The Victorian Staircase: Designed For Death

The Victorians were ingenious people, but not when it comes to stairs. The servants’ staircase was often referred to as the “hidden killer.” That’s because they were made too narrow and too steep, with irregular steps that made the staircases deadly. Add the weight of carrying trays or the complication of long skirts, and the stairs could easily prove fatal. The stairs in Victorian homes were typically built of the cheapest softwood that could be found, and handrails were a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. Safety wasn’t even on the agenda. History has shown that someone was six times more likely to fall walking down the servants’ stairs than a regular, properly measured, staircase. Many people would actually turn sideways to navigate their way down the treacherous stairway. It wasn’t until the Public Health Act of 1890 that local authorities were empowered to make bylaws regarding the structure of staircases.