Victorian Tips for Lady Travelers

The Bayswater Omnibus (1895), oil painting by George William Joy

If, by my endeavours, I have in any ways assisted my sisters in their wanderings, or encouraged a single woman to join the path of travellers by land or sea, I shall feel I have achieved the object of my labours.

Thus concludes Lillias Campbell Davidson’s 1889 book entitled Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad, the very first British travel guide written for women by a woman.

While we have since swapped planes for trains, cars for carriages, and buses for boats, Davidson would be pleased to know that over a century later, many of her practical travel tips (and those of her peers) endure, at least in principle.


Too many sweets given during a journey produces acidity in the stomach, and thereby causes discomfort and fretfulness…

Hints for Travellers in the Summer by L.H. Yates, 1897

Nothing puts a damper on travel like an upset stomach. Guides of the day warned against consuming roughage such as raw fruits and vegetables and opting instead for mild, plain fare such as crackers and finger sandwiches. 


It is wise never to travel unprovided with a small flask of brandy and water.

Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad by Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889.

Whether or not you opt for the brandy, water is essential! Packing a water bottle will undoubtedly help you stay hydrated throughout long days of walking, sunbathing, and sight-seeing. 


A traveling costume should be simple in style and quiet in color, materials that will not show dirt being preferable. A waterproof cloak is a very desirable addition, as it may be at any time suddenly needed.

Household Companion: Book of Etiquette by Alice A. Johnson, Mrs. Janet McKenzie      Hill & Dr. Henry Hart Shorne, 1909.

When packing for a trip, efficiency is key. Travel as light as possible, ideally bringing only what you can comfortably carry on your person and only that which is absolutely necessary. 

As Davidson suggests above, it is a good idea to pack clothing in neutral colors that won’t easily show stains, allowing you to get more wear out of every outfit. Additionally, neutrals are easily mixed and matched, enabling you to pack less. A Victorian lady’s traveling dress typically included a “mantle” or detachable over-garment to accommodate unexpected weather, fluctuations in temperature, and drafty indoor spaces. In similar fashion, it is a good idea to pack lightweight layers that can be easily donned and removed as need be. 

Davidson warns against bringing nice clothes that might be ruined in the course of travel. Comfortable, practical garments should be prioritized with the exception of one dressy outfit to suit special occasions. 

Lastly, it was customary for Victorian ladies to pack lightweight linen bags to keep dirty laundry and shoes away from clean clothes. 


Victorian travel guides advised packing basic first-aid kit supplies for dressing cuts and blisters as well as pain-relieving medications for aches & pains that could quickly spoil a day of travel. A travel-sized eau de toilette was encouraged as well for keeping fresh during long (and sometimes sweaty!) travel days. 

An Adventurous State of Mind

Travel with an open mind and a charitable eye…Do not start with the foregone conclusion that every country which does not invariable provide an eight o’clock breakfast of tea, toast and bacon is not fit for habitation.

Travelling by Elizabeth A.S. Dawes, 1900.

Traveling often means venturing into the unknown, trading the familiar sights and experiences of the day-to-day for the discovery of a brave new world. Keeping an open mind is essential to truly immersing oneself in the vibrance of exotic cultures and places. 

Bon voyage, fellow travelers!



“The Travelling Companions.” 1862 oil-on-canvas painting by British artist Augustus Leopold Egg.

Conger, Cristen. “How to Travel Like a Victorian Lady.” How Stuff Works: Stuff Mom Never Told You. <>.

Davidson, Lillias Campbell. Hints to Lady Travellers Abroad and at Home. London: Iliffe and Son 1889.

“A Moveable Feast”: How to Host A Victorian Picnic

“A table spread in the shade…everything as natural and simple as possible.”

—Jane Austen, Emma


Ahhhh summer…that exuberant succession of fair-weather months strung together with long days and balmy nights. The gardens are a riot of color, dappled in sunlight and abuzz with bees. The whole world is alive and abloom and bursting with potential—inspiring travel, adventure, socializing. What summer pastime better mingles such pleasures than a good, old-fashioned picnic?

A Brief History:

An inherently ritualistic people, the Victorians reveled in seasonally-inspired customs and traditions. The picnic was one such beloved Victorian tradition, but contrary to what Jane Austen may suggest, picnics were often far from simple. The working classes—bound to cramped urban living—necessarily resorted to informal potluck picnics in city parks. But for the leisure classes, hosting a picnic was an elaborate affair requiring a great deal of planning, organization, and effort, thus earning the nickname “a moveable feast.”

A Definition:

In an attempt to understand the role of the picnic in Victorian popular culture, let us first examine its definition within the context of the 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary originally defined the word “picnic” as “a pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors.” And so we see, a picnic was far more than a mere meal enjoyed outdoors, but an expedition of sorts. Andrew Hubbell, author of How Wordsworth Invented Picnicking and Saved British Culture, takes this notion a step further, suggesting that for British Victorians, picnicking was an ideological pursuit that reinforced important social and nationalistic bonds:

To picnic is to consume not only particular food, but also a specific environment chosen according to an aesthetic standard, and a particular form of sharing food according to certain standards of behaviour. It means creating a moveable feast and overcoming difficulties and inconveniences…the reward is primarily ideological: it enables the participant to share a form of eating that creates relationships between small groups of people, natural landmarks, and cultural ideals. These relationships form a consciousness of national identity. Picnicking, especially for early nineteenth-century picnickers, was thus a way of performing Britishness.

How to Host A Victorian Picnic:

While al fresco dining was certainly more relaxed than a formal meal à table, it was still strictly governed by rules of social etiquette. Various household management manuals and etiquette guides of the day offered detailed instructions about what to wear, what to serve, which activities to plan, how to scout a perfect location, and how to properly set up and break down a site. 

What to Wear:

In terms of appropriate garb, one manual warned:

Be careful to dress for the entertainment after consulting the barometer and the thermometer and after learning the geography of the objective point of the day. A woolen dress that is not too heavy nor yet too new, or a cotton one that is not too thin; solid, easy shoes, that have a friendliness for the feet because of prolonged intimacy with them; pretty, but not too fine or thin stockings; a hat that has a broad brim; a large sun-shade or a sun-umbrella; at least two fresh handkerchiefs; a jacket to wear when returning home; and a rug or traveling-shawl to spread upon the ground at dinner time are among the requisites of personal comfort and prettiness.

What to Bring:

Lawn chairs, blankets and hammocks were often employed to soften the scene and promote relaxation. For more formal picnics, however, it was not unheard of for the dining room table and chairs to be packed on a wagon and transported for the occasion! In any case, tableware ranging from wood to tin to china were packed along with silverware into wicker hampers.

One 19th c. manual stated, “For the feast, forget not the napkins, forks, spoons and the luncheon-cloth. Also carry tumblers, plates, salt, pepper, sugar and a bottle of cream or can of condensed milk. Cups with handles, but no saucers, are desirable for tea and coffee.”

What to Serve:

Mrs. M.W. Ellsworth’s Queen of the Household from 1900 makes numerous recommendations for planning a picnic spread. The ideal picnic fare, she says, should be easy to handle and “bear traveling without looking dejected and sullen.” She goes on to say that “the best and most convenient of all out-of-door edibles, is the sandwich.” Both sweet and savory sandwiches were popular, ranging in filling from meat spreads made of minced ham, beef and chicken mixed with mayonnaise to sweet fillings of butter, marmalades, and preserves. Pickled vegetables and preserved fruits were served on the side along with crackers, cheese, and canned sardines.

For dessert, pound cake, sponge cake, and fruit cake were popular as well as fresh and candied fruits.

Refreshments mainly consisted of iced tea and lemonade. According to Mrs. Ellsworth, “One really requires no wine at an al-fresco feast, even if accustomed to use it at a home dinner. The exhilaration of the air is quite sufficient for the needs of digestion. If wine must be carried, claret is best, because it is never served with ice, the most fastidious of wine-tasters insisting that its flavor is injured if it is not drunk while of the same temperature as the atmosphere.” We may be inclined to disagree with her on this point 🙂

Additionally, she offers two detailed seasonal menus for spring and summer from which to pick and choose:

Bill of fare for a spring picnic: Cold Roast Chicken. Sandwiches of Potted Rabbit. Bewitched Veal. Small Rolls with Salad Filling. Cold Baked Ham. Egg Salad. Buttered Rolls. Hard Boiled Eggs. Crackers. Chow Chow. Bombay Toast. Pickles. Orange Marmalade. Quince Jelly. Sugared Strawberries. White Cake. Almond Cake. Coconut Jumbles. Lemonade. Tea Cakes. Raspberry Vinegar. Bill of fare for a summer picnic: Cold Boiled Chicken. Tongue Sandwiches. Spiced Beef. Sardines. Jellied Chicken. Pickled Salmon. Spanish Pickles. Sweet Peach Pickles. Boston Brown Bread. Beans. Fresh Fruits. Imperial Cake. Neapolitan Cake. Small Fancy Cakes.

A Couple Authentic Victorian Picnic Recipes:

Chicken Salad Sandwiches (Adapted from “Anna Maria’s Housekeeper,” by Mrs. S.D. Power, 1884)

1 pound cold cooked chicken (about 2 boneless breasts)

6 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Salt, pepper

8 slices homemade bread

Chop chicken very fine, or mince. Place chicken in bowl and mix in parsley and just enough mayonnaise to moisten mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice bread very thin. Make sandwiches, wrap each in plastic wrap, then in paper napkin and tie with ribbon. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Victorian Gingerbread (From The Old Farmer’s Almanac, est. 1792)

1 cup sugar

1 cup melted butter

1 cup sour cream

1 cup dark molasses

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

pinch of cinnamon and of mace

Beat the eggs well and add to them the sour cream, molasses and sugar. Stir in the flour sifted with the soda and spices. Add the melted butter and beat well. Fill a cake pan ¾ full and bake the gingerbread in a moderate (325 degrees F) oven for about 35 minutes, or until done. Serve hot as a bread for tea with butter, or hot with whipped cream as a dessert which is particularly popular with children, or serve cold as a cake.

What to Do:

An 1891 etiquette manual instructs that pre-determined activities follow the picnic to include group singing and music-making, storytelling, games, sports, and walks. A courting couple might even pair off and speak privately, but chaperones were enlisted to ensure that nothing unseemly transpired.

An Enduring Tradition:

The summer picnic is a tradition we still hold dear. And while there are far fewer rules and regulations governing our picnic ventures now-a-days, the unique satisfaction of packing up a wicker basket, grabbing an old quilt, and posting up under a shade tree on a sunny afternoon with pleasant company has remained the same. Wishing you many blissful moments spent dining al-fresco this season!



“Emma: Picnicking on Box Hill.” Jane Austen’s World. Mar 2008. <>.

Treese, Lorett. “A Very Civilized Affair : Picnics: When Victorians ate outdoors, they brought their dining rooms with them.” 18 July 1991. <>.

“Picnic Ideas: How to Have a Victorian Style Picnic.” Victoriana Magazine.

“Picnics.” Food Timeline. <>.

“Victorian Gingerbread.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. <>.


The Meaning of Roses


Happy June: Month of the Rose!

In a time when social etiquette strictly limited the scope of conversation and communication deemed “appropriate,” floriography or “the language of flowers” was popularly used as a secret code by which true feelings could be clandestinely expressed. Each flower held particular symbolic meaning. But in the special case of the rose, even color was significant.

White: Purity, Innocence
Yellow: Joy, Friendship
Coral: Fascination, Desire
Light Pink: Admiration, Appreciation
Dark Pink: Gratitude
Red: Passion, True Love


Click here to visit our garden of roses!

Growing A Victorian Garden

Butchart Gardens | Brentwood Bay, British Columbia

The Victorians were famed for their lavish gardens—living works of art carefully crafted according to aesthetic principles aimed at cultivating beauty, refinement, and leisure. Their approach was guided by the notion that a well-appointed landscape is like a “series of outdoor rooms” comprised of “walls” (border shrubs, fencing & paths), “floors” (lawn), and “furniture” (flowers, trees, statuary & décor). Each “room” might have its own theme. For example, kitchen herbs might be in one defined area, flowers of a certain color family, species, or geographical origin in another.


Fences, trellises, and ornamental shrubs were used to visually define the borders of the garden and to create distinct pathways throughout. Gateways, arches, and arbors served as thresholds to cross, reinforcing a sense of moving through space, from room to room, so to speak.


The lawn was approached as a blank canvas for creating a masterpiece of blooms and ornate garden décor. Large estates and formal gardens featured well-groomed expanses of grass maintained by horse-drawn mowers, while for smaller lawns, the newly patented push mower was employed.


Due to sweeping advances in plant breeding and specimen collecting during the mid-19th century, Victorian gardens boasted exotic arrays of flora from around the world. Common Victorian garden plants included Aster, Begonia, Bluebell, Calendula, Chrysanthemum, Cockscomb, Fern, Geranium, Heliotrope, Marigold, Moonflower, Morning Glory, Nasturtium, Orchids, Pansy, Periwinkle, Petunia, Primrose, Rose, Snapdragon, Sweet Alyssum, Tulips, and Zinnia. Trees were used to create shade, offering striking visual contrast between light and dark while providing a respite from the sun on a hot summer’s day. Weeping tree species of Willow, Spruce, Elm, Cedar and Cherry were especially beloved. Vines were trained across trellises to hide eyesores such as fences and tree stumps and to create shade on porches and pavilions. Ornamental urns, sculptures, water fountains, sundials, gazing balls, and birdbaths lent architectural and artistic appeal while cast iron benches, wicker chairs, and gazebos created spaces well-suited to socializing and entertaining.

While cottage gardens were more relaxed and less defined, formal gardens followed a highly structured layout. According to Ornamental Gardening for Americans, 1896, a proper garden should accord with 3 primary principles:

  1. Open Space

Let it be noted at the outset, that the partly open feature of a landscape is most essential, if we would have beautiful gardens. The open area affords a field for viewing the garden-beauty, a space for admitting cool breezes and sunshine; a playground for shadow, and then, most important of all, that degree of general repose and breath without which no garden can be satisfactory.

  1. Contrast & Interest

In employing trees and shrubs for ornament, such a selection should be aimed at ensuring the greatest possible degree of beauty and interest attainable. The right idea in the garden is to bring together such kinds of trees and shrubs as possess contrasting qualities. Beautiful effects spring from combining differently tinted species and varieties of the same genus. For instance, the light and dark Spruces, Pines, and others, may be contrasted with one another, and so on with different kinds indefinitely.

  1. Ornate Borders, Open Center

In the matter of general style and location of groups, it is obvious, as we consider the importance of retaining certain open stretches of lawn, that as a rule the masses must, in all small spaces, be set along the margins of the grass plat, keeping the center open. In all fair sized places, the boundary masses may jut inwards to a considerable distance here and there, and some isolated clumps be introduced for creating minor vistas. It is the special merit of the grouping system that it tends to give an enlarged idea of the size of the place. Grounds with the boundaries shut off by masses, and those arranged with irregular outlines, will look larger than they would if the boundary lines were plainly in sight.

Keeping these guidelines in mind, a Victorian garden of your very own is but a growing season away! Is your garden décor in need of a little refreshing? Visit the Victorian Trading Company garden department for a helping hand!

Now lastly, a few exquisite Victorian-style gardens for inspiration…

Anne Hathaway’s Garden | Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Goodnestone Park Gardens | Canterbury, England
Goodnestone Park Gardens | Canterbury, England
Furzey Gardens | Lyndhurst, England
“Victorian Garden | Victoria Magazine 



Hurd, Cheryl. “Victorian Garden.” Victoriana Magazine. <>.

Weishan, Michael. “Elements of the Victorian Garden: Lawn, Shrubs, & Trees.” Old House, New Garden. Traditional Gardening Magazine. 4 Aug 2009. <>.


Enchanted Fairy Garden: Fairy Pumpkin House

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Since the days of Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the harvest has held a special place in fairy tales. Thumbelina emerged from the flower of a barleycorn. Rapunzel was named for the lettuce her father stole from the witch’s garden. And, of course, a pumpkin carriage delivered Cinderella to the ball.

Now our fairy pumpkin house holds something equally precious, a fairy.

More than a shelter from the chill, this dwelling offers a darling hideaway for sprites and elves to watch the seasons change while the garden sleeps.

To create one for your own front stoop, you’ll need: a medium-large gourd, spoon, carving knife, bowl, towel, marker, tea light, lighter, and fairy windows.

Begin by carving a small square on the backside large enough to clean out the pulp and seeds. Once the inside is clean, trace the outline of the fairy window on the front with a marker. From there you will need to carve out the shape of the window and insert the window frame into place. The hard work is done!

Merely add a candle, light, and enjoy!

What finishing touch would you add to this fairy home? 

Enchanted Fairy Garden: Fairy Pumpkin Patch

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It arrives in a subtle rustling of the wind. . . The magic of autumn. 

This season embrace fantasy with a fairy or two hidden in your home decor. Our gothic terrarium lends itself as a subtle showpiece. Filled with Spanish moss, faux fall florals, and miniature gourds, the ambience is complete.

All that’s needed is the Sleeping Sprites Pumpkin and Gourd Fairy.

Display on your kitchen island, coffee table, or desk. Enjoy the delight of family and friends when they recognize the precious characters who rest inside.

Where will you house your flower fairies this fall?