'Happily Ever After?' exhibition 2016

A new exhibition entitled ‘Happily Ever After?’ at the National Trust’s Arlington Court this year explores the hidden killers of the Victorian home and the dangers of growing up in the period.

Hidden dangers

After the success of the 2015 exhibition at Arlington exploring the momentous year of 1865 in the history of the estate, the team are now exploring a more gruesome subject. As new discoveries were made during the nineteenth century, the full properties of new materials was not fully understood, which had deadly results. From arsenic in wallpaper, to lead paint on toys, there were hidden dangers everywhere in the Victorian home.

Step back in time to a Victorian childhood
A display of objects relating to childhood at Arlington Court

Astounding statistics

Paula Martin, House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Arlington Court said, 'We first began looking at childhood in the Victorian period, thinking to expand the theme from last year. But as we began looking into the subject we found more and more staggering facts about the seemingly everyday items which caused death or illness in the nineteenth century. One of the most astounding statistics was related to cures for teething which were mostly opiate based causing all sorts of side effects. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup imported from America was 65% morphine.'

Unlikely health benefits

Whilst it’s not known specifically that anyone died at Arlington from any of the causes mentioned in the exhibition, there are enough newspaper reports from the time to show that the deaths were not uncommon. As visitors explore the house they’ll be able to read some of the newspaper reports and the preposterous advertising which could even promote the health benefits of products which we now know to be lethal.

Childhood carriages

At the carriage museum there will be a mourning outfit on display, alongside information on the respectable periods of mourning, as well as the dangers of travel. To continue the theme of childhood, the carriage museum will be highlighting the children’s carriages from the collection with a new display in the gallery. This will chart the evolution of early perambulators from the designs of carriages and the mock-carriages commissioned by wealthy families for their children.

Bouncer, the friendly Newfoundland, made of rope
A dog made of rope on display with a childs carriage at Arlington Court

The exhibition will be open every day in the house and carriage museum from 12 March-30 October and is free with normal admission. During school holidays there will be supporting family activities such as trails and crafts.