One of the defining parts of the Industrial Revolution was the rise of ready-made fashions and pre-packaged foodstuffs, and on the forefront of the trend was the posh department store, Fortnum and Mason. When the first steam-powered factories were just starting the churn out their wares F&M was already in business, and it continues to be a mainstay of the stores on Piccadilly today.
They made a splash at the Great Exhibition in 1851 where they won first prize for their imported delectable desserts and dried fruits. In addition, when Henry Heinz (best known nowadays for ketchup) wanted to market his canned baked beans in the UK, he took his wares there. Within a few years, baked beans had become an important part of the British diet.
In literature, F&M are best known for their picnic hampers and several Victorian authors including Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins made mention of their characters enjoying a luxurious feast. I am also reading The Difference Engine right now, and the day after snapping shots of the whimsical window displays below I read a passage where the protagonist passed by this prestigious store on his way to buy a wedding gift for his sister. Today, you can still visit and stroll through the heaps of lovely packages tied with bright ribbons and peruse the fanciful fudge of the dessert counter.
As with many luxury goods stores, the prices are steeper for things such as tea and cookies than at a normal grocer, but the ambience alone is worth a stop in at the store, or at least a meander by the window displays!
If you are a Sci-Fi fan then you must have heard of Doctor Who. But just in case you haven’t, the Doctor is an altruistic alien who can go anywhere in time and space, but seems to have an affinity for jolly old England all the same 🙂
Did you know that there are lots of episodes that could serve for Steampunk inspiration?
The Doctor and Rose Tyler team up with Charles Dickens to solve a ghost story in 1869.
In 1879 The Doctor lands in Scotland and Queen Victoria is in danger from a werewolf attack.
This episode would probably most accurately be called “clockpunk” because it features space-clockwork and 18th Century France.
The Doctor meets, well, The Doctor, or at least someone who claims to be, at Christmastime in 1851. The cybermen are at it again and together the Doctors must save Christmas.
Vincent and the Doctor (Episode 210, 11th Doctor)
The Doctor takes Amy Pond to visit a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, and they spy something in a painting that doesn’t belong there. So they head to 1890 to find out the origin of the terrible face in the window.
The Doctor must take a page out of Dickens’ book and soften the soul of a miser to save Amy and Rory.
When the Doctor stumbles upon a becalmed pirate ship, he discovers a sinister force at work picking off the crew members one by one.
Ok, this one isn’t exactly Steampunk but it is my favorite episode and the old-meets-new vibe plus the junkyard in which it takes place appeals to my Steampunk side. Plus, it was written by my all-time favorite author, Neil Gaiman.
This space-western fusion episode features a cyborg and the Doctor as sheriff of a small town.
It’s just snow, right? Wrong! In 1892 the snow comes to life and sinister snowmen are on the loose.
The Pasternoster Gang are called upon to investigate a string of mysterious deaths in 1893. When they examine an optogram (ie, the supposed image left on the retina at the moment of death) reveals the Doctor so they bring him into the mix.
In A Good Man Goes to War (Episode 218), the Doctor calls upon compatriots from across time and space to aid him in rescuing Amy Pond from Demon’s Run. Among they are Vastra, a Silurian (reptilian predecessors to the human race asleep in the center of the Earth), her maid/lover/badass Jenny Flint and a Sontaran (whom I call “the Mr. Potato heads of space”) named Commander Strax. In Victorian times they join forces and fight crime, sometimes alongside the Doctor.
In addition to A Good Man Goes to War, they also make appearances in The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, and The Name of the Doctor (Episode 239).
I haven’t seen any of the original Doctor Who series, so I didn’t include them in this sourcebook. If you are a fan and you want to recommend an episode, please leave me a comment below!