By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, London was the biggest industrial city in Europe. New technology was being invented, but with little understanding of these new inventions, there were many hazards. Complicating matters even more, there was little to no legislation or regulations to prevent anything unsafe or dodgy.
The bathroom was a new invention of the Victorian Era, and running water to the house was also new. Their obsession with cleanliness was potentially hazardous in many ways.
Flushing toilets were new, but it didn’t effectively flush everything away. Once it had reached the sewer, gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide were trapped, and the only place they could go was back into the houses.
This meant that if anyone had a naked flame (e.g. candle) the bathroom could spontaneously combust. It also meant that if anyone went down to the sewers, it would cause an explosion. Luckily, Thomas Crapper invented the syphon valve which prevented the highly flammable gases from re-entering the house, but it didn’t solve the sewer problem.
Whilst bathtubs were not new, but ones that heated the water were. Many Victorian baths had a gas burner underneath them to heat the water, instead of a maid lugging it up the stairs, which meant you could heat the water to a comfortable temperature, and save the poor maids back.
Unfortunately, many people forgot to turn the gas heater off and boiled themselves alive! Many others suffered serious burns. Thermostats did not exist at this time, so to check the temperature you had to risk getting burnt.
The next most common factor of accidental deaths in homes were stairs. Back in the days of Queen Victoria, there were no safety regulations to ensure the safety of household staircases. Although there was a recommendation for stair width and height, these were often only followed for the main staircase of the home, and not the stairs to the servant quarters.
Houses at the time were much narrower and much taller. So to save money, house owners would condense the width or go of the steps, and increase the height or rise, or steps that were uneven making them extremely unsafe. For omen with their skirts and heels it just became increasingly dangerous. With these changes to the stairs, you were six times more likely to fall and it was the most common cause of accidental death.
Check out this video to see what happens when there is one uneven step:
Hope you enjoyed this weeks post!