'Young Victorians' in Esher

The Civic Centre invited the Victorians to stay this week as the latest exhibition from Elmbridge Museum, 'Young Victorians', was installed. Elmbridge Museum's Exhibition Officer talks about the display...


'Young Victorians' was a great exhibition to organise: fun and insightful. The main thrust of the exhibition for me, while I was planning it, was looking at a relatively small time frame - the Victorian era - and how timeless themes of childhood were shaped during these years.

The three main sections of the exhibition are home life, play and education. Although these concepts are often associated with childhood (and modern childhood at that, involving formal schooling) it can be argued that they are themes that have always run through life. I loved handing the building stones and reading fantastical tales from an annual that is over 100 years old; they still feel fresh.

Many things that we take for granted were pioneered or developed during the Victorian age. School became mandatory during Victoria's reign and, as transport links and technology developed, luxuries such as books became cheap enough to potentially be in every household.

Elmbridge Museum, because of its location and surrounding area, is fortunate enough to have in its collection many varied items from the years 1837-1901. Due to the area's royal links, the exhibition displays Princess Helena's shoes - the fifth child of Victoria and Albert; these are juxtaposed to a very early nineteenth century boy's frock coat. The wear to the jacket shows that it was worn by multiple children, probably into the Victorian era, and poignantly demonstrates the economic divide that persisted throughout Victoria's reign.