During Victorian era, although entertainment was seen, its forms differed according to the social class of a person. Activities carried out were different in the case of women, men and children.
Popular activities for Men
Certain activities were only enjoyed by men. Some men indulged in sports activities like cockfight and rat pits while things like drinking, gambling and billiards ever all time favorite. There were men who played card games like poker to the extent of losing their wages.
This habit of the men, who were the only earning members of the large families, forced the entire family to make extra efforts to preserve whatever little they had. Men played outdoor games like tennis, shooting, cricket, and fishing.
Popular activities for Women
Women coming from well-to-do families participated in charitable events. The working hours during the 19th century took a toll on the entertainment aspect in the women’s life. Since the pay was less not many could afford it. The sports activities of women were restricted to skating and croquet. Some of them had even mastered the art of archery and rode horses.
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, men and women actively participated in sports. Women began playing golf, cricket, swimming and other sports that were dominated by the men. Croquet and Lawn were played by men and women together.
The invention of bicycles in 1881, gave more freedom of movement to the women though it was criticized by many people that it was inappropriate for a woman to ride a bicycle. Special clothing safe and comfortable for riding like the Bloomers was introduced.
Popular activities for Children
Children brought up in the cities had different forms of entertainment than the country-bred children. In cities, children were permitted to play only after the household work was done. Most of them had to play indoors until the time some adult was free to take them outside. This was a precautionary measure adopted by parents as they felt unsafe to let the child go out alone.
It was thought that the child might become like the street children. On the other hand, countryside children had wider options to choose from activities like swimming to riding ponies, etc. Children indulged in activities like gardening, playing a musical instrument, visiting, walking reading and writing. Games like marbles, jacks, mumbly-peg, checkers, and backgammon were commonly played by boys.
Girls played with dolls, learnt knitting and created scrapbooks. Other games enjoyed by children were Old Maid, Old Bachelor, Our Birds, Dr. Busby and Parlor games like Blindmans Wand, Deer Stalker, Cupids Coming, Battle Dore and Shuttle Cock etc. There were special educational cards for children which helped them to learn things better.
Literature like novels written by Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and others, theatre, drama, music, arts, opera, gambling, drinking were another activities. Singing was a form of entertainment wherein everyone could participate. The singing of romantic ballad was very popular in the Victorian times. Songs like Rule Britannia which was a patriotic song and comic songs were admired.
Dancing was a part of the Victorian tradition with changes as per the locality. Prince Albert and Victoria are to be credited to popularize dance and music. Waltz and Polka were popular forms of dancing.
During the Victorian period, there was week called Derby week where people from social classes came together. The Derby week was a fair and a race week held in the month of May or June. In 1859 there was a snowfall during the Derby week. It was the only time when snow had fallen during this event.
Another form of entertainment popular then was the Roller-Skating. Water sports like rowing and canoeing were favorite pastime activities. The fact that women actively took part in almost every sport like men, a need was felt to design proper outfits that would be comfortable while playing. Rowing for men also included taking part in competitions but in the case of women, it was only for exercise and pleasure.
Horse riding was an activity which proved to be expensive for many and thus only the rich could afford it. It was during the Victorian period that Circus became a commercialized form of entertainment. This led to the huge demand for the circus. The circus activities included Chinese jugglers, clowns, acrobats, performances by children, etc. Though these acts were loved by the people, they were nonetheless regarded as monstrous or dangerous.