Having previously followed the history of the residents in a house in Liverpool, David Olusoga returns for a second series, this time investigating a history close to home.
This time A House Through Time comes from Olusoga’s homeland of Tyneside, as he delves into the history of 5 Ravensworth Terrace, in Newcastle’s West End. With the house being completed around 1824, this opening episode follows three particular owners.
The first is William Stoker, a lawyer and later coroner of the town, who among other things is the victim of crime. The crime today would be seen as trivial – two boys, one of whom was mixed race, stealing some umbrellas and selling them for money and bread. However, he has the boys sent to court and they are transported to Australia. Then there is Joshua Alder, a cheesemonger who sells his business and becomes friends with in Newcastle’s intellectual circles, becoming a marine biologist. Third is Nicholas Hardcastle, a doctor who becomes the subject of scandals concerning negligence during his work in the city’s workhouse.
This documentary provides an entertaining and informative look at social history, as we see how these rather middle class occupants of 5 Ravensworth Terrace lived in relative comfort, in comparison to the poor of the town who lived in slums and often looked for shelter in the many pubs in Newcastle as they were more comfortable in people’s homes. Here we see some of the hypocrisy of the Victorian period, with Stoker investigating many cases of drunkenness during his time as coroner, with the view of the time being that drinking was a big problem among the working class but social drinking was fine for the middle class, but Stoker himself appearing to die of a disease related to alcoholism.
It is also interesting to see the mixed fortunes of some of the occupants of the house, such as Alder who became friends with many famous people of the time, only to lose his fortune in a financial crash, but then helped out by his friends at a time of need.
This programme is a fascinating watch and Olusoga’s presentation leaves you wanting to know more about the later residents of the house.
A House Through Time is on BBC Two on Mondays at 21.00.