Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by: Leeds Museums and Galleries 

Adapted from Celebrating Leeds, Kate Vigurs and Jayne Ambrose, History’s Maid.


A Global View:

During this period in America (1861-65), a civil war was fought over issues including the enslavement of African people. This resulted in emancipation (enslaved African people gaining their freedom). The British Empire was also climbing towards its peak. By Queen Victoria's death in 1901, Britain controlled over a fifth of the world's land surface, including Australia, Canada, India and large parts of Africa and Oceania.


Curriculum Links

  • KS1 History: Significant local historical events, people and places
  • KS2 History: Local Study, Theme extending knowledge beyond 1066
  • Key Stages 1 & 2 Art: Exploring and developing ideas
  • KS 1 & 2 Geography: Human and physical geography and maps


Activity Ideas

  • Play the Victorian Children's Jobs interactive to find out which job you'd be (un)lucky enough to have as a child in Victorian times.
  • How did the Victorian development of the British Empire affect Leeds? Think about physical impacts, such as goods and trade, and intangible aspects, such as power and influence.
    • What impact would the empire have had on different people in the city, or around the globe?
    • What impact has the British Empire had on today’s society, for good and bad?
  • Look at the image of Victorian Briggate (circa late 1800s) and describe about what you might hear, see, smell, think if you were walking up the street at the time. Describe the clothing that people are wearing, what they are saying, what jobs they do, where they live and what transport they might get if they wanted to travel.
  • Develop a drama or freeze frame based on your descriptions of people shopping on Briggate.
  • Compare your description to a modern image of Briggate. What is different? What has stayed the same?
  • Research the lives of a working class and middle class child in Victorian Leeds. You could visit your local studies library, archive or museum to find out more. List all the differences you can think of comparing their lives. Think about home life, leisure, work, school and health. Write a short story or poem about the life of one of the children.
  • Look at the artist impressions of the royal visit to Leeds in 1858. Think about the journey that Queen Victoria and her family took around the city and what they saw. Draw, paint or make a sculpture or model showing the visit through their eyes.
  • Use a large map of Leeds to map the route that Queen Victoria took on her visit. If there was a royal visit now, what and where would you like to show? What’s important to you and others and why? Draw a route map of your own Tour of Leeds.
  • Look at the costs of building the Leeds Town Hall. How much did the builders spend over the planned budget? List all of the reasons why they might have overspent.
  • Look at Robert Bakers report from 1833 about the spread of cholera. What conditions do you think caused Cholera to spread? Imagine you are a member of the local council at the time. Create a classroom debate to discuss what is needed to improve life for everyone in Leeds. Discuss what the most important actions should be and how you will decide to spend the council’s budget.
  • Use the resource ‘Reporting on the Cholera Epidemic’ to write your own newspaper article.
  • Visit Leeds town centre now and look upwards above your normal sight line. What do you notice that you haven’t seen before? Find the four arcades described in this resource. Make some drawings of the Victorian art, design and architecture that you see.
  • Look at images of Leeds indoor market during Victorian times. Visit Leeds market to see what its like today. Find out how many foods from different countries you can find. What foods can you buy now that weren’t available in the Victorian market? Why is this?
  • Draw, paint, make a model or write about what you think shopping in Leeds will be like 100 years from now.


Discussion Ideas

  • What did the Victorians do for us? What can see around Leeds and in your own life that was influenced by the Victorians?
  • Why was a royal visit so important for Leeds in 1858?
  • Do you think royal visits are still important? Why/Why not? Discuss your ideas in pairs and then do as a whole group.
  • Why was the River Aire so polluted? What have we done to clean up the river?
  • Why was the average age of death much lower for people in Victorian times?
  • How do you think shopping habits in Leeds have changed since Victorian times? Think about travel, money, shops, online opportunities etc.
  • Find out about Victorian attitudes towards people with disabilities. It’s difficult to understand some of those attitudes now. How do you think things have changed for people with disabilities today? Do you think there is equality for people with disabilities today? Why/why not?
  • What do you think the biggest industry in Leeds is now? Why?