Tissot_bridesmaidI had a two days in schools this week, talking about writing history in general, and Verity Sparks in particular, to grade 5 and 6 girls. I had a wonderful time. When we looked at this picture – The Bridesmaid by James Tissot – together, they understood immediately how you can ‘read’ information from an image. One student even pointed out something that I had missed; even though it doesn’t seem to be raining, the gentleman is holding an umbrella over the bridesmaid’s head. It’s as if she’s so precious, she has to be protected against the slightest drop. The two plainly-dressed girls at the side – factory workers, servants, shopgirls? – look on, and we wondered about what they might be feeling. Jealous, was one suggestion. Or simply wistful.
My eyes had always been fixed on the females in the picture – the ruffled and be-bustled centre of attention, and the two shopgirls – but one of the students talked about the ‘slave’ in the left corner. The slave? Perhaps it isn’t much of a step from servant to slave. It looks as if that ragged boy is going about some kind of job – perhaps he’s an errand boy – and no doubt he’s calling out something a bit rude.

Among the many things we talked about were changes to our language since the Victorian – or ‘gas lamp’  – era. This quiz was a bit of fun.


1.What is a jardinière?                            2.What are spats? 

A. A French gardener                                      A. Little fish

B. A pot-plant stand                                         B. Light rain

C. A kind of pickle                                             C. Button-on shoe covers

3.Is a barouche                                            4. Do you put a monocle

A. A kind of carriage?                                        A. On your wrist?

B. A kind of brooch?                                          B. In one eye?

C. A French pastry?                                          C. In a laboratory?

5.A chatelaine is worn                              6.Is a tweeny

A. On your head                                               A. A young servant girl?

B. Around your waist                                      B. A young girl?

C. On your feet                                                 C. A snack eaten between meals

7.What is bombazine?                               8.Was Queen Victoria’s husband

A. An explosive                                                A. King Albert?

B. A dress material                                         B. Prince Alfred?

C. A dessert                                                      C. Prince Albert?


9. Can you name 3 members of the domestic staff of a large Victorian house?

10. Can you name 3 items that a Victorian lady would wear under her dress?



(1) B (2) C (3) A (4) B A monocle is an eyeglass for one eye (5) B A chatelaine was a device for hanging keys and other objects such as a small coin purse or scissors from the waist. (6) A A tweeny was a ‘between maid’, usually a young girl, whose duties were split between the housekeeper, butler and cook (7) B (8) C

9. Cook, kitchen maid, scullery maid, tweeny, housekeeper, butler, footman, housemaid, parlour maid, ladies’ maid, valet.

10. Stockings, garters, chemise, corset, corset cover, camisole, petticoats, bustle (padding to make the skirt stick out behind) or crinoline (hoop to make the skirt stick out all around)

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2 Responses to A GAS-LAMP QUIZ

  1. Kate C says:

    Yay! I got full marks (preens self smugly) though I was amazed at all the underwear…

    • susan says:

      Well done you! Yes, imagine all that clobber in on a hot and sticky February day. No wonder there was all that fainting.

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