Victorian Harpenden

Victoria’s reign encompassed a period of change for Harpenden.  The population rose from less than 2,000 in 1831 to over 5,000 in 1901. The coming of the railway was of major significance: in 1860 the Great Northern Railway branch line from Hatfield reached Harpenden and in 1868 the Midland main line to St Pancras was opened. In the early 1880s two large farm estates were sold, providing land for later housing developments. However, the opening of the railways did not bring about a rupture with the past; agriculture continued to dominate the local economy for decades and straw plaiting and hat manufacture was the main form of occupation for poorer women into the 1880s.

The lessons in this section focus on specific aspects of Victorian Harpenden.  "How can we look inside Harpenden's past" includes maps, photographs, census reports and written documents that allow KS2or KS3 students consider how Station Road was different in Victorian times and to look specifically at the work of straw plaiters that took place in some of the homes in the road.  "The tragic case of Mr Bingham's daughter" provides school records, census reports and local newspaper reports of inquests, for KS3 students to investigate the mystery surrounding Mr Bingham's daughter.

If you would like to look at how Harpenden changed during the Victorian period, you will find plenty of material in the Development of Harpenden over Time section of these teachers’ pages.