Victorian Ice Skating: Indoors


Happy Winter! I thought you might enjoy this December 1896 article from The Sun, about the joys of indoor ice skating.

The Sun, December 13, 1896
The Sun, December 13, 1896

Loved the comment: “…to say nothing of countless hordes of barbarians in the shape of small boys….”

The advantages of indoor rinks were multiple. No worry about softening/cracking ice, no wind, no extraordinary cold or other vagaries of weather, no clearing of snowfall from the rink.

Indoors or out, ice skating was an appealing pastime for the Victorians. Here are four reasons why:

1. Courtship:

Men and women could interact more casually and get physically closer than they ever could in a drawing room. After all, a true gentleman couldn’t allow a lady to fall, could he?

The Sun, Dec 13, 1896.
The Sun, December 13, 1896.

2. Class-Blindness:

Whether purchased or rented, a pair of skates cost relatively little, as did the price of admission. The grocer and his family could be whizzing along right beside the banker or the debutante.

3. Physical Exercise:

A slippery surface is a fairly level playing field, so to speak, and a woman wasn’t considered any less of a lady if she skated better than a gentleman (I’d give extra props to the lady for having to deal with skirts!). Either sex has an equal chance of falling down. Here was an opportunity for a Victorian woman to be active without appearing “hoydenish.”

Speaking of falling down…

4. A Chance to be Silly:

The Sun, December 13, 1896.
The Sun, December 13, 1896.

Ice skating was one of the few 19th century social situations where one could show fear or delight – laugh, squeal, scream – without censure.

Want more 19th century winter pastimes? Check out these posts:

Ice Skating in Central Park

Sledding, 19th century style


Do you enjoy ice skating or other winter sports, or is curling up by the fire with a book your favorite winter pastime? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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10 thoughts on “Victorian Ice Skating: Indoors”

  1. PatriciaPatricia

    I like that the article suggested that because skaters did not have to contend with the wind they could enjoy “more fancy skating.”

    I’ve tried ice skating a few times but never mastered being able to circle the rink without having to hold on to the wall. I guess it’s just not my thing. It sure looks fun though.

    Fun article, Kathy.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  2. Kassandra LambKassandra Lamb

    Fun post, Kathy! I loved ice skating as a kid but I haven’t done it in years. Needless to say, it is not an option in Florida, even inside. So I am definitely in the curl up by the fire with a good book category.

  3. Sharla RaeSharla Rae

    Always love your blogs, especially about everyday life subjects. 🙂 I loved ice skating as kid so this was esp. fun.

  4. Deborah MakariosDeborah Makarios

    I expect having drawers and layers of petticoats would have been significantly warmer than trousers – if less aerodynamic. Although frankly, “The Girl in the Sweater” doesn’t seem that worried about aerodynamics – look at those sleeves! That is a leg o’ serious mutton!
    I can usually manage to keep my balance while tottering along the ice (there’s no permanent rink in this neck of the woods, and it doesn’t freeze that hard, so I rarely get any practice), but give me a book by the fireplace any day! And maybe some hot cocoa, or a pot of tea…

  5. StephLoveStephLove

    My wife and daughter are avid skaters, me not so much. She and I spend our quality time reading the Little House books together these days. I’m glad she likes it, though.


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