Take a drink every time the narrator says "Victorian style"
May 5, 2017 10:26 PM   Subscribe

It's the everyday lives of everyday people that really bring history alive. Victorian Farm is a six-part BBC series which does exactly that. Part documentary, part reality show (in the best possible sense), it follows historian Ruth Goodman, and archeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, as they LARP a year in the life of a restored Victorian farm in Shropshire, England – getting by with only Victorian-era technology, cookery, clothing, and customs. But there's much more...

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Victorian Farm was originally broadcast in 2009, and was a major hit – attracting up to 3.8 million viewers per episode. That success spawned a three-part Christmas special, and then a whole flotilla of spin-offs – each using the same format to explore a different era of British history.

Each series follows our protagonists as they ply the trades of the era, rediscover lost arts, prepare forgotten dishes from scratch, try to figure out how the fuck farming works, and realize just how cold everyone used to be all the time. Along the way, you'll learn how technology, industrialization, globalization, and changing economic and social systems affected the lives of ordinary people.

Victorian Farm Christmas

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Tales from the Green Valley (2005)

This one actually came before Victorian Farm. It follows the same basic format, but it's set on a Welsh farm in the 1620s.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12

Victorian Pharmacy (2010)

Learn about pharmaceuticals, medicine, chemistry, dentistry, sanitation, and contraception in the Victorian era.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

Edwardian Farm (2010)

Rejoin our protagonists as the Victorian era gives way to a recognizably modern age, as electric lights replace candles, internal combustion engines replace animal power, branded and factory-produced goods become increasingly commonplace, and mass media prepares to transform culture.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12

Wartime Farm (2012)

World War 2 time, to be specific.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8

Tudor Monastery Farm (2013)

Takin' it back to the 1500s.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6A Tudor Feast at Christmas

Secrets of the Castle (2014)

This one's about castles, and their secrets. I hope that doesn't surprise you.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Full Steam Ahead (2016)

Steampunk, without the punk!

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6
posted by escape from the potato planet (41 comments total) 175 users marked this as a favorite
 
*makes a happy noise only dogs can hear*
There's a new Ruth Goodman history show?
Well. I know what I'm doing this weekend!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:28 PM on May 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


Ruth Goodman has my dream job (and is much better at it than I would ever be).
posted by jb at 10:37 PM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am absurdly excited to watch these. (It would be rad if there were to be a 12th century Brother Cadfael-type series. Just saying.)
posted by rtha at 11:02 PM on May 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


This post is so relevant to my interests that I can hardly stand it. My girlfriend is looking at me in sympathetic amusement while I read the descriptions aloud with increasingly creepy levels of enthusiasm. I'm so excited.
posted by mishafletch at 11:26 PM on May 5, 2017 [12 favorites]


I just started watching the railroad one, and my girlfriend is also looking at me in sympathetic amusement (although I think the seeds of that were planted earlier this evening when I complained about the design of an ice house on Murdoch Mysteries and got out my copy of Barns and Outbuildings and How to Build Them as a reference on what the set should have looked like).

Anyway, Ruth and co. are great. I've seen all their other series, and I think they do a great job overall. They've certainly all got my dream job. Sadly, experimental archaeology (or whatever you want to call it) doesn't seem to be as much of a thing in the US as it is in Europe and the UK.

I'm starting to look at grad schools, and in the back of my mind I keep hoping I'll find a program that would let me, like, build reproductions of historic industrial sites to, um, study chaines operatoires and totally not just have an excuse to dress in period clothes all day and pretend I'm a guy in the Victorian period.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:00 AM on May 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


Previously, but without the extensive linking to the other series. I loved this, can't wait to watch it and the others. Thanks!
posted by dr. moot at 1:08 AM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately the Secrets of the Castle will stay secrets due to geoblocking, and the fact that the two versions currently alive on YouTube are sped up and slowed down respectively. So annoying.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:23 AM on May 6, 2017


Really? I just cued up Ep 1 of Secrets of the Castle via YouTube and what I hear seems fine (although to judge from the titles, a little bit of the top of the screen is clipped). Canada usually seems to have much U.K. content blocked, in my experience. So much for Commonwealth solidarity.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:49 AM on May 6, 2017


Victorian Farm, War Time Farm and Edwardian Farm were the best!
posted by james33 at 3:28 AM on May 6, 2017


I AM GOING TO WATCH EVERYTHING OMG
posted by lydhre at 4:12 AM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh wow, I haven't seen Full Steam Ahead or Victorian Pharmacy. There goes tomorrow!!
posted by kjs4 at 4:26 AM on May 6, 2017


*makes sure the tablet PC that lives under the TV set is fully charged*
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:21 AM on May 6, 2017


MetaFilter: increasingly creepy levels of enthusiasm
posted by hippybear at 5:36 AM on May 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


Way ahead of you. Mrs C and I have watched just about all of 'em, thanks to the public broadcaster in Ontario, TVO. The railway one is my particular favourite because trains! and because that particular period (Industrial Revolution) has always interested me.
posted by Artful Codger at 5:41 AM on May 6, 2017


Heaven. Great post!
posted by mochapickle at 5:50 AM on May 6, 2017


build reproductions of historic industrial sites....study chains

The institute of leather technologies at The Milwaukee School of Engineering was a thing into the 1960's. You may be able to still find paper/people there who can tell you about leather belts for power instead of chains. Best hurry before they are all dead/gone.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:58 AM on May 6, 2017


shapes that haunt the dusk --- last time I saw this kind of thing made in the US, it was set in the 1880s-or-thereabouts, a group of families "starting a new town out West". Very disappointing it was too, because it seemed like the main family group the show focused on was all about cheating and not living within the parameters of the show: the teens obviously didn't want to be there, and refused to do any of the chores their 1880s-counterparts would have done; the whole family snuck in everything from toilet paper to modern makeup; the parents snuck in an entire bedspring and mattress; nobody was dressing authentically (neither the mother nor the teen girls wore their corsets, the teens would just wear petticoats and skip their outer dresses, etc.) Why bother signing yourself up for something like that if you won't follow the rules?

At least in the UK versions, the participants (none of whom are forced to be there, after all: they're all volunteers!) play it straight.
posted by easily confused at 7:07 AM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


OMG SQUEEE!!!

Former Anthropology major right here. Current hobbyist domestic-sphere maker person. It's going to be cold and wet here all weekend so instead of my own garden I'm just going to sit and watch these people toil in theirs.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:27 AM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Secrets of the Castle was one of the funnest things I've ever watched.
posted by dry white toast at 7:28 AM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah I've seen every one of these, I love them so much. Not only do I find them interesting, but they are super-relaxing for some reason, really helpful for nighttime anxiety. Many is the night I've fallen asleep to Peter glazing earthenware beer flagons or Ruth weaving a fence out of hazel branches. My love for this show is legend in this house and nary an eye is batted if I'm flipping through the channels and suddenly scream OH MY GOD TUDOR MONASTERY FARM, although one of the kids might say "Dad, NO" because they want to watch Modrn Family or whatever.
posted by chococat at 8:25 AM on May 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


There's something wonderfully relaxing about watching other people work so hard.
posted by clawsoon at 10:06 AM on May 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yes these are full of teh awesome, as the (non-Victorian) kids would say. I'm in the middle of Edwardian Farm on KNOW. I've seen most of Victorian Farm, Tudor Monastery (where Alex is replaced by some other geezer), and War Time Farm (where I learned that rosehips will be a great source of Vitamin C when the global economy collapses and we in Canada will no longer have easy access to citrus fruits).

The three hosts are a good blend of on-screen personalities. Alex's enthusiasm sometimes seems a bit forced, though. But Peter and Ruth are always ready to get stuck-in, and are probably a riot at academic conference social events.
posted by e-man at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yay, experimental archaeology!

I find this sort of thing terribly inspiring. My particular favorite branch of it is winemaking (or cidering, brewing, etc. etc.). <squee>We have wine recipes going back to Roman times! There are places in Europe where traditional beer brewing never stopped!</squee> Watching people do it is even more so!

In fact, I was inspired enough by their hard work to do some of my own, getting out and picking half a kilo of dandelions for a batch of wine this morning. Thanks for posting!
posted by ragtag at 11:08 AM on May 6, 2017


Oh, man. Thanks for this! I'm just old enough to have been around all these old folks who were born and grew up right at the transition between Victorian/American pioneer farming and the mechanized early 20th century farming explosion.

I'm looking forward to see if there is anything about the traveling steam compressor/engines that were pulled from farm to farm for hire that could be adapted to do different things from the masses of pulleys, drives, and levers. "It was one of the few times that we could see our parents act like fools and crazy people when the gauges got too high and everybody just went running in every direction! heeheehee"
posted by Tchad at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2017


I love these shows and I'm so happy they're clustered in one place. Thank you! I can't wait to watch!
posted by rednikki at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2017


A similar series I liked a lot is Victorian Bakers, which takes four real-life bakers and drops them in settings for early, mid and late Victorian style bakeries (read: hobbit-like rural environment where starvation is still around the corner, hellish industrial sweatshop and posh almost-Edwardian cake shop). It really shows how industrialization affected the manufacture of one of the basic food stuffs of the era. Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Christmas special. But I've kind of mainlined the Ruth Goodman documentaries, too. They're great.
posted by sukeban at 12:53 PM on May 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


I love these shows. See my name.
posted by antiquated at 6:15 PM on May 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


escape from the potato planet, thanks very much for this post. I'm going to get a lot of enjoyment out of watching all of these.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:55 PM on May 6, 2017


"last time I saw this kind of thing made in the US, it was set in the 1880s-or-thereabouts, a group of families "starting a new town out West". Very disappointing it was too, because it seemed like the main family group the show focused on was all about cheating and not living within the parameters of the show:"

Okay, Frontier House was AMAZING. The dad of the cheating family (the Clunes) was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, and felt no compunction whatsoever about cheating like crazy because he was so. entitled. He thought he was awesome at everything and ended up demanding a doctor because he thought he was dying from not drinking enough water. He had a literal tantrum on the show when the experts informed him his whole family would have died that winter under his utterly miserable leadership. The second family, the Glenns, did fairly well at following the rules and preparing to survive the winter, but their marriage went into a total and complete collapse, and I think the producers reported them to child services. Nate Brooks, the only settler who approached the show with humor and humility about his skills (and also the only minority), worked like the dickens with his father and later brother to build a log cabin for his fiancee, and then used the money he "earned" on the show to buy her a white wedding dress because she cried about the period-appropriate red wedding suit. They were the only couple to "survive the winter." (I guess technically the producers said the Glenns would have survived had their marriage not collapsed but everyone thought their marriage would collapse and they'd therefore starve.) Anyway, the Clunes and Glenns both divorced shortly after the show, surprising literally nobody who watched.

It was like maybe not the most ethical experiment in human experience? But this was early on in the historical reality show genre when they were not so good at screening and OH MY LORD is it fascinating.

The teenagers on the show were all, indeed, kinda brats, but their first-person video diaries and post-show reflections were all very interesting. (IMO, the best age for kids on these shows is in the 8 to 12 range where they're young enough to enter into it with wholeheartedness but old enough to have some perspective on it ... teenagers are often far too cynical and concerned about looking cool, and younger than that they just don't get what's going on and they often enjoy it but they're just sort-of there.)

The other thing that was notable about Frontier House is that 9/11 happened during one of the last couple episodes, and the producers had to decide if and how to tell the families about it. This was in the early days of historical reality shows so they didn't have a lot of precedent. (They did tell the families, and provide them with current newspapers, and the discussion is brief but moving.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:14 PM on May 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


Eyebrows, I also liked frontier house, and I (binge watched) noticed that the snotty teen/tween girls were *so much less* snotty by the end of they show. They seemed more like... kids. Running around, playing, picking flowers, laughing- not gossiping in stilted voices and trying to seem like cool, jaded, precocious imitations of TV characters nearly as much.
posted by windykites at 10:10 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tales from the Green Valley (2005) This one actually came before Victorian Farm. It follows the same basic format, but it's set on a Welsh farm in the 1620s.
Opening voiceover: "This is The Valley. A vanished world from a forgotten time."

I can't help but think that'd be better read by Don LaFontaine.
posted by russm at 10:52 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


" I also liked frontier house, and I (binge watched) noticed that the snotty teen/tween girls were *so much less* snotty by the end of they show. They seemed more like... kids. Running around, playing, picking flowers, laughing"

To me (as a parent with three kids under 10), this is always one of the most interesting parts of these shows. I definitely don't want to romanticize what these historical times were like for kids -- I mean, pretty shitty! They had to do a lot of work and didn't have much access to school! They died of a lot of now-preventable diseases! I like 2017 for parenting! -- but it's really interesting to see how much the kids come alive when they're cut off from modern entertainment/connectivity, how they entertain themselves when left to their own devices, and how much they enjoy having relatively adult responsibilities within their families.

I'm not going to be all "I TAKE AWAY YOUR ELECTRONICS AND YOU SHALL BE PERFECT CHILDREN" or anything, but these shows always do prod me to give my kids more responsibility at home and to push harder about dorky things like family game night. IT WORKS IN THE PAST!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:05 PM on May 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I watched all of Victorian Farm this weekend while cooking/doing chores/etc. Looking forward to diving into one of the other series next weekend :)
posted by quaking fajita at 2:13 PM on May 7, 2017


I would be most interested in a breakdown of all the chores that are done in a day, over the course of a week. This gives us an idea of how hard they are all working, but when she says she took 60 hours for a dress, where did this time come from? Did it mean less clothes washing? Less gardening? Less cleaning of all that bloody coal dust?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:03 PM on May 7, 2017


The framing of the show implies that Ruth & co. lived on this farm 24/7, without any access to modern goods and services – but I suspect that's more of a narrative conceit than literal truth. Presumably it was much like any other TV set, with catering, port-a-johns, makeup, multiple takes, etc. And they probably went home at the end of the day, or at least had access to email, etc. to maintain their professional and general lives. At that point, you're not really looking at a realistic simulation of period life.

There's an interesting episode of the 99% Invisible podcast which details how even nature documentaries are more staged than you think.

But I'd certainly be interested to learn more about behind-the-scenes stuff.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:21 AM on May 8, 2017


I binged all of Victorian Farm this weekend because I wound up throwing my back out basically first thing Saturday morning.

I think their efforts to imply that they were all actually living there full time were pretty weak. After two episodes I think it's pretty clear that they are spending a lot of time there, but they aren't actually living there and I presume there were caretakers at the estate who took care of the animals when they weren't there.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:32 AM on May 8, 2017


how much the kids come alive when they're cut off from modern entertainment/connectivity, how they entertain themselves when left to their own devices, and how much they enjoy having relatively adult responsibilities within their families.

And I mean, let's be real; modern kids with modern parents living on a set hardly have the kind of hardships or expectations that frontier children would have, even if they're got limited resources and are doing physical chores. They've kind of got the best of both worlds.

It's still interesting to see!

(Family game night = not dorky btw)
posted by windykites at 8:53 AM on May 8, 2017


The framing of the show implies that Ruth & co. lived on this farm 24/7

I've never had the impression that Ruth & Co. are living those situations 24/7; I've always believed they undertake representational activities, research and demonstrate many aspects of period life, make and share the meals etc... and that's it.

From your descriptions of Frontier House, it sounds like it's some mix of historical reenactment and the 'reality tv' shows Big Brother and/or Survivor. Yuck, no thanks.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2017


My impression - based on nothing but watching the shows - is that Ruth & Co. reduced their immersion time for each new series. I base that solely on how wiped out they seemed at the end.

It does seem that they lived on the farms, though they weren't trapped there a la Victorian Survivor. A couple of quotes to that effect:

Although in past years Ruth and her co-stars Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands, who’s been replaced in this series by Tom Pinfold, have stayed on the farm, it proved impossible this year [for the Tudor Farm series].

“Every day, we’d wake up thinking, how are we going to feed the animals?” ... Beyond farming, the presenters do not live in an Edwardian bubble: during filming, they can go home to their families and even embrace modern dental hygiene.
posted by clawsoon at 1:24 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


The only thing I dislike about this is that sometimes Alex is kind of a snotball to Peter in a way that reads as classist to me. But I binged pretty much all of these after discovering the pharmacy one on youtube this summer.

Also, thanks for the tip about the baking show, sukeban! That could absolutely not be more up my alley.
posted by Diablevert at 11:22 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


From Baby Farm to Table
In 19th century England, it was quite common to find adverts soliciting for the adoption of infants.

                                        MARRIED couple with no family
                                        would adopt healthy child, nice
                                        country home. Terms £10 - Harding,
                                                            care of Ship’s Letter Exchange,
                    Stokes Croft, Bristol.

Spoiler alert: There was no adoption going on. The childless couple and kindly widow are actually thinly veiled offers to dispose of one’s infant for a fee.

Unwed mothers had a tough time during the uppity Victorian age...
posted by kliuless at 6:24 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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