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The Victorian Slum

Episode 1: The 1860s

Duration: 59 minutes

First broadcast: on BBC Two ScotlandLatest broadcast: on BBC Four HD

In the heart of the modern East End of London, a Victorian slum has been recreated and a group of 21st-century people are moving in. Michael Mosley joins them to tell the extraordinary story of how the Victorian East End changed our attitude to poverty forever.

In this episode, the slum dwellers move into the 1860s, when London was the capital of the world's first industrial superpower and the richest city on earth. Their new home is totally authentic - a forbidding Victorian tenement building made up of sparse rooms, a shared water pump and outdoor privies. There are businesses too - a small shop and a common lodging house known as the doss house. For some of the new residents, it is a chance to live as their East End ancestors once did, while others want to experience the history of their trades.

As it would have been, their priority is to earn money to put food on the table and pay the weekly rent. During the economic boom years of the 1860s, life was tough for the poor, but at least London provided ways to make a living as the slum dwellers find out. Whether it is piecework farmed out by factories like matchbox making and wood turning or repurposing old clothes for the rag trade, they all replicate the work once done by poor Victorians.

Graham Potter finds out first hand the back-breaking labour his forebears would have experienced and the effect on a Victorian family when the main breadwinner was out of action. But it is Shazeda Haque who finds life toughest as she experiences the vicious cycle of poverty and debt that lone Victorian parents endured. Show less


Michael Mosley
Executive Producer:
Cate Hall
Series Producer:
Mark Ball
Emma Frank
Leah Caffrey
Production Company:
Wall to Wall Media

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