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Victorians - Celebrating the Past

To consider how life today has benefited from the past,

by Kate Fleming

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To consider how life today has benefited from the past, and celebrate the courage, imagination and foresight of reformers, inventors and thinkers who laid the foundations for the modern world.

Preparation and materials

  • Children may need to work in pairs with paper and pencil.
  • You will need the following, or similar examples:
    mobile phone
    light bulb, in a lamp, connected to electricity
  • Prepare flip-chart - set up as below:
    Alexander Graham Bell       Writer
    Joseph Swan       Nursing
    William Fox Talbot       Railways
    Joseph Lister       Caring for orphan children
    Florence Nightingale       Reformer/founder of National Trust
    George Stephenson       Antiseptic
    Thomas Barnardo       First woman doctor
    Charles Dickens       Light bulb
    Elizabeth Garrett Anderson       Telephone
    Octavia Hill       Photograph


  1. Explain that today we are going to think about this amazing world in which we live, and particularly some of the Victorians who were brave enough, imaginative enough and clever enough to come up with new ideas which brought about much needed change in the way in which people lived.

  2. Before Queen Victoria came to the throne, life in England was very different. We weren't able to do this (use mobile phone) or this (switch on light). We didn't have the joy of looking at these (show photographs) or feel the stinging of this (show antiseptic) when we graze our knees. The Victorians were responsible for telephones, light bulbs, photographs, antiseptic and many more things which today we just take for granted.

  3. Introduce the game 'Victorian Match'. Explain that these famous Victorians (indicate flip-chart) are matched up with the wrong invention or occupation. Can the children help you to get the correct matches?

  4. As you play - or afterwards - run through the information below. You can add extra biographical details if you have them.
    • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.
    • Joseph Swan invented the light bulb.
    • William Fox Talbot invented the photograph.
    • Joseph Lister invented antiseptic.
    • Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing.
    • George Stephenson was the engineer who built the first public railway.
    • Thomas Barnardo devoted his life to caring for orphan children.
    • Charles Dickens was the most famous writer of the Victorian age. His novels attacked cruelty and poverty.
    • Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to become a doctor in Britain. She founded a hospital for poor women and children.
    • Octavia Hill was a reformer who worked to improve the appalling housing conditions in London. She also helped to found the National Trust in 1895.
  5. All these people played an important part in the formation of modern day society, so let's remember them and thank them when we:
    • Pick up the phone to talk to a friend.
    • Switch on the light or ride on the train.
    • Pose for a photo, graze an elbow.
    • Look round a castle's turrets and moat.
    • Go to the hospital, visit the nurse.
    • Open the door on warm loving homes.
    All these things by the kind permission of the eminent Victorians!

Time for reflection

We've so much to be grateful for today
and many people to thank.
Let us remember and salute the Victorians
who made such a major contribution
to the twenty-first century.

Song and music

'Thank you for every new good morning' (Junior Praise, 230)
'Thank you Lord for this fine day' (Junior Praise, 232; Come and Praise, 32)

Curriculum links

English, History

Publication date: November 2000   (Vol.2 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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