The Victorians: Were They Obsessed With Death?

DATED: 02.07.15

It is no mystery that the Victorians had a fair few peculiar vices during their era, the most horrifying and notable often being centred on death. From post-death photographs to their choice of mourning clothes, quite a few of these traditions have faded out.

But, the question still remains; did the Victorians fear death or have an obsession with the ins and outs of passing away?

Well, let The Jack the Ripper Tour take a look at just some of the practices the Victorians adopted and the reasoning behind them, and seek to answer the question above.
Mourning Jewellery

Arguably, the Victorians had a very clear image of how mourning should be done, and a few of the practices are more than grim.

For example, in the first stage, women were only permitted to wear Jet, a fossilised version of coal. Despite being dark and gloomy though, the first stage was nothing compared to the second half of mourning.

During the latter, women were allowed to move onto something a little more spine-tingling; human hair. It is said that during this stage of mourning, women could wear jewellery that was partially or fully made of human hair. And yes, you guessed it. This would more than likely be the hair of the individual who passed away too, adding slightly to the fear factor.

Grave Bells

During the Victorian era, there was a spreading fear of being buried alive. An understandable scare, of course, and to tackle the possibility, they introduced the concept of grave bells.

This would simply be a bell that sits on a person’s grave, which was also connected to the corpse via a chain and ring. The idea behind it, we guess, is that if someone were buried alive, they would be able to ring the bell, hoping a bystander was there to help.

Mirror, Mirror

The last Victorian practice we will look at is also post-death, and involves covering all of the mirrors in a house following someone’s passing (if they died in the property, that is).

The Victorians believed that if a mirror broke post-death, it would signify another death to follow soon after. This isn’t all though, as any clocks inside the home would have to be wound back and kept at the exact time of death, to banish any bad luck.

So, these are just three Victorian practices associated with death. As you can see, the last two, in particular, suggest a strong fear of death, so perhaps they lived in fear, after all.


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