Victorian games and 19th century school life showcased at University of Leicester exhibition

Posted by ap507 at Mar 21, 2017 09:14 AM |
‘Victorian Schooldays’ exhibition running until 7 July

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 20 March 2017              

Images of Victorian games played by school children in the 19th century are available here:

Further images and information about the exhibition available here:  

A new exhibition exploring the lives of Victorian school children – including the games that they played and their classroom experiences – is on display at the University of Leicester until 7 July.

The exhibition, ‘Victorian Schooldays’, is organised by the University’s Special Collections and explores the lives of school pupils in the long 19th century and the changing face of education.

Interviews from the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) at the University of Leicester have been used throughout the exhibition to add a personal account of life during the 19th century.

The exhibition showcases material such as the Higson Collection of children’s literature and the John Hersee Collection of school exercise books, from the Mathematical Association library and held at the University of Leicester. 

Among the material on display is information pertaining to a large collection of games played by Victorian school children, including toys such as ‘whip top’ – a predecessor to the spinning top – sports such as shuttlecock, as well as contemporary playground games such as ‘Fox’ and ‘Baste the bear’.

A number of children’s magazines from the period are also on display, including instructions on building a model of Noah’s Ark, puzzles and music.

Information about teachers and school buildings are also featured – highlighting improvements in the education system, but also children’s experiences of corporal punishment in the classroom.

Dr Simon Dixon from the University of Leicester Special Collections said: “Newly built schools reflected 19th century thoughts towards the function and purpose of the institution. Their architects recognised the link between the physical building and its effect on pupil experience and learning.

“Alongside these changes, the 19th century saw a re-evaluation of school management and pedagogy. Constructs such as the Monitorial System and the adoption of pupil teachers highlight their determination to reassess and improve teaching styles.

“The effect of such changes had a measurable impact upon pupil experience, resulting in changes to the pupil’s learning, and their relationships with teachers.

“School life was not all hard work and no play, with the rise in childhood toys and games throughout the century providing light relief for the young. However many of these games still retained elements of education and moral instruction.”

An accompanying online exhibition, featuring extracts from the oral history interviews, can be found here:

Special Collections welcomes visitors and enquiries.  Please visit the webpages to find out more about holdings or to book an appointment in the reading room:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Simon Dixon on email:


EMOHA was originally funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish the first large-scale archive of oral history recordings for Leicestershire & Rutland. The earliest interviews were recorded by the Leicester Oral History Archive in the 1980s, and provides a fascinating insight into people’s lives from the late 19th century onwards.

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