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This Sceptred Isle


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This Sceptred Isle

After Albert
Just before Christmas in 1860 the Thames froze and remained frozen until 19 January. Thousands were laid off. The Poor Laws were supposed to help but they sometimes failed to do so.

In the 1860s Britain was prosperous but many of those who lived there lived in squalor, poverty and little hope. Many believed the future was far away from the British Isles. In the 1860s alone 1.7million people emigrated.

Sir Rowland Hill
Sir Rowland Hill
SIR ROWLAND HILL (1795-1879)

  • Invented the Penny Post
  • Mother died at birth, raised by his schoolteacher father
  • Taught alongside his father and brothers - their new school in North London was progressive - new teaching methods and philosophies, no corporal punishment but reward systems and strong honour and behaviour codes
  • Ill health led Hill away from teaching
  • Interested in inventing, from 1835 he began planning a postal service
  • The Penny Post was introduced in 1840 and Hill became Secretary to the Postmaster-General in 1846. Continued to reform the Post Office until 1864 when he retired.

did you know?
In 1861 agricultural and domestic workers were still the two commonest occupations.


"For five weeks, the pauperism was raised from the average of 96,752 to 135,389.

"Mr Howard, Chairman of the Bethnal-green Board of Guardians, is of the opinion that but for charitable subscriptions, 'there would have been fearful loss of life from starvation'.

"Mr Selfe, the police magistrate, adds, 'I think the distress was terrible; the amount to which the pawnshops were filled with absolute necessities of the home, and the way in which it was stripped to support bare life, was terrible'...

"The workhouse test, or the labour test, which no doubt was properly applied in the case of the sturdy vagrant or the idle, was wholly unfit to be applied to a vast number of those who are destitute.

"In the eastern district of the Metropolis there were numbers of the most deserving poor who would never go near the poorhouse; they would sooner die.

Select historical period

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1837 William IV dies
Victoria becomes Queen
1851 The Great Exhibition
Louis Napoleon seizes power in France
1854The Crimean War breaks out
Florence Nightingale arrives at Scutari
1855 Palmerston becomes Prime Minister
1856 The Treaty of Paris ends the Crimean War
1857 The Indian Mutiny breaks out
1858 The Crown takes over the government of India
Derby becomes Prime Minister
1859 Palmerston becomes Prime Minister
1861Prince Albert dies
1865 Palmerston dies
Russell becomes Prime Minister

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