Familiar Scenes for Object Lessons was produced in 1894 as a collection of large coloured poster prints intended to be used as starting points for school lessons. Designed to be realistic representations, the posters offer us an insight into late-Victorian public spaces such as railways and the high street.
The illustration of a fictitious English high street shows the range of shops and services one could expect to find in the late-Victorian period: a grocer and greengrocer, a butcher’s shop, a tearoom and restaurant (‘chop house’), a draper, a confectioner and a hotel.
While the concept of a ‘high street’ had existed for centuries – generally meaning a newly paved wide road – it was only in the 1860s that it took on its modern meaning of a chief commercial byway in a particular town. The modern high street is therefore a product of the growing urbanisation of Britain in the Victorian period. Where once there were market days and market towns, the growth of the urban population throughout the country made it both possible and desirable to have a central commercial district in every town. What had once been market stalls became permanent shops, which paid for produce to be delivered every day and in turn delivered the produce to their customers.