The Victorian Slum, episode 2

Episode 2, the 1870s.


Identical intro, same information, just in case you forgot, it’s been over a week since we heard all this after all…

Spoilers are annoying but repeating all the things that happened in a previous episode can be boring as well, some of us can remember further back than a week and in these days of on demand TV, we can always go and re-watch the episode if we really wanted a reminder.

So if you’re impatient, don’t like spoilers or reminders, skip to about 3 minutes into the show.

Nice to see how a community spirit has already taken hold of the slum, everybody knows everybody, kids play together, neighbours chat together.
Of course this reconstructed slum for TV isn’t a realistic or natural surrounding but nevertheless, this way of interacting with those who live close to you seems to have become so distant for many of us living in modern cities.
And one of the few things that was truly better about the past, people lived together in stead of next to each other.

Can’t help wondering if those eggs are actually left behind by those chickens or secretly placed there by a crew member.
Sorry, I can’t help being cynical.
Other shows ruined me.

The tailors hair is getting more impressive every episode.


I love the ancient idea of a family working together from home.
Of course it is better for the kids to go to school and things have improved, but as we today all live our lives so separately, I can’t help but be a bit nostalgic for the more close-knit families of our ancestors.

That sewing machine is stunning.
I use a 1930s one myself and every time I use it I am so impressed by it and think back to how it. changed the lives of millions of people.
Personally I prefer the hand sewing machine though, without a foot pedal.
The Howarth boy saying he used electric machines but always wanting one of these old ones made me grin, when he says he did research on them and that is how he knew how to use them, my grin became even bigger.
My kind of kid.


I also love seeing the families working together, hardship connects people, as awful as it is, at least there is that.


That box under the window is a bit random and suspicious.
Attempt to hide a radiator?


Once more the real Victorian photos being used are stunning.
I’ve seen countless historical images but these are mostly new to me and very impressive.
Bravo to the researcher who dug those up for the show.

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The camera crew treats us with a few wonderful painting-like shots.
Mind you, with a wonderful set and everyone looking so Dickensian, it’s not that difficult to find something that looks impressive.

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In the evening we see it getting too dark to work, but there still is a nice light overhead, so if the place had real Victorian only lights, it would have been too dark a lot earlier.
It would not have been that bright in real Victorian slums, they wouldn’t have been able to work in the evenings, not unless they spend money on candles or lamp oil.


Whenever an economical depression is mentioned in the past it makes me feel a bit silly about calling the ones we have today a crisis.
When our economy gets into trouble, some of us may have to tighten our belts but nobody in the West will have to send their kids to school without shoes or to bed without food.

New neighbours, Irish immigrants join the group.


“Difficulties and hardship make you who you are.”.
Which is a good point, but I wonder what that means for us, the people born after WW2,  mostly spoiled.
And yes, that includes me.

The racism, distrust and hate of the Irish is mentioned, but of probably not really experienced by these volunteers in this show.
I remember a previous show where contestants were confronted with a sign on a house that said; Room for rent, no blacks, no irish, no dogs.
Or something like that.
Quite a disturbing experience as you can imagine.

Straight into the doss house and not a penny to their name.
If they can’t find work, will the production team let them actually sleep outside?

Seeing a man going to find work to provide for his family while today he’d take a sick day and spend it watching TV and crying for soup, makes me admire the grandfather even more.
Seeing him being turned down for a job is very sad especially because you know how much it means to him.

The bit about the Potters’ ancestors who died and visiting their paupers graves in Victorian times brings tears to my eyes.
It must have been the first time in decades, maybe a century since someone paid any attention to where these children were buried.

Nice to see the shopkeepers try a hand at adulterating their food, I wouldn’t mind a little more background information on how far this would go in Victorian times.
I remember some horrific stories from other shows such as The Victorian Bakers.

Plucking chickens is vile, I’ve done it, rather not do it again.

The brother offering up his bed to his sister, while he did the manual labour, is a nice touching scene.

“I think mum will be pleased because I can help pay the rent.” says one of the children.
It is little sentences like that that hit home.


Finally people using the doss house, I’ve been looking forward to this as I researched the subject for a job a while ago and have been fascinated ever since.
Again, what a shame that they put a massive bright spotlight in the room.
Yes it IS possible to use film-lights but still make it look as if the room is lit by gas, oil or candle light.
And yes it is even possible to film with actual gas lights and still see what is going on.
I can’t help wondering why Irish John didn’t sleep in the beds or even on the hangover bench.
There was nobody else there and I doubt the overseer would come and check on them during the night.
Sure, he checked if someone had slept on one of the other beds, but they could be easily remade.
Either way, if he did sleep the entire night on that rope, well done, that is very impressive.
I’m not saying this because I doubt anyone would do it, I’m saying this because I think I myself would probably give up on the rope and sneak into one of the empty beds anyway.

Update; I spoke with John briefly and he confirmed that he did indeed spend the entire night on the rope but didn’t manage to sleep much.
Very impressive.


After wearing a bowler hat all day Irish John’s hair looks better than ever before


After a night sleeping on a hangover rope, he looks positively ruggedly handsome.
He went from hipster barista to a proper East End man.
Quite an improvement if I may say so.


I couldn’t help but spot Irish Maria her eyelashes though, they seemed somehow out of place.
I was wondering if they were fake and why the production team would allow them if they were.
Maria contacted me to explain that they indeed were eyelash extensions but that, no matter how much they tried, they couldn’t get them off in time for the series.


Painful but necessary; bringing up the money for the flower job.
It’s true, the single mother has not put in as much work as the others.
Her Victorian life so far has been too easy.
No money, no food and two kids to feed.
Three last alternatives; pawning, charity and the street.
She should have pawned their bed.
With a decent mattress and plenty of straw, sleeping on the floor is not that hard.

Off to the poorhouse?
Unmarried women were shamed, you can’t help wondering why these women didn’t just lie about where their husband went.
Especially if you do not have a local background, it should be easy to convince people you are not a harlot who got children out of wedlock, but in stead a poor honourable widow.

They are making a run for it, vanishing without paying the rent.
It is either that or  end up on the street, begging or as horrible as it sounds, selling her body and thus her soul.
Or even worse, selling her children.
A dark side of history we don’t really want to think about but it was so common.

She escaped a horrible fate but at a high price; she betrayed her neighbours and friends and has to start a new life.

The Howarths family is still doing brilliantly.
Working so hard.


This was another wonderful episode, still nowhere near as dark and horrible as it could/should have been and way too over-lit but the wonderful people taking part make it more than worth while.

Next week; Jack the Ripper comes for a visit…


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