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Roman Britain
Saxon Britain
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Norman Britain
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Victorian Britain
World War Two
500 BC
AD 43
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What was invented
during the Victorian times?


The Victorian period saw many major developments that made travel, communications and trade easier for many people. The railways allowed people to travel cheaply and rapidly, opening up new possibilities for both rich and poor. The postal service expanded after the introduction of the 'Penny Post'.

Many of the things we take for granted today, such as photography, telephones, electric light bulbs and cars were invented during Queen Victoria's reign.

Click here to go to our Victorian Invention Timeline

The first photographs were taken in the 1830s. Within a few years most towns had a photographic studio where families went dressed in their best clothes to have their picture taken. They had to stand still for a long time, otherwise the picture would be blurred!

Did you know?
The word photography is derived from the Greek words for light and writing.

Electric Telegraph developed by William Cooke and Charles Wheastone. Swinging needles transmit message in code in 1858.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.

The first cars appeared during the Victorian times, but only rich people could afford them. Early car drivers were required to have a special attendant walking in front of the car, holding a red flag as a warning.

The German engineer Karl Benz built the first motorcar in 1885. It was a three-wheeled vehicle powered by a one-cylinder gasoline engine. The speed limit for cars was four miles per hour.

Guglielmo Marconi, from Italy, is credited with the discovery of radio in 1895. We can't really say he "invented" radio. Nobody ever does invent anything from scratch as each "invention" is the consequence of many previous discoveries and researches (in this case especially those done by James Clerk Maxwell, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Heinrich Hertz.

penny-farthingBicycles became very popular in the 1870s.Invention of the penny-farthing bicycle. by British engineer, James Starley. The huge front wheel was almost six feet from top to bottom. and the seat was above the wheel. It had no brakes! This design was used until about 1880 when a bicycle with equal-sized wheels was developed.

Thomas Twyford built the first one-piece toilet. Twyford's model was also the first constructed of china, much easier to clean than the previous wood or metal models.

Sir Rowland Hill, a retired teacher, introduced a pre-paid penny post for letters in Britain in 1840. Up to this time the person receiving the letter had to pay for it. With the invention of the stamp, the person sending the letter had to pay.

Penny Black StampThe Penny Black stamp is the world's first adhesive postage stamp, and is perhaps the most famous stamp ever issued. It was a one penny stamp with Queen Victoria's profile against a black background and was produced in 1840. It was used for letters weighing less than half an ounce. For heavier letters the Twopenny Blue was used, which was similar, except that its background was blue.

After the invention of the electric light bulb by Thomas Edison (USA) and Joseph Swan (UK) in 1879, electric light started to replace the dim, yellow gas light, oil lamps and candlelight. Some towns were lit by electricity too, making them more welcoming at night.

Steam was used to power factory machinery, ships and trains. Great iron steamships were built made crossing the ocean faster than ever before. Many people left Britain, sailing away to start a new life in Canada or Australia.

By the 1880s steam power was also being used to turn dynamos in power stations in order to make electricity.

The 1840s was a time of railway madness. Trains were cheaper and faster than canal boats or horse drawn carriages. The first steam trains had appeared before Victoria's reign. But in the 1840s and early 1850s private companies built 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometres) of railways all over Britain.

The very first electric train was invented by a German in 1879. Electric trains were quieter than and not as dirty as steam trains but it was many years before they were used for passengers.

Click here to go to our Victorian Invention Timeline

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