Queen Victoria ruled Britain for 64 years, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.
When 18-year-old Victoria came to the throne, victories over Revolutionary and Napoleonic France had increased Britain’s influence and standing abroad. But Britain also faced problems at home due to a rising population, rural unemployment and appalling living and working conditions.
Nevertheless, Victoria’s reign was a period of industrial, political, scientific, and military change, marked by the country’s transformation into an industrial and imperial giant with its great expansion of the British Empire.
There are a host of top Victorian sites to visit in England, including Osborne House and Crystal Palace Park. Here’s our guide to some of Victorian England’s most important locations, museums and monuments.
10 of the Best Victorian Sites in England
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain’s monarchs since 1837, when Queen Victoria first occupied it. With 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace is a magnificently vast site and one of Britain’s most recognisable buildings.
Victoria expanded the Palace to accommodate her growing family, and before Prince Albert’s death it was often the site of musical events and lavish costume balls. Following the Prince’s death in 1861 however, Buckingham Palace remained shuttered and empty for many years, as Victoria could seldom stand to be in London.
Osborne House on the Isle of Wight is famous as the holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, where they spent many a summer relaxing with their large family.
Today the house contains a vast collection of their personal items, alongside countless rooms, gardens, and even a beach where they spent some of their most cherished memories.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, better known as the V&A, is the world’s leading museum of art and design. It houses a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity.
The V&A’s origins lie in the Great Exhibition of 1851 – the world’s first international display of design and manufacturing. Following the Exhibition, its creator, Prince Albert, saw the need to improve the standards of British industry to compete in the international marketplace. He urged its profits to be channelled into developing a cultural district of museums devoted to art and science education, of which the V&A was first.
The National Railway Museum in York is home to some of the country’s greatest feats of engineering, and tells the story of Britain’s railway innovation.
The museum was founded in 1975 on the site of the former North York locomotive depot, where it still stands today. York train station, when built in 1877, was the largest in the country (some said the world) and was admired as one of the great buildings of Victorian Britain. By 1910, about 310 trains were running through the station per day.
There are few burial places in the whole of Britain that are as famous and evocative as Highgate Cemetery. In its original form – the north-western wooded area – the cemetery was opened in 1839 as part of a plan to provide seven large and modern cemeteries, now known as the ‘Magnificent Seven’, around the outside of central London.
Today, Highgate Cemetery is known for its elaborate Neo-Gothic tombs, sculpted stone angels, and foreboding mausoleums, and as such, has been branded a ‘Victorian Valhalla’. Indeed, during the Victorian period, the cemetery was a hugely popular and fashionable burial site, with Victorian attitudes to death and burial leading to a huge wealth of Gothic tombs.
Built in 1835, Stott Park Bobbin Mill was once one of over 100 mills operating in the Lake District to supply millions of bobbins (spools of thread) to the Lancashire textile industry.
Today, along the shore of Lake Windermere in Cumbria, Stott Park Bobbin Mill is the only working bobbin mill remaining in the Lake District and is open to the public. Its Victorian industrial history is told through tours and an exhibition, allowing you to see how bobbins were made out of trees.
Crystal Palace Park is an 80 hectare Grade II listed Victorian pleasure grounds located in the south London suburb of Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace and Park were built between 1852 and 1855. The grounds were designed to be a magnificent accompaniment to the relocated Crystal Palace, which had previously been located in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
As one of the main aims of the park was to impress and educate, there was a thematic emphasis on discovery and invention. As a result, pioneering geological illustrations and full scale models of dinosaurs were added to the site.
The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most ornate monuments. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria to honour her husband, Prince Albert, after his death in 1861.
Designed by George Gilbert Scott, the memorial stands near the southern boundary of the park, between Alexandra Gate and Queen’s Gate and was unveiled in 1872.
The centrepiece of the memorial is a 14-foot high statue of Prince Albert holding the catalogue of the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851, which he inspired and helped to organise.
The Charles Dickens Museum is situated in the Victorian family home of Charles Dickens in Holborn, London. This is where the author wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby, and first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
Dickens and his wife Catherine moved to this Georgian terraced house (his only surviving London house) at 48 Doughty St, London on 25 March 1837, a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign, until December 1839. While here, Dickens penned some of his most famous works. The couple also raised the eldest 3 of their 10 children here (the older two of Dickens’s daughters, Mary and Kate, were born in the house), and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties.
Built in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall has been one of London’s most popular entertainment venues for nearly 150 years. The Grade I listed building survived two world wars, looking almost the same today as it did during Queen Victoria’s reign. Originally called the Central Hall, this building project was started by Prince Albert using the profits of the Great Exhibition of 1851, which took place in Hyde Park, just opposite the site.
Queen Victoria chose to rename the building the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, and HRH The Prince of Wales declared the Hall officially open on 29 March 1871, on behalf of his mother. Queen Victoria was present but was too overcome with emotion to speak – reminded of her late husband, Prince Albert, who had died a decade earlier. Albert never lived to see the Hall named in his honour.