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Homes of the Homeless: Seeking Shelter in Victorian London
© Cardiff University Library: Special Collections and Archives

Four ways to be transported back to Victorian London

Skip the dusty novels, here's how to experience London life as a Victorian

Written by
Time Out London contributor

Ever wondered what life was like in London before and during the Victorian era? The population of the seat of the British Empire grew from 1 million to 6.7 million in just 100 years. Novels such as ‘Oliver Twist’ give us an insight into the social lives of Londoners, from the affluent upper class to the thousands of working class citizens living packed together in slums. Try out these attractions that encompass olden day London to see just how different our lives as Londoners are today.

Imagine being a guest in a house owned by a family of 18th century silk weavers just minutes from Liverpool Street station. Sound absurd? Dennis Severs’ house does just that. You are invited to participate in a ‘still life drama’, a concept invented by Dennis Severs, an artist intent upon using people’s imaginations to create a unique cultural experience. Visitors to this charming Georgian townhouse are left to explore the ten rooms in silence using their senses as a guide. The house is open Sundays noon-4pm and Mondays noon-2pm and ticket prices are £7. Alternatively, book for a candlelit ‘silent night visit’ on a Monday or Wednesday 6-9pm for £14 and enjoy a glass of champagne included in your ticket price.

Darkest Victorian London – London Walks

Darkest Victorian London – London Walks

London Walks offer a two-hour special tour of our culturally crammed metropolis. The tour guides are dedicated to providing a compelling excursion, starting at Monument tube station. Groups will be taken to the ‘hidden corners’ of Victorian London and will see and understand the city from the perspective of the chimney sweeps, pickpockets, thieves and vagabonds of London’s spooky past. If that doesn’t sound eerie enough, you also get into The Old Operating Theatre Museum for half price. Walks do not require booking and cost £9 per person.


Thomas Barnardo came to London from Dublin in 1866. Disgust for the poverty-ridden East End caused him to campaign for better opportunities and living conditions for the working class citizens. Barnardo’s Copperfield Road Free School, his first ‘ragged school’, educated tens of thousands of children until 1908. Nowadays, it’s open to the public for free as a means of understanding a true East End legacy in a hands-on atmosphere. Visitors can perch at the old school desks and inspect the reconstructed Victorian kitchen, a child-friendly museum experience. Opening hours are 10am-5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and between 2-5pm on the first Sunday of each month.

Children will gaze longingly at the old fashioned Victorian toys that make up this quaint museum. Named after Benjamin Pollock who was one of the last Victorian Toy Theatre printers, this museum holds a plethora of toys from dolls houses to teddy bears. A fascinating place and a visual feast, particularly for younger eyes. Opening hours: 10am-5pm. 

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