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24 September 2014
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House Detectives at Large

BBC TWO, transmission in March

Returning to BBC TWO, a new House Detectives team is on the beat.

For this new series, architectural historian Dan Cruickshank is joined by two new detectives: archaeologist Carenza Lewis and conservationist and forensic scientist Anna Bennett.Their brief is to investigate the secret history of four major buildings - Wigmore Abbey in Herefordshire; Harewood House in North Yorkshire; Ditherington Flax Mill in Shropshire and the home of Clive of India in Calcutta.

Using their professional expertise, the House Detectives At Large unravel and scrutinise the mysteries hidden in each building. The link between Britain’s great 18th century houses and the Atlantic slave trade is unearthed in the attics of Harewood House; 14th century monastic intrigue and a royal murder is investigated at Wigmore Abbey; The detectives campaign to save Clive’s decaying villa in Calcutta before it disappears for ever; and they set out to prove that Ditherington Flax Mill is the grandfather of the skyscraper.

Meticulous and dedicated, the House Detectives At Large leave no stone unturned.

House Detectives At Large is a BBC production for BBC TWO.

Harewood House

In the first programme in the series, House Detectives At Large uncovers the secrets of Harewood House in Yorkshire, one of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes. In 1738 Edwin Lascelles inherited the equivalent of £30 million from his ambitious father Henry, a sugar trader in the Carribbean. Edwin built Harewood House to reflect his new wealth and social standing, bringing together some of the greatest talents of the age: John Carr, Capability Brown, Thomas Chippendale and Robert Adams.

Beyond the guidebook splendour there is still much to learn about the house’s history. Using their specialist knowledge, the House Detectives start to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this fantastic palace. Carenza Lewis explores the grounds in search of the Temple of Venus, with only architects’ drawings to go on. Anna Bennett investigates Harewood’s interiors, including paintings by Turner, and turns up a possible Chippendale chair discarded in the attic, which could be worth £200,000. And Dan Cruickshank journeys to the Caribbean to investigate the Barbados connection.

Along the way they make some exciting discoveries: a key to the gardens of Buckingham Palace and artefacts that shed light on the whereabouts of the missing temple. In Barbardos, Dan searches for the exact site of the Lascelles’ sugar factories and meets a descendant of a Harewood plantation worker. With the help of the House Detectives At Large, Lord and Lady Harewood can start to unlock the secrets of Harewood House.

Wigmore Abbey, Herefordshire

Wigmore Abbey in the heart of Herefordshire is the setting for this second investigation by the House Detectives At Large. In the 14th century it was owned by Roger Mortimer, the man behind the brutal murder of King Edward II with a red hot poker. It’s now home to actor John Challis, better known as Boycie in Only Fools and Horses. According to local legend, the remains of the treacherous Roger, who was having an affair with the queen, are buried in John’s garden, a legend John hopes the team will verify.

John lives in the Abbot’s lodging, the only building to survive the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. As Dan Cruickshank and Carenza Lewis hunt for clues to Roger Mortimer’s final resting place, Anna Bennett is restoring the Abbot’s parlour to its medieval glory. Taking a sample from the plaster she finds an authentic historic colour scheme and sets out to replicate it using natural earth pigments. But Anna must still do something about a vulgar 1970s style fireplace and discover if a "medieval" chair is the real thing.

With permission from English Heritage, Carenza Lewis starts to dig at the east end of the old Abbey - the place where Roger Mortimer is most likely buried. It all looks very promising when she uncovers a medieval tiled floor. Will the detectives solve the mystery of Wigmore Abbey and will it be the answer John Challis is hoping for?

Clive’s House

House Detectives At Large travels to India to the home of Robert Clive, the founder of the British Empire in India. Situated in the suburb of Dum Dum, just four miles from the centre of Calcutta, Clive’s house once had all the charm and elegance of the neo-classical villas of 18th century English shires. Now it has been reduced to a ruin, structurally dangerous and seemingly beyond repair. Dan Cruickshank, Carenza Lewis and Anna Bennett must gather enough information to prove that it is a major historical site and save the building before it is too late.

As the detectives explore further, it emerges that Clive pioneered a design fusing classical and Indian architecture. He combined his own love of English classicism with the long receptions rooms he admired at the houses of wealthy Indian merchants and princes. And he put in deep verandas to provide shade from the unforgiving sun. The villa was lavisly decorated to show off his wealth and power, while an army of 174 servants catered to Clive’s every whim. He was carried through the streets by a team of bearers on a palanquin, which still survives at Powis Castle in Wales.

The House Detectives are granted an audience with the Bengali authorities as they struggle to find evidence that Clive’s house must be saved. Carenza eventually unearths some exciting new information among the East India company records at the British Library, and Dan and Anna track down important new clues at Clive’s house. Have the House Detectives uncovered enough to save Clive of India’s house?

Ditherington Flax Mill

In the last programme in the series, the House Detectives At Large journey to Shropshire to uncover the little known origins of the skyscraper at Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury. Many textile mills have survived from the industrial revolution, and Ditherington is not be the oldest, biggest or most spectacular. But the House Detectives’ task is to try to prove that this building in the suburbs of Shrewsbury is a site of major international importance - the birthplace of the modern skyscraper.

Ditherington was built in 1796, part of the empire being created by Leeds-based industrialist John Marshall and designed by his business partner Charles Bage. It took over a year to build and was a first in structural engineering: it was the first iron-framed building in the world. Dan Cruickshank, Carenza Lewis and Anna Bennett want to discover more about the elusive Bage and the importance of his pioneering architecture. The House Detectives also hope Ditherington will shed light on the men, women and children who have slipped through history - the ordinary workers who laboured at the mill all their lives.

To complete their journey, the detectives must travel 4,000 miles across the Atlantic to Chicago, the city heralded as the birthplace of the skyscraper. A fire in 1871 destroyed much of the heart of the city and offered architects a unique opportunity to re-create their city. The on-going demolition of the old Chicago Tribune newspaper building allows the House Detectives to explore the structure of an early skyscraper. Will their investigations prove that Bage has left a lasting legacy on international architecture?

The Detectives

Dan Cruickshank

Dan Cruickshank is one of the country’s leading architectural and historic building experts. He has written and presented a number of television programmes for the BBC, The Victorian Way of Death, Sex in the Eighteenth Century, One Foot in the Past and most recently Invasion.

He is an active member of the Georgian Group and the Architectural Panel of the National Trust and is a director of the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, a charity that acquires and repairs Georgian domestic architecture in London.

Dan is also a frequent contributor to The Architects’ Journal and The Architectural Review and is the author of Life in The Georgian City, and The Guide To The Georgian Buildings Of Britain And Ireland. Dan has also written a book to accompany the BBC series Invasion.

Carenza Lewis

Archaeologist Carenza Lewis will be a familiar face to viewers of Channel 4’s Time Team. In 1985 she joined the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, now part of English Heritage, as a field archaeologist for Wessex. She was seconded to the History Department of Birmingham University for two-and-a-half years, and she is now based at the University of Cambridge.

She is author of a number of archaeological works including Time Team’s Timechester, A Companion to Archaeology, with Phil Harding and Mick Aston.

Anna Bennett

Anna Bennett has undertaken a wide variety of conservation projects including the restoration of Uppark, an 18th century National Trust house, badly damaged by fire. She has worked as a practising conservator for English Heritage, the John Paul Getty Museum in Malibu and the National Museum, Copenhagen, and as a site conservator on excavations around the world including Greece, Thailand and Vietnam.

She has had a number of articles published in World Archaeology, Arts of Asia and Apollo magazine. She is the co-author of a monograph on Roman Silver.



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