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Victorian Farm

Victorian FarmThe Victorian era may be the idealised
  stuff of romantic novels, but how would
  21st Century folk fare if they went back
  to basics? Ruth Goodman, Alex
  Langlands and Peter Ginn take up the
  challenge of living as Victorian farmers
  for a full year with no mod cons for the
  television series Victorian Farm

ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO there was no electricity and no running water a coal range provided warmth and heat for water and cooking and tasks after dark were carried out by candlelight or oil lamps. No cars, no home comforts and yet the Victorians knew no other way of life.

How will Ruth Goodman — who specialises in domestic history — and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn cope with the hard work, long hours, no flushing toilets, no electric lights, gas or motor vehicles and no local Sainsbury's to nip to in times of crisis? The television series Victorian Farm documents the four seasons during which the three volunteers bravely turn back the clock to face farming life in the 19th Century when there were no modern machines or cleaning chemicals.

Abandoned fifty years ago, Glebe Farm was a busy working farm in the Victorian age with 15 acres of land. It is now something of a time capsule where little has changed for a century. The farm is on the Acton Scott Estate, which has been home to Thomas Stackhouse Acton's family since 1255 and which covers 1,500 acres of Shropshire countryside.

Thomas Stackhouse Acton is a Victorian farming enthusiast who has spent his life collecting old agricultural tools and machinery. His son Rupert manages the estate and will be the land agent for the year ahead while Ruth, Alex and Peter renovate and live in a small, dilapidated farm worker's cottage that has not been lived in since the 1950s — and it shows.

This unique project will bring the farm back to life — as it would have been in the 1880s. Victorian Farm represents a unique journey back in time as Ruth, Alex and Peter devote a year of their lives to recreating life in a 19th Century rural environment. Although specialists are on hand to teach them the ancient skills of farming, the three are very much hands-on and follow the guidelines in the Victorian farmer's bible — The Book Of The Farm, by Henry Stephens, that was first published in 1844.

Enduring the depths of Winter and relishing the warm Summer month, wearing the clothes, eating the food and experiencing the day-to-day life of rural Victorians, the three presenters of Victorian Farm uncover a forgotten world from an age long passed from the very first day that they arrive at the farm in September with their cart piled high with their belongings.

Ruth, Alex and Peter rear Victorian breeds of animals, grow traditional crops and utilise the crafts and skills of the age. It was a time of agricultural revolution in Britain with the industrialisation of farming wiping out the old ways. Farm workers would be up early and working until the sun went down. The perfect replica of rural 19th Century England, Victorian Farm is an enthralling 'fly on the wall' look at the way our forefathers structured their lives.

Ruth takes on the role of farmer's wife, responsible for the dairy and poultry, food preparation and cooking, preserving fruit and the back-breaking work involved with the laundry where she will use ancient remedies to remove stains. Her mainstay is Eliza Acton's recipe book and she learns fast. She is looking forward to the highlight of the year — preparing and sharing a Christmas feast and enjoying the love of the past, the nostalgia and the sentimentality so embraced by the Victorians.

Peter has to build a weatherproof pig sty and he and Alex learn the importance of the Shire horse, planting and harvesting, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, tree felling and driving steam engines and operating period machinery. They live the complete authentic experience, wearing period costumes and using only the tools and materials that were available at the time.

Initially a daunting task, the team rises to the challenge of looking after and breeding animals ranging from heavy horses and bulls to pigs and turkeys; learning how to rotate, plough, harrow, sow and harvest crops and also repair any damage to their own property, stretching their carpentry, stone masonry and plastering skills to the limit.

The Victorian era was pivotal in bringing the modern technology of the cities to the traditional world of the countryside. Over a short time, the traditional crafts and ways of doing things were eventually outmoded and replaced by mechanisation.

The narrator of Victorian Farm is Stephen Noonan; Photography is by Chris Vile des Seale; the Original Music is by Matthew Winch & Andy Hamilton; The Director of Production is Shahana Meer; the Executive Producer for Lion Television is David Upshal and the series is Produced and Directed by Stuart Elliott.

This fascinating look into a bygone era will be released on DVD on 2 March 2009, courtesy of Acorn Media, following its TV debut on 8 January 2009 at the start of a six-week run. Catalogue No: AV9699 | Running Time: 360 minutes | RRP: 19.99.

"The perfect replica of rural 19th Century England, Victorian Farm is an enthralling 'fly on the wall' look at the way our forefathers structured their lives" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar