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Turn Back Time: Researching your High Street through the ages

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Tom St John Gray Tom St John Gray | 10:20 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

How do you think the British high street has changed over the last 150 years? In an era of online shopping and out-of-town retail centres, what skills, services and trades have disappeared from our high streets? Do we have a chance to bring back to life what we have now lost?

These were questions I thought about when accepting a job on BBC One's new series, Turn Back Time - The High Street, which brings together a group of modern shopkeepers in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. In a bold approach the shopkeepers are made to live, work and play through six key eras of British history.

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Over six programmes, we wound back the clock to the Victorian era, before transporting our traders through a century of incredible events.

The shopkeepers weren't alone on the journey - the Chamber of Commerce, a group of experts headed by MasterChef's Gregg Wallace, were there to support, guide and discipline our traders. There are brilliant points across the series when the shopkeepers face the wrath of the Chamber of Commerce - keep watching for the less than elegant first day at the Edwardian Tea Rooms.

Another compelling moment is when the entrepreneurial grocers get caught dabbling in the black market during the Second World War. After you've watched it, I'd love to know if you would have done the same?

As a producer on the series, I researched the history of the high street over the last 150 years. My background is in history, so I enjoyed getting stuck into a wealth of information available including detailed photos and archive film, censuses and surveys, and oral accounts from shop keepers and shoppers.

I even discovered my own family's shopkeeping past in the process - Welsh dairy farmers who moved to London in the Victorian era and set up a successful grocery business.

Michael Sharp, son of butcher Andrew Sharp, on the job during the Victorian era.

 

After many trips to museums, archives and reading lots of books, key themes emerged. There was the Victorian trend of adulteration and bulking up food with chemicals, and the Edwardian tea shop which enabled women to meet publicly and aid the suffragette movement.

We then moved on to rationing and the black market during the Second World War, and then the rise of self-service supermarkets which signalled the end of the high street's golden age. Throughout the series I was lucky enough to work with the widely respected social historian Juliet Gardiner, who was also part of the Chamber of Commerce.

As part of the research process, I also wrote nearly 30 shopkeepers manuals. These were detailed guides tailored towards each shopkeeper, outlining how their specific shops should be run in each era, including notes on rules and etiquette, recipes and day-to-day tasks.

The manuals also required a fully priced stock list for each shop which proved to be tricky, as the grocers alone had a range of hundreds of goods. Finding authentic prices in old money for each item was a real challenge.

I couldn't pick out a favourite era but I did love particular shops - the forge at the Victorian ironmonger, the etiquette and service of both the Edwardian grocer and the butcher, the kaleidoscope of colours from the 1960s milk bar, and the record shop in the 1970s.

Simon the Ironmonger at work in the Victorian forge

 

Be sure to keep an eye out for our Eurovision winning guests who really brought the market square to life. I would love to hear about your favourite era from the series - which shops did you particularly like or dislike?

Working on Turn Back Time was a unique experience and it was fantastic to see history brought back to life in such a vivid and tangible way.

I think the emotions the shopkeepers show in each of the programmes is a clear indication of how much passion and enthusiasm they invested in their shops and the experience. Their story is at the very heart of this series. I hope that you enjoy Turn Back Time and the journey into the history of your high street.

Tom St John Gray is a producer on Turn Back Time - The High Street.

You can read a post on the BBC TV blog by Karl Sergison, the dad in the grocer family, about his experience on the programme.

Turn Back Time - The High Street starts on BBC One on Tuesday, 2 November at 9pm.


To continue the Turn Back Time experience in your area, please visit Hands On History site or look for an event or pop-up shop near where you live.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Why oh why does anyone think that Greg Wallace adds anything to anything?
    On Masterchef he is as useful as a chocolate saucepan.

  • Comment number 3.

    I am really looking forward to this series as my great grandfather was a grocer in the victorian times through to the 2nd world war in Poplar East London. Tom have you written anything about life in Victorian London as I would like to understand more

  • Comment number 4.

    I absolutely LOVED this programme!! I was glued to it - wishing it could have been in my town! I will definately be visiting the "on tour" show! I can't wait for the Edwardian era next week. Like the shopkeepers I was horrified by how they participated in the "dodgy" practices of bulking up food - I really thought everything was much "purer" back then without all these saturated fats and genetically modified or processed food - maybe I was wrong! Keep making history programmes like this - it is so much more intersting that listening to a lecutre.............in fact make more "pop up history streets"....so I can go and visit one

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful series tonight. I believe this is very interesting for all, in this sad world we live in now.

    OMG what these people did in those times of poverty, unemployment, to try an earn an honest crust to feed their family's was amazing.

    We today would not be able to cope with any of that!! Would we? Be honest with yourselves!! We should care for our history?

    Well done BBC bring it on.

  • Comment number 6.

    Clifford there are plenty of library books on victorian London or check ebay to buy some cheap books. Or try the East London history society. I bought a few books from them in the past. The series looks like it will be very good. My ancestors came from Shepton Mallet and as I have never been there I thought it looks a lovely place. Looking forward to next week now.

  • Comment number 7.

    Many thanks for the message Clifford and that is really interesting about your great grandfather's life as a grocer - he certainly lived through an incredible time in history. Further to the reply from PompeyChris, two books that spring to mind that are Behind the Counter by Pamela Horn and The Shopkeeper's World 1830-1914 by Michael Winstanley - both books are excellent and give vivid accounts of the life of a grocer during the Victorian era.

  • Comment number 8.

    You obviously invited specific people to take part, so why did you invite a master baker and then not let her bake? You might just as well have got an accountant to be the baker (oh, you did!). Your manual apparently stated it was rare to have female bakers, so it obviously did happen on occasion. All the 'experts' were allowed to 'ply their trade' except the bakers, so you were directly responsible for their failures during the week and you brought her there under false pretences. She was such a lovely lady, it's lucky she didn't punch you in the nose.

  • Comment number 9.

    Tom - I couldn't agree more with 'KissThisThen's' comments above. This was such a brilliant idea for a new series but completely ruined by the approach. Was it entertainment or just another 'big brother' event?
    It was just so full of mixed messages: WHY indeed get an experienced artisan baker to participate and then ignore her expertise? WHY try to 'entice' locals back to buying a locally produced quality loaf of bread (instead of going to Tescos) and then try to pass off a salt or rice-flour-laden burnt loaf to the same locals? Is one of your objectives to try to persuade people to USE their high street or not? Didn't you realise you would simply put people off even more if they had negative experiences (after they had already paid the parking costs)? This programme was an insult even to young children, let alone an adult audience. WHY does our licence fee have to pay for this thoughless amateur 'entertainment'? BBC - very very disappointed.

  • Comment number 10.

    I couldn't disagree more with them! The fact the person in question was a master baker is irrelevant. I very much doubt they invited anyone, I would imagine they asked people to apply. The fact of the matter is that the family owned and ran a comparable business in the modern day, and as a family they had to make that shop work. I would imagine that many Victorian bakers families probably had perfectly capable (and in some instances more capable) women at the helm - but they weren't allowed to bake in the most part.

    The sole purpose of the programme wasn't to drive people back to their high streets at all costs, it was to see if a Victorian (in this episode) high street would bring people back. The poor quality loaves were part of that experience - the families had to learn to operate in those circumstances. You could just as easily argue that they should have been given part baked loaves and a brand new bread oven, but that would have made the series pointless! In the case of the ironmonger and butcher they were the only people who COULD create the product, and the grocers did it as a family unit. I actually think it made it more interesting to give the bakers a challenge in the respect of the male having to do the baking.

    The sentence "...you were directly responsible for their failures during the week and you brought her there under false pretences" is a bit OTT! It's a TV SHOW!

  • Comment number 11.

    I found the first part of this fascinating, i was certain aware from my research that the victorians used a variety of poisonous ingredients to doctor food stuffs and there are many documented cases where people have died from eating just a small quantity of sweets. I run the Sweet Shop at the Back to Backs in birmingham and we try where possible to make the experience as authentic as possible for the visitors. I thought it was a shame that all the trouble that the BBC went to , to recreate the era, but the sweet jars were from a more modern era with screw tops and not the traditional style of sweet jar that might have been used. i will be most interested in the Edwardian era next week to see how that is recreated

  • Comment number 12.

    A very interesting start to the series, not least for the eye-opener concerning Victorian adulteration, as well as society's expectations of trades-people. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series, partly because my dad was a "grocer's lad" in the late 30s/early 40s, around the time 'chain store' type grocers, with their bulk buying power, were becoming established, and even some slight insight into changes affecting his life will be welcome.

    If I have to identify one highpoint in the programme it has to be the theatricality of the butcher (and the grocer's massive cheese); I really think that if surviving small traders took the lesson to heart they could easily outshine the boring supermarkets and make shopping fun!

    Is there any chance of your "manuals" being published, Tom? I haven't had chance to speak to her about it, but my daughter is a history teacher and the manuals might give her (and others) a sound basis for 'living history' lessons?

    You can't include every High Street activity of course, but my own ancestors were carpenters, joiners and wheelwrights etc. in the High Street of a small village, for over 200 years. Perhaps that's why I found 'The Blacksmith's Tale' so interesting and indeed moving. Like him my forebears had manual skills which were once immediate and personal (e.g. the knife, hooks etc) but have now largely become mechanised or done on an industrial scale. They represent aspects of life that may have gone for good, but are another story of times gone by which perhaps needs telling...

  • Comment number 13.

    I play the part of the Ironmonger and Blacksmith in the series and would just like to explain that we are all modern day shopkeepers and craftspeople that are challenged to ply our trades through the different eras of time.We were not allowed to research these eras and we went into the project knowing that we would have to trade under conditions that our ancestors were born into. To re-live these trials and tribulations was more of a challenge than any of you will ever see on the TV. The fact that the bakers loaves were inedible was down to Nigel not taking his wifes advice, the fact that they were burnt was down to using a 150 year old wood fired oven with no modern day thermostat or temperature control. Any modern day master baker would struggle with that.
    The trades of Butcher and ironmonger have not changed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, which is why a traditional practitioner can easily get by with ancient equipment. Operating a business true to these different eras is however still a challenge to everyone. I am used to operating a forge with coke and an electric blower, not the coal and manual bellows that I was given. I know that it looks as if I am coping well, but working with one hand on the bellows and only one hand to hold the tools makes it awkward. The coal also burns hotter than coke and therefore the fire management is more intense. I burnt many pieces in the fire when the cameras were not watching. If we could'nt do it, it didn't get done.
    There was no "quick fix" with this programme and we even had to live in these eras when the cameras were turned off. No electricity, no running water, no communication with the outside world....absolute heaven.

  • Comment number 14.

    I enjoyed the first program immensely. I thought it was a great idea and very well portrayed. I can only imagine the difficulties encountered by each trader in their specific 'modern' skill. I suppose, as Simon intimates to above, it's not the skill that has changed, but the technology used to apply the skill. Full marks, hats off, congratulations all round.

    I have vague memories, from childhood (around the 1970s), of my great-uncle (Billy) in his wagon, delivering groceries around the village. He ran a green-grocer in the high street and did deliveries. He also sold from the wagon so people didn't have to go to the shop to order. Tesco had to wait for the internet to compete with that.

    I was very impressed with Simon, particularly, with the way he dealt with running the store and manning the forge. The look on the Butchers' sons face, when Simon returned to the shop with a 'butchers dozen' meat hooks was priceless. I expected him to say something like 'they look just like the real thing' or words to that effect.

    And talking of the Butcher, I can remember, and I'm only 44 myself, when pigs trotters were on sale and whole carcasses and pigs heads were hanging outside, among other things, that today we'd disregard with abhorrence.

    Roll on ep2

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm not sure what Dan Richards meant when he says that the programme's objective WASN'T to get people back to using their high street - if they WERE then these shops wouldn't be empty in the first place!
    I was interested to read Simon's comments about being a participant, but still can't understand what the point was of challenging a master baker's family to take part - and then completely ignoring the actual master baker's advice. the point is she simply wouldn;t have BEEN a master baker in the Victorian age (unless her husband had listened to her) - she would much more likely to have been baking bread for a large household.
    I think David Chill above has got a good point about the authenticity of the items like the jars. Again it was mixed messages. It seemed ludicrous to prevent them from having running water when they were selling cheap custard creams!
    laughable and infuriating.
    What I want to know is: What happens when the TV crews have left?

  • Comment number 16.

    Instead of featuring a town like Shepton Mallet where the population has connived with the desertification of the High Street, why don't you celebrate towns like Hingham, Norfolk. We have a small population, just over 2000, but still have a baker, a butcher, a thriving "mini-mart" (Harrods of Hingham), a fish-monger who calls once a week, solicitor, dentist, 2 hairdressers, a Post Office, chemist, newsagent, 2 cafes, takeaway, bauble shop, beautician, reclamation business, mobility centre, 2 shoe warehouses,library, 2 Social centres..... I could go on
    We have these because the residents support them. It's up to us to keep them, otherwise we will end up like SM

  • Comment number 17.

    Being born into a bakery family I was amazed with the small amounts of flour given to the Victorian bakers in Turn Back Time. My grandfather born 1885 used to tell me about flour being in 280lb bags and I remember flour being in 140lb in hessian sacks in the 1970's before changing to 70lb bags also sugar and salt were still in 100cwt bags at this time. Your baker in the programme seemed to be baking like a housewife and a not very good one at that. Other than that I enjoyed the programme but I feel a bit more research would not have gone amiss.

  • Comment number 18.

    Really enjoyed episode one of this series.
    I have my grandparents' handwritten recipes from their pork butchers (including curing, sausage, black pudding etc making) & many other family ones used in their snack bar & at home. The business was first opened in 1838 on the main street, Deansgate, in bolton Lancashire. Thought this might be of interest to you in your future research.
    Regards Susan

  • Comment number 19.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the 'show' and can't wait for the next episode. I have been involved with similar things over the years, with my horse and cart set in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian times on film and TV. What you see is the best representation you can get, given the constraints of modern law and the dreaded risk assessment! Educational for people of all ages, and hopefully a pointer to source local produce when you can. As for knocking Gregg Wallace, anyone who can turn a corner stall into a multi million pound grocers business ain't no fool. Off set I am sure you would find him a good mentor and adviser. So take it for what it is, entertainment and a history lesson rolled into one.

  • Comment number 20.

    It is a pity that the customers weren't given pounds, shillings and pence and that the prices and transactions throughout weren't done with the currency and costs of the actual contemporary periods (as with 'Coalhouse').

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    I am part of a co-operative of local craftspeople with a shop in the market square in Shepton and thus had a front seatview of the filming of this fascinating series in the making whenever I was running the shop. Shepton is not totally bleak as may appear in the series but the centre of the action has moved away from the square more up the hill towards the new centre for chain shops.
    I think the modern point of seeing the old market square humming with life again is that individual shops with personal service do have a place alongside the convenience of modern shops. Shepton has a nucleus of shops run by individuals in our lovely historic centre and already one new one has opened since the filming. Also some of the shops created for this series retain their shopfronts and the town has enthusiastically embraced the spirit of the filming with features in many shops, at the Tourist Information Office etc.
    So I'd like to thank the Turn Back Time for choosing Shepton to make this fascinating series highlighting the joys of individual High Street shops and to invite you all to come to Shepton and to help us to make our High Street grow from the nucleus of individuality to a vibrant alternative to the clone shopping centre up the road.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi, this is a fascinating series, I am really enjoying it. I am interested to know what happens to the shops and to the High Street once the programme is finished? The aim of the series was to make the town "fall in love with it's High Street again" what happens with regard to the longer term regeneration of that particular High Street and what lessons are there to help save Britian's high streets, or is it too late? Thanks

  • Comment number 24.

    Silly theme park history only does a disservice to those who were in the suffrage movement and who died in the trenches. As JL Carr says in 'A Month in The Country@ the people in the past weren't us in fancy dress.As a light weight piece of hokum to pass an hour a way .this programme is ok but let's not pretend it's history

  • Comment number 25.

    What a really lovely series this is - missed the first 2 programmes but caught the trailor tonight for next weeks programme so have just watched them both on BBCiplayer. It has captured what a hard days graft was and how much we take all our mod cons for granted. My family were newsagents in the 1900s up till 1985 and it was a really hard life with long hours with only Christmas day off as there were newspapers every other day of the year! We lived in a terraced back to back house with an outside loo and shared back yard with the shop in our front room. Next door lived my Nan and Grandad who ran a sweet shop - life was very simple but hard work even then I was born in 1959 and had to use a tinbath in front of the fire and shared a bed with my sister who was 9 years older than me and a potty under the bed so as not to have to go outside in the night to use the loo! But what a great community spirit we had with all the other traders in the area and neigbours rallied round to help and support all the local trades. My great nieces aged 11 and 8 think it is great to talk about "the old days" when I was younger and call it the black and white days - and I am only 51! I really felt for the families in the series when the men got their call up papers and could sense the emotions even in a pretend situation. Really looking forward to the next episode and having just checked on the website that the pop up shop is in my local town this weekend will plan to go along and see for myself and support the shop. I live in a lovely big village with a great community and try to support all my local shops as much as I can. I hope that this series gets shown to all school children as part of their history corriculum as it is like bringing history to life and much easier to remember once seen in a TV programme - great work...

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm enjoying this series having just watched the second episode. However, I am a little disappointed aspects of historical accuracy. In this episode when behind the counter were rows of Brooke Bond PG Tips boxes. Brooke Bond's Digestive Tea was re-branded PG Tips in 1955, so these were hardly authentic. This does not really spoil the programme of course but makes you wonder how strict the experiment was.

  • Comment number 27.

    I have really enjoyed the first two episodes so far, probably because I was originally contacted to see if I wanted to take part. I am a dressmaker and would have loved the chance to film the programme, but for the fact that filming took place over a few weeks of the summer, my busiest time of the year as I also work for a bridal shop doing their alterations as well. I simply couldn't spare the time, but oh how I would have loved it. The dressmaker Gill, looks as though she is thoroughly enjoying it and I can't wait to see further episodes, although I'm not so sure I would have enjoyed altering my wedding dresses with the tools available years ago - I love my modern equipment much too much!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Seen the first two programmes, excellent stuff, is there going to be a book?
    Mick

  • Comment number 29.

    Agree with all positive comments so far. What a fine idea to pep up the High Street and to remind us what we are missing in our fast-paced, sometimes 'plastic' lives. Nostalgia for some and a taster for those who are new to history or who have been put off by how they have learned in the past. By providing challenges for the tradespeople to overcome, thereby affecting the shoppers' experience, the programme makes the customers part of the living history experiment. After all,tradespeople and customers alike would have suffered when there were shortages, for example.
    Post 4 boudicca might like to visit the Back to Backs in Birmingham mentioned in post 11; I have and it's a great experience. Well done to Simon and Tom for actually replying to comments. It Takes Two, please note! Full marks all round - and I've got Stockport's date in my diary. Final note - I really hope the bakers buck up, work together and stick to the rules in future!

  • Comment number 30.

    I went to the Stockport event today and enjoyed it. I've put some pictures of it here:
    Good Food Shops

  • Comment number 31.

    We went to the pop up shop in Stockport today as we have enjoyed watching this series as a family. We were interested in the 1930s as the shop my parents owned from 1972 - 1997 began in the 19030s. However, we were disappointed though as the shop was more of a museum, my children were expecting to be able to buy produce as in the series. I think you need to make it clear what is being offered at the events.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Mick - there is a book out on the series (Turn Back Time by Philip Wilkinson) - it has some fantastic photos of previous high street eras and is worth a look. Tom

  • Comment number 33.

    Enjoying the series and can help with prices for hand made to measure shoes from about 1934 onwards. These are in order books kept in the Westminster City library and also a huge leather bound ledger going up to 1952. There is no shoemaker or shop featured in the series, but they played their part keeping the nation on it's feet.

  • Comment number 34.

    I've watched all 3 episodes so far and have been enjoying them as pieces of social history. One thing I have noted is that the businesses have been rated based on how much money they have taken, with the grocer's doing particularly well. However as a business it is profit that is important, and the grocer's have had to buy in all the pre-packaged goods, whereas other businesses have had to put in a lot of graft but have turned raw materials into goods to sell. I think that should be recognised. But other than that, great stuff!

  • Comment number 35.

    As I was an apprentice grocer at The International Stores in Newent, Gloucestershire during the Thirties, I eagerly anticipated watching your programme, “Turn Back Time” to re-visit my own experience.



    I was very disappointed to see how many errors there were in your recreation of the Thirties Grocer’s shop and the statements made concerning the prosperity of those times. The Depression had not finished in the farming community around and there were still food coupons issued to the many unemployed.



    You gave the impression that everything in the Grocer’s was pre-packed. I can assure you that this was not the case: sugar, flour, dried fruit, soda and many more items had still to be weighed and packed.



    As regards the children buying sweets, this would not have occurred as few children had any pocket money. If sweets were bought, it would have been if the mother could afford a pennyworth after buying the groceries.



    I only wish the hours you quoted had been the case but my average working day was from 7.30 am to 6.00pm. On Friday we worked till 9.00pm and on Saturday until 11pm.

    All orders for the following day were packed after the shop closed.



    I am afraid that your programme was a prettily dressed piece of entertainment rather than an accurate historical reconstruction.

    James Thomas (aged 91)

  • Comment number 36.

    I am thrilled to be able to watch this series as I remember when shops used to be like the ones featured, mainly the butchers and grocers.
    I write to ask if the music used in the series will be available either as a CD to accompany the series or as a fact sheet. I love the music from the thirties, but equally from the other eras.
    Here's hoping for some great additional factual information!

  • Comment number 37.

    Can anyone tell me what is the name of the piece of music that is played over the end credits on episode 1?

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm a baker who applied to be on the programme and went through the auditioning process. It seems to be that they purposely chose a female baker to highlight the make dominance of the trade from Victorian to 2nd World War. In the real world, this baker doesn't operate a shop, so they probably don't appreciate the effort that goes into producing your own stock, day-in, day-out.
    Being a baker and running your own business is a demanding tiring job with a low income. No surprise to me. But I wouldn't swap it for anything. The satisfaction that you get from making high quality bread with integrity is enormous.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm from the Philippines but now live in the southern Netherlands mostly watch BBC programmes. I absolutely love this show for the entertainment and the education it provides. Of course, there will be questions here and there about the authenticity in relation to their own experience but still I find that this programme is commendable in trying to show how the high street trades contribute(d) to the sense of community. It is heartening that the residents of the village are seeing and experiencing something lost but was always there, which only took a little bit of time and some effort, as simple as saying hello to one another and chatting up. It must have been marvelous to have been one of the participating residents and be caught up once again in that community spirit.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi , great program , my father was a child during the second world war and he remembers the shops well. can anybody tell me where the seaside trip was during the 30s episode,cheers andy...

  • Comment number 41.

    I am really enjoying the series, and find it so interesting. My great grandparents had a grocers shop in Woolwich, South East London in the Victorian and early Edwardian era, my nan and grandad took over the family business in 1930s, then my parents took the grocer's shop on in 1950s. My family moved from London to Sussex in 1970s but still ran a grocers until the 1990s, so I grew up in a grocers shop! The show has given me an insight into just how hard my great grandparents and grandparents worked and the life they lived and I can't wait to see the shops of the 1960s and 1970s and see if it brings back memories! The series has made me feel quite proud to come from a family of shopkeepers, so thank you.

  • Comment number 42.

    In the 2nd WW episode, the butcher's came up with "macon" - how did they produce this? I know it was lamb, but what did they do and was it an authentic adaptation used in WWII?
    Love the series.

  • Comment number 43.

    It has been a great program, my eight year old daughter has loved it too!

    My dad's family ran a bakery in Swansea during and after the war. During the war they made a fortune by making doughnuts for the Americans stationed nearby (doughnuts made to the Americans recipe). When my dad was as old as my daughter, he had to help out in the bakery, getting the loaves out of the oven. He also tells a great story about cooking 40+ turkeys in there on at 7am Christmas day - people in the surrounding streets would bring along their turkey on Christmas Eve and pick it up the following day.

    My mum grew up in a grocers in the 50's and was only allowed to eat the fruit when it was a bit "bruised"!

  • Comment number 44.

    This is an excellent series--just what we have come to expect from the BBC. As an American, I can't even imagine this sort of program being produced by any American network in the careful and humane way it's been done here. So many "agendas" would be placed on such a program in the U.S. Thank you BBC for continuing your tradition of quality.

  • Comment number 45.

    Something I found interesting tonight--can you let me know who the 'average' teenagers were in the mid 60's that were earning £150pw (as stated in one of the milkbar scenes) as far as i remember in 1967 the top 'average' wage was under £80pw--when I joined the Army in 1967 my wage was £9.10s pw, if I'd found a job that paid £150pw I'd never have joined up. I think the researchers may like to recheck their info.

  • Comment number 46.

    60s_man - Many thanks for watching and I hope you enjoyed the programme. As mentioned in this episode, £150pw was a reflection of the value of the wage equivalent in 2010 and not the actual wage in the sixties. I agree - £150pw would have certainly been a massive wage for a teenager during that era!

  • Comment number 47.

    It was brilliant to have a close up look at the shop in sunderland over the weekend. Absolutely brilliant!

  • Comment number 48.

    The stated aim of the programme was to make people fall in love with their high street again, but if they cause all sorts of problems for the shopkeepers, so that they have bad bread, for example, then how does it accomplish this aim?

    The baker lady clearly devoted her time to something that she thought would be a lot of fun, but instead you tortured her over and over again.

    Enjoyable in many respects, but it could have been a lot more enjoyable without the reality show gimmicks.

  • Comment number 49.

    We've enjoyed this series immensely and I liked the comments by Tom St John Gray above. I'd be very interested to know how they sourced the goods on sale, many of which - as far as I know - have not been available, or not in those packages - for a long time. Did they have to be specially manufactured? Great attention to detail, certainly for those decades of which I have personal experience! Excellent!

  • Comment number 50.

    Peeyar - brilliant to hear that you enjoyed the series (and the trip down memory lane during the later episodes!). The designs for the goods sold in the shops were sourced directly from the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London. Our graphics department worked with the museum to bring together hundreds of original designs across all the eras which we then reproduced. Robert Opie (the collector behind the museum and author of many books about British nostalgia / consumer history) has an excellent series of era scrapbooks which might be of interest.

  • Comment number 51.

    Just finished watching the last in the series on iPlayer and it made generally enjoyable viewing, especially knowing Shepton quite well. We wondered why though that more local shopkeepers weren't sought out for these roles - there was obviously going to be no continuity whatsoever after the series finished, yet with more local business-people, there may have been a fighting chance - what was the reasoning behind that? We loved the various different personalities and the relationships between them, within the families and also between the various businesses - thought Josh Sandhers was particularly delightful! We thought the BBC hit a bit of a low point though in the last episode when the Sandhers family were filmed talking about the upsetting racism problems Mr Sandhers had been through when he was a younger man and we thought this was in poor taste to film this and the family's reactions, without respecting their privacy - shame the producers didn't feel the same. All in all though an entertaining and enjoyable series and I'm gutted I didn't manage to get to Shepton to see the shops in action back in August! Just one last question though - totally confused about the "Chamber of Commerce" - how did that work because EVERY TIME you saw them in EVERY episode they were wearing exactly the same clothes, especially noticable that the woman had that yellow cardigan on every single time you saw her!!!

  • Comment number 52.

    A fantastic programme. Loved it. One of the best things on the BBC this year.

  • Comment number 53.

    Really good series. It brought out how difficult it is these days for independent retailers, because of the large mutiples pushing the independents out. We have a flower shop in WITNEY (David Cameron's Constituency). In the past year 14 multiple retail shops have opened in our town, a lot for the size of the town. This has changed the character of the town and sadly is fast becoming a clone town. The young butcher had a very valid comment - that without customers there would not be any traders. Customers interacting with shopkeepers is important. You do not get this in a supermarket or other muliple. The public are unaware of this until it will be too late. Thank You again for the series.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Tom
    My great grandfather was a grocer in Bolton and, later, Burnley in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. I'd be fascinated to see your shopkeeper's manuals and price lists for grocers in these eras. Are they by any chance available on line?
    Many thanks
    Gordon

  • Comment number 55.

    Dear Gordon,
    Many thanks for the message. One of the best sources of information on the life of a grocer in the Victorian and Edwardian eras is a book called Law's Grocer's Manual - it is very detailed with long descriptions of types of stock plus some pricing information.
    Best wishes
    Tom

 

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