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In this activity, pupils will learn about domestic life during the Victorian period. The task for pupils is to produce an advert for items in a fashionable Victorian living room or to produce a page from an illustrated manual for a housemaid who has to lay the table and then serve the meal at a Victorian dinner party.


KS2 - Victorian Britain


Here you will find some ideas to help you prepare yourself and your pupils for a visit to the British Galleries.


We strongly recommend that you visit the Museum prior to bringing your class. This will give you a much clearer idea of how you can use the galleries. We suggest that you familiarise yourself with the spaces in the Victorian galleries and the route to them from the Exhibition Road entrance. Spend some time studying the Victorian displays and explore some of the interactive devices. These have not been designed for use by school groups but you might find them useful for supporting information. Look at:

Hampton's Catalogue (facsimile)
(useful for the advert activity)
Gallery 125
Lift the label activity: How much did it cost?Gallery 125

Decide how long you are going to spend in the Museum and which galleries you are going to use. This activity is based on the British Galleries and the museum task has been designed to take half a day. There are other galleries relevant to the Victorians that you might want to visit if you have more time. For a list of other galleries, to find out more about relevant objects and to view some images see supporting information.


There are two suggested tasks for this activity. Each focuses on a slightly different aspect of the Victorian displays. It will be much easier for your class to navigate the space if they are divided into small groups, each with a helper, and split between the tasks.


Pupils will find out about how the Victorians decorated and furnished their homes. They will use the information they find in the Museum to produce an advert for items in a fashionable Victorian living room from about 1880.

Remind pupils that most of the objects that they will see in the V&A would have belonged to rich and fashionable people. Talk about the fact that the V&A is an Art and Design museum and that most of the objects on display have been chosen for their aesthetic qualities first and foremost.

Think about chronology and talk about the many changes in the style of furnishings and furniture during the 19th century.

Ask pupils to list things in the living rooms of their own houses in order to compare and contrast with those they see in the Museum.

Discuss adverts with pupils. Show them some adverts from Victorian newspapers or catalogues. What do they need to think about when producing an advert? What kind of language should they use? Who is the target audience? What were Victorian adverts like?


Pupils will explore eating and drinking in Victorian times. They will use the evidence they find in the Museum displays to produce an illustrated manual for a housemaid who has to lay the table and then serve at a Victorian dinner party.

Ask pupils to record what they might have for their own evening meals for a week. They could then do some research at school to try and find out the kinds of food eaten by the Victorians. Discuss any similarities and differences.

Pupils could find out about a typical Victorian household. What was the average family size?

Ask pupils to list the equipment we use for eating and drinking today in preparation for their research in the Museum.

Show pupils some examples of Victorian 'self-help' manuals such as Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.


Find the Victorian galleries. The displays relevant to these activities are:

Eating and Drinking 1870-1910Gallery 118a
Decorating the Home 1870-1910Gallery 125
Technological Innovations 1850-1900Gallery 122d


The task for pupils at the Museum is to record information about one or more items that would have appeared in a fashionable Victorian living room. They should use the worksheet provided to describe and draw objects from the Museum displays. They should think about the selling points of the objects they have chosen in preparation for producing their adverts.


Pupils should use the worksheet provided to record all the equipment that would have been used in the course of a Victorian meal. The list they come up with might include different kinds of cutlery, glassware, ceramics and decorative tableware. Pupils should draw the items needed to lay the table and think about how they should be arranged.

Make sure your class has been divided into small groups, each with a helper. Each group should already know which task it is doing.


Using all the ideas and information gathered at the Museum, pupils will now complete their tasks.


Pupils should use the information and ideas gathered at the Museum to produce an illustrated advert for an item or items in a Victorian living room. They should think about how they will advertise the furniture and furnishings in the living room. What is special about them? Why would people want to buy them?

As an extension exercise, ask pupils to investigate what kind of houses/rooms were lived in by poorer people and compare this with what they saw at the V&A.


Pupils should each produce a page for a Victorian self-help manual showing how a table should be set for a Victorian meal. This could include drawings of the cutlery and tableware and some written instructions for the maid.


We are keen to get your feedback on this activity as well as any suggestions for other ways of using the British Galleries. Use the online evaluation form here

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