Life in Victorian-era England
The Ambition & Destiny Series
By Val McBeath
Set in and around Birmingham, England The Ambition & Destiny Series was inspired by a true story of one family’s trials, tribulations and triumphs as they seek to make their fortune in Victorian-era England.
When I started researching my family history back in 2008, I had no intention of writing a book, let alone a series. It was only as I uncovered the story my father’s ancestor’s that the idea came to me … and wouldn’t go away! Nearly ten years later, in July 2018, I published the final book in The Ambition & Destiny Series.
The series starts in 1839 with the prequel, Condemned by Fate. It is a short story that focusses on the early years of my great x3 grandparents, Charles and Mary. Although it is essentially a love story, it isn’t a romance. Things were much more complicated than that.
The subsequent five books span the next seventy years and cover three generations:
Hooks & Eyes: Mary must make a choice. She hopes it will give her family a secure future, but instead she sets in motion a series of events with unintended consequences…
Less Than Equals: At a time when men controlled everything … and everyone, Harriet is desperate to break free. But she underestimates how far some will go to silence her.
When Time Runs Out: After biding her time, Harriet finally gets her chance for independence. But igniting the wrath of her father-in-law, Mr Wetherby, is never a good idea. She soon discovers she has more to worry about than her own ambitions…
Only One Winner: With the family divided, Mr Wetherby is still furious about Harriet’s betrayal. And he’s going to make sure someone pays…
Different World: After a bitter family breakdown Harriet’s son, William-Wetherby, seeks a new life far from home. But being rid of Mr Wetherby isn’t as simple as it seems…
The prequel and first four books in the series take place in Birmingham, England, which today is the second most populated city in the UK after London. In book 5, the story moves to Liverpool, which at the time of the story was a large port on the north-west coast of England.
Birmingham rose to prominence during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Its growth was based principally on metalworking, with the manufacture of brass articles rapidly rising to importance. Trades were carried out in small workshops rather than large factories. Many entrepreneurs started their businesses producing goods such as buttons, cutlery, nails, screws, guns, tools, jewellery, toys, locks, and ornaments. In addition, there was a large commercial class, comprising merchants, accountants, agents, stockbrokers, and a great body of clerks.
|Bird's-eye view of Birmingham in 1886 showing the Council House, Town Hall and Chamberlain Memorial.
The growth was helped by the arrival of the railways in 1837. The first line to open was the Grand Junction Railway linking Birmingham with Liverpool and Manchester. The following year the line to London was opened.
The growth of the port of Liverpool started in the 17th century and arose out of the increased trade between the UK and America and the West Indies. By the 18th century it had become the second largest city in the UK after London.
About Victorian-era England
The Victorian Era was a time of change
|Queen Victoria — Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882
The Victorian-era in the United Kingdom describes the period from 1837 to 1901 when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It was a time of rapid change and saw the country evolve from a largely rural environment to an urban, industrialised one. Almost every aspect of life changed over the course of these sixty years including politics, attitudes to women, health, science and manufacturing.
Women were treated little better than slaves
Prior to 1882, once a woman married, in the eyes of the law she ceased to exist. On her wedding day, she became one person with her husband and thereafter everything she did was under his direction.
As soon as they married, her property and any money she owned transferred to her husband. Children were also his property. In the event of divorce, prior to 1839, the man could expect custody of his children.
The situation improved gradually over the century although undoubtedly women lived in a world that discriminated heavily against them.
An act of parliament in 1870 finally allowed women to keep any earnings or property they acquired after they married. By 1873, if a woman divorced, she could retain custody of any children up to the age of sixteen and by 1882 they were finally allowed to retain what they owned at the time of marriage.
Despite these victories, men considered themselves the dominant sex. Due to their superior physical strength, they sought to keep women subdued for as long as they could.
Medicine and the era of miracle cures
The medicine we take for granted in the 21st century could not have been imagined in the Victorian-era; such was the infancy of medical science.
New medicines were seen as miracle cures for a whole variety of ailments included things such as opiates (morphine and codeine) and cocaine. Such were their benefits they were used widely to treat everything from toothache and coughs to diarrhoea and insomnia. The negative effects of prolonged use were initially unknown. It wasn’t until the 20th century that their use became controlled.
For some, it was a time of plenty
The industrial revolution undoubtedly changed life in the Victorian-era. Technological advances in the development of machines and steam engines lead to an increase in mass production and improved productivity. The building of railways, canals and roads meant that raw materials and goods could be transported more quickly and cheaply than ever before.
Living standards were said to have improved due to an increase in wages although, by the end of the 19th century, towns were so overcrowded that many families lived in squalor. Chronic hunger and malnutrition were common for many, a situation that didn’t improve until the end of the century.
For more information on Victorian-era England, visit my website HERE!
Val is a scientist by training and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. Born and raised in Liverpool she now lives in Cheshire with her husband, youngest daughter and cat. In addition to Family History, her interests include rock music and Liverpool Football Club
The books in the Ambition & Destiny Series are available as ebooks on Amazon and are FREE to read with Kindle Unlimited.
The paperback books are available from a variety of retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones.
In addition to the outlets above, the short story prequel, Condemned by Fate, is available as a FREE download from www.vlmcbeath.com