Victorian TripAdvisor

Today’s post has been written by John and Lucia, two second year students studying History at Manchester Metropolitan University. As part of the History in Public unit, John and Lucia have spent the past few months researching a number of albums and travel journals from our collections.  They have done a great job and the exhibition they curated is on display in our Spotlight Gallery until 26 April. Here they share what they have learnt about travel and holidays in the 19th century:

“The Victorian period underwent a series of changes during the 19th century. The changes in the work pattern, the introduction of bank holidays and the urbanisation of towns affected how the people in the 19th century viewed their leisure time. Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collection holds a collection of travel journals spanning right from the beginning of the 19th century into the later years. The journals are part of The Sir Harry Page Collection of Victorian and Edwardian Scrap Albums and Commonplace Books which consists of around 300 original albums.

The journals in the exhibition currently on display in All Saints Library are a perfect example of how the upper classes travelled through inland Europe and England. Both of the albums are of unknown origin where the name of the authors remain a mystery. It is presumed that they were compiled by young ladies during  family travels. Album No. 239 consists of watercolour drawings and a travel itinerary of a family who left Norwich in August 1882 to travel around Cornwall.  With the introduction of railways during the mid 19th century into Cornwall, the place became very popular with visitors towards the end of the century. The family from Norwich discussed their holiday plans. However, as one of the girls could not travel across the channel due to a sea sickness, the family decided to stay in England. According to the young lady who wrote the journal, it was to be ‘a little home trip.’ The album is filled with beautiful drawings of the places the family saw on their holidays.

HP_239_028 (Page 12)

Page 12, taken from album number 239.

The family took the train to Waterloo Station in London where they stayed the night. The journey then continues to Launceston, where they had to wait in a railway station for over 2 hours and the young lady does not seem to be impressed with the wait:

We were deposited at a small station called Lydford, our train going on to Plymouth. A fine rain set in and we passed 2 ½ dreary hours at this dull spot, a most uncomfortable little room calling itself the waiting room. There was one cheerful individual however, a lady from London on her way to Boscastle. She consoled herself with some tea and bread and butter. The teapot was a most extraordinary production large enough for a party of twenty and such a shape.

In a similar note, the young lady is somewhat critical of the hotels that the family stayed in and she often gives a brief description of the accommodation:

We had been advised to put up at the White Hart but I should not recommend it for cleanliness…after airing our rooms by opening the windows, by no means an easy task.

The journey comes to life with the excellent watercolour drawings of the places the family visited and it can be retraced through her writings. Some of the drawings are very detailed and she particularly enjoys drawing rocks. The young lady draws several such pictures from the trip to Lizard’s Point and Gurnard’s Head (the picture on the right).

The family takes several trips, one of them takes them on a little boat to St. Michael’s Mount and there the family takes some refreshments:

Thursday 23 meet in the omnibus to Marazion where we took a boat to Mt. St. Michael, the sea was very rough and the wind blowing hard, but even Maria had not since to be sea sick for our little voyage was very short; we scrambled up to the beautiful castle rather steep over stones and grass… We could not go into it, but we ascended as near to the top as we could, and while admiring the lovely castle and the view ate our refreshments as easily as the wind would allow us.


HP_239_051 (Page 24)

Page 24, taken from album number 239.

On another excursion, the family took a public horse and carriage and even had their picture taken. Unfortunately, we do not know if the photograph was ever collected by the family as it there was no trace of it in the album.

We soon came to a standstill and found we were being photographed, the picture to be completed by the time we returned, not being up to it we did not place ourselves in a conspicuous place.

The family went on several excursions during their holidays and one of them included taking a steamer boat down the River Fal. The journey was described in the album:

Next morning we went in a little steamer up the River Fal to Falmouth a lovely little voyage of 1 ½ hours. The river winding round richly wooded reaches, there were some amusing passengers especially a large party of nine all young expect the Mother & two pairs evidently enjoyed when the […] little steamer band started off with Sweethearts…

As part of their travels homeward the family visited Exeter, where they visited a cathedral and stayed for part of the service which was being held at that time.

August 29th we took a last look at the lovely Mount [Saint Michael’s] and started on our travels homewards reaching Exeter after 10pm put up at the Bude Haven Hotel, found tea and comfortable beds ready for us, having telegraphed for them early in the day. Everything was clean comfortable and reasonable.

After the short overnight stay, they departed for Waterloo Station, where their journey began.  From the writing it seems that this trip involved two families as the young lady often mentions her cousins by name. Towards the end of the journey, once the family returns home, they learn that Mr Johnson, the clerk, passed away.

The family had travelled all the way from Norwich to Land’s End and back again. The journey started on Wednesday 16th August, and ended on 31st August 1882. Their journey took them approximately 400 miles each way, travelling by train, horse and carriage and boat.”

Click on the map below to see a selection of original writings and drawings from the album.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s