The White Spring: a dark Victorian well house now plays host to mystical waters and pagan shrines.

We are in England. It is one of the greatest mysteries of Avalon, the legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend, that two different healing springs, one touched red with iron, the other white with calcite, should rise within a few feet of each other from the caverns beneath Glastonbury Tor, and both have healing in their flow. The quaint sculpted gardens of the Chalice Well surround Glastonbury’s most famous natural water source, the Red Spring, so called for the iron oxide it deposits in its basin. But just opposite…

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Julia Margaret Cameron: the greatest Victorian-era portrait photographer

Julia Margaret Cameron (11 June 1815 – 26 January 1879 ) was an English photographer considered one of the most significant portraitists of the 19th century, who managed to make a vast production of images during her very short career (she made around 900 photographs over a 12-year period). She is known for her soft-focus close-ups of famous Victorian men and for illustrative images depicting characters from mythology, Christianity, and literature. She also produced sensitive portraits of women and children. Born in India in 1815, after showing a keen interest…

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Amelia Dyer: the Victorian “Baby Farmer” who killed 200 to 400 children

England was not a safe place for children in Victorian times. On the other hand, it wasn’t even for adults, if we think of serial killers like Jack the Ripper or Harold Shipman (1946-2004), who killed around 250 of his patients during his medical career and is considered the most ferocious of British serial killers. However, forgotten in the archives of the police and courts, is also the story of Amelia Dyer, one of the most prolific serial killers in history, murdering infants in her care over a 30-year period.…

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The “Hidden Mothers”: macabre portraits of children in the Victorian era

In a technological age like the one in which we live, characterized by the constant sharing on every social networks of photos and selfies of ever-increasing quality, it is probably difficult to imagine how the world could have been at the origins of photography, in the Victorian age. And not the world of photography in general, or the post-mortem photography we have already talked about, but that of photography that depicted nineteenth-century English children. Have you ever had difficulties trying to get a baby to sit down and pose for…

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The disturbing Victorian fashion of very long hair in 35 Photos

The Victorian era technically spanned from June 20, 1837, until Queen Victoria’s death on January 22, 1901. This was a rather peaceful time in the United Kingdom, a change from the highly rational Georgian period that preceded it. Many people, including myself, are fascinated by this historical era, from the architecture to the etiquette, and right down to the way they dressed and spoke. Photography was also on the rise, and was much more accessible than previous years. Because of this, we have some very beautiful portraits and pictures from…

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100 Skeletons show the extreme London poverty at the beginning of the Victorian Times.

Some archaeologists have recently examined a burial site of the first half of the nineteenth century discovered in the parking lot of New Covent Garden, in the south-west area of London, where about 100 skeletons of men, women and children were recovered. These included difficult working conditions, a life in harmful environments, endemic diseases, physical deformities, malnutrition and deadly violence. The discovery of the remains allows a snapshot of the life of the first industrial London, in a period between 1830 and 1850. Bone testimonies are evidence of what Charles…

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The “Hospitals for the Dead” prevented the fear of being buried alive in Victorian times

Thanks to modern technology, and also to the increasing scientific preparation of the doctors, there is no longer the concern to be buried alive. Throughout history, even relatively recent, the gruesome hypothesis was actually a legitimate concern, particularly for those who suffered from episodes or “attacks” of a condition called catalepsy, also called “apparent death”. Similar to narcolepsy, catalepsy is a state of uncontrolled muscle stiffness, often linked to episodes of catatonia. Often found in patients with schizophrenia, catatonic states have been part of the human condition for centuries, but…

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