I wasn't planning on reviewing documentaries, however during my research I found so many interesting ones, I just had to share them. It's easy to find information about historic events and famous people, but finding information about the everyday life of Victorians is not. I want to base my novel in the city of London, however when I came across the Victorian Farm series I jumped at the chance of seeing how people in the countryside lived.
Victorian Farm has six episodes of 60 minutes, followed by Victorian Farm Christmas with three episodes. I was afraid it might just be people in period costume rearing farm animals, showing the birth of cute baby animals, and cultivating fields, but I was pleasantly surprised at the historical and technological detail. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
|Steam powered threshing machine|
The protagonists are historian Ruth Goodman, and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn. The series was filmed in Shropshire county in England, on the Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, and Blists Hill Victorian Town. The series shows how farm work and house work were done in the early Victorian Era, then shows machines and innovations that were introduced later. It also explains the social and economic impact of those innovations.
For the Steampunk enthusiast, the highlights of the series are a trip on a steam locomotive, showing the crew's cab with all it's gauges and levers, and a steam powered threshing machine. Most of the farm machinery is horse powered, however some of it is really complex, such as the horse drawn Reaper Binder which cuts wheat and binds it into sheaves automatically.
The trio start by restoring a dilapidated cottage, and installing a coal range (cooker) on which they cook the first of many typical dishes, a boiled leg of mutton. We are shown how many items we nowadays take for granted were home-made back then, such as soap, stain removers, cleaning products, pesticide and anti-bedbug concoctions, and remedies for various ailments.
Doing the laundry is a major task which takes a full five days. Ruth makes pickles and preserves which are sealed in jars using pig's bladders, and makes cheese and butter. She also sews a Victorian dress on a sewing machine of the era. The lads make cider, ginger beer, and beer.
We are shown how railways and canals increased commerce, and how the blacksmith was the centre of village life. The lads poach rabbits and play a game of cricket. We're also shown a wheel wright, printer, and photographer at work, amongst many other things.
Victorian Farm Christmas follows the same trio as they prepare a huge feast for the Acton Scott estate. We're shown how Christmas as we know it was created during Victorian times.
This is not all, the lads restore a forge, which necessitates the making of clay bricks, some of which are baked in a kiln, and others in a clamp. Once the restoration is complete, a blacksmith and farrier (horse shoe maker) are shown at work. We are also shown the workings of a windmill which grinds wheat to make flour.
Final Verdict ★★★★★
Above I've only scratched the surface of the activities shown in this series. Overall it’s very interesting, entertaining, and it's highly recommended.