TV Review: A House Through Time, BBC Two

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

IT’S such a clever and simple idea it’s a mystery no one has thought of it before. Take a single house and detail the lives of everyone who has lived there from construction right up to the present day.

With home ownership still a British obsession, it’s often strange to think how many people have lived, loved and died in the house you call home.

The odd wrongly addressed bill or Christmas card gives us a clue of those most recent residents, but who was living there during the war, or when England won the World Cup or when that outside toilet was still fuctioning? 

Historian David Olusoga tells us that “every house in Britain has a story to tell” at the start of A House Through Time, and it’s certainly the case with 62 Falkner Street, in Liverpool’s beautiful Georgian quarter.

At this point I should register some vested interest: it’s an area I know like the back of my hand, having worked in a pub across the road, had friends on the same street and even known people who actually lived at the address at one point, so this series was always going to appeal.

But this is far from a special interest programme – one of its great qualities is Olusoga’s skill in showing how one single house can be emblematic of what was going on in Britain as a whole and teaching you what it might have been like for those living in your house.

Like its close cousin Who Do You Think You Are?, A House Through Time showed what amazing information could be gleaned from old documents in libraries, as we found out about struggling Richard Glenton’s search for lodgers and the Orrs family who worked their way out of servant’s quarters to a comfortable middle-class existence.

Best of all was the incredible story of Wilfred Steele, which read like something from a Victorian gothic novel.

Steele abandoned his family and eloped to the US on the money he made from the slave trade. We even had a strange painting of Steele to look at which hung forgotten until now in the city’s Walker Gallery.

This felt like popular history at its very best with Olusoga an engaging and passionate guide through an hour of brilliant and educational TV, perhaps best proven by the increasing number of people I’ve noticed taking pictures
of 62 Falkner Street. 

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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