-made items, believing in ‘truth to material’ and often achieving a slightly rustic effect. The Gothic Revival was also popular in the Victorian period, sparking an interest in medieval styles. The Victorian period spanned from 1837 to 1901, with many changing styles and fashions along the way.

 

The Palace of Westminster, Gothic Revival Style
Public DomainThe Palace of Westminster, Gothic Revival Style - Credit: Arpingstone/Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victorian Arts and Crafts furniture, 1891
Public DomainVictorian Arts and Crafts furniture, 1891 - Credit: Boondoxatron/Wikimedia Commons

 More about Victorian London 

More about the Victorian era in general

More about Victorian Architecture

More about the Arts and Crafts movement, popular at the time of Dracula