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24 September 2014
Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday October 9, 2006
Shirley Wilson
Shirley Wilson

Meet a family of 15

Shirley Wilson has 13 children.

So why is she having fertility treatment?

Shirley Wilson loves being a mum so much she is desperate for more.

In fact she would like at least two more babies and says her need is as strong as if she were trying for her first.

"I want another baby 100%, I am just not ready to give up yet," Shirley told BBC Inside Out reporter Jo Healey.

Shirley and her husband Mark live life in the fast lane with 13 children to look after.

They range in ages from 18 months to 20-years-old, and all of them still live at home.

"Yes it's hard work, everything is times 13", said Mark.

"But I would do it all over again. I wouldn't miss having 13 children for the world. It's great."

"I love the chaos; I love the running about, sorting them out. I just love it.

"It is so rewarding and I'm not ready to stop yet," adds Shirley.

Family group at wedding
Family group at wedding vows renewal ceremony

Loads of work

Inside Out filmed the Wilson family over many months in Lincoln and the results provide a fascinating insight into BIG family life.

Up to 50 loads of washing get done a week.

They get through one washing machine, one dishwasher and one three piece suite a year through wear and tear ... and the weekly food bill tops £400.

But they loathe the "big family stigma".

Dad, Mark Wilson earns £30,000 a year as an electrician and supports his family. Our children, our responsibility, they insist.

Pregnancy quest

Inside Out followed Shirley's desperate quest to get pregnant again.

Surprisingly it doesn't come naturally for her. She had to take a fertility drug to ovulate every time.

After 13 babies and 12 miscarriages the couple were prepared to pay for IVF for baby number 14.

But Shirley is 45 and her age and the waiting lists were stacked against her.

Mark and Shirley renewed their wedding vows in a big celebration filmed exclusively by the BBC Inside Out team.

But they told us the best silver wedding present they could hope for would be another baby.

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No place like gnome

Gnomes gallery
Ray Gosling and gnome
Ray Gosling and gnome

Ray Gosling takes us on a magical mystery tour of gnomes and private sculpture.

Behind garden hedges across the East Midlands he uncovered a secret world of eccentric art, from dragons to window cleaners via gnomes of all shapes, sizes and ages.

Along the way Ray uncovered the world's oldest garden gnome at Lamport hall near Market Harborough in Leicestershire.

And he even managed to meet a living gnome, Ron Broomfield who lives in the appropriately named, "Gnome cottage" in Lincolnshire.

But despite his appearance Ron sorrowfully informed Ray he doesn't really qualify as a real gnome yet - at least not until his 75th birthday.

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Upstairs, downstairs - Chatsworth

Chatsworth
Chatsworth - the 'Palace of the Peak'

Chatsworth is one of England's grandest private homes with an imposing house and beautiful landscaped gardens.

The 105 acre gardens are the work of Capability Brown, the 18th Century's famous landscape architect.

Nicknamed the ‘Palace of the Peak’, the house was built at the end of the 17th Century by the First Duke of Devonshire.

Chatsworth House in Derbyshire attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year. However, few of them realise just how much work goes into keeping the house and gardens in pristine condition.

Loyal staff

Almost 600 people work at the Palace of the Peak.

Moreover, many of them are following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. So what inspires such loyalty?

Inside Out got a glimpse of life below stairs through the eyes of retiring comptroller, John Oliver.

He has worked at Chatsworth for 45 years and he is the third generation of his family to earn a living on the estate

"Comptroller" means holder of the Duke's purse and with the estate costing £4m a year to run that is quite a responsibility.

The size of the house is breathtaking - there are 175 rooms and 3,500 feet of decorated passageways.

The house boasts one of Europe’s best private art collections as well as many sumptuously decorated rooms including the State Apartments with their painted ceilings, the 19th Century Library, Great Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery.

Comptroller to retire

John has been on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for most of his working life but says retirement will be a wrench.

"I have loved working here - I love the house, the family and the people who work here.

"I know it's not my house but somehow feels as if I'm part of it and it is part of me."

The Duke of Devonshire told us the family does not know how they will cope without John.

He said: "He knows so much about the detail of the place. John has always gone out of his way to help - everything also has been done here the Oliver way."

"When he has left - it will be different. We will all miss him terribly but we will move on but I know John will be cheering from the sidelines."

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