World ? Europe ? England

England: The Best Victorian Sites

  • Albert Memorial (Kensington Palace, London): If any statue symbolizes an era, this flamboyant tribute to Victoria's consort, her beloved Albert (1819-61), does; it is the epitome of Victorian excess. The statue depicts Albert holding a catalog of the Great Exhibition. He overlooks the South Kensington Culture Centre, his last legacy. The 4m-high (14-ft.) statue went into place in 1876 and was instantly described as an "outsize reliquary casket."

  • Houses of Parliament (London): No government building in England symbolizes the Victorian age like the Palace of Westminster, housing Parliament. Replacing a palace destroyed by fire in 1834, it cost ţ2 million ($3.8 million) to build, a princely sum at the time. The building was completed in 1860 and turned out to be Gothic fantasy, its facade decorated with monarchs ranging from William the Conqueror to Queen Victoria.

  • Osborne House (southeast of East Cowes on the Isle of Wight): This was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's most cherished residence. Constructed at Queen Victoria's own expense, it is imbued with her spirit. The rooms are a perfect period piece of Victoriana, with all their artifacts and stuffy chairs -- a cozy clutter best evoked by her sitting room. Grief-stricken at the death of Albert in 1861, the queen requested that the house be kept as it was upon the death of her husband.

  • Manchester (Lancashire): A major inland port since 1894, Manchester long had a reputation as a blackened, foggy, and forbidding city, grim and dowdy, the worst of the Midlands. But it has been cleaned up, and today its center is filled with masterpieces of sturdy, solid Victorian architecture, including homes built for the great industrial barons of the 19th century. See "Manchester: Gateway to the North," in chapter 17.

  • National Railway Museum (York): The first national museum to be built away from London is devoted to the locomotive that changed the face of Victorian England. Set in an original steam locomotive depot, the museum is filled with railway memorabilia, more than 40 full-size locomotives, plus the century-old Royal Saloon, in which Queen Victoria rode until her death.

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