spitalfield nippers
From Horace Warner, ‘Spitalfields Nippers’ (1912)

In Victorian Childhoods, Ginger Frost states that nineteenth-century childhood was ‘difficult, harsh and all too brief’. [2] This being said, perception of childhood did evolve throughout the century. For instance, from the 1830s Victorians acknowledged the need to protect and safeguard children, which resulted in the passing of a variety of laws aimed at doing exactly that. The wellbeing of children at work, school and at home were all addressed and reformed. Ideology surrounding the child also moved away from them being viewed as small adults. This was a result of romanticism which encouraged the depiction of children as innocent beings who required protection from the harshness of the adult world. Artists and writers increasingly produced sentimental images of children which played on their innocence. Therefore, by the end of the Victorian era,’childhood’ was viewed as a distinct life stage. Despite this shift in the idea of childhood, however, it took many decades for children to be properly safeguarded as high infant mortality rates, inadequate schooling and child labour persisted.

This section of the online exhibition focuses on children within the slum environment, including their involvement in various aspects of criminal life, the conditions in which their worked, how their health was affected by living in such an environment, and, finally, the ways children spent their leisure time.

Amie Slade, Chloe Hearn, Lauren Foggerty and Joe Barrow


[1] Frost, G., Victorian Childhoods (Westport, USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2009), p.164


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