A House Through Time

Confirmed for BBC Two on 4 January at 9pm to 10pm

Ep 1/4

Thursday 4 January



Through the prism of one single terraced house in Liverpool, this series tells a story of Britain from the 1840s to the present day - a period of seismic social change.

Searching through city archives, scouring records, and tracking down their living descendants, presenter David Olusoga tells the untold stories of the people who once lived in the house and gains a unique insight into the making of modern Britain.

In the first episode of this series David (pictured) follows the stories of the first inhabitants of the house, those who lived there in the 1840s and 1850s.

In a remarkable piece of historical detective work David discovers how the house came to be built as a merchant’s residence by a canny property developer at a time when Liverpool was one of the great trading ports of the British Empire.

He then uncovers the story of the very first tenant, a customs clerk with a taste for fine furniture and the high life, and explores what happened to his lavish lifestyle when the money dried up.

The second residents, the newly-wed James Orr and his wife Ann, are a seemingly ordinary middle-class couple. But they prove to be anything but, and David discovers that James and Ann spent their early lives as servants, ascending Liverpool society through hard work and a series of canny financial decisions that brought them enormous wealth.

David then discovers a darker tale when he searches for evidence of the cotton broker Wilfred Steele. Wilfred’s story leads David in extraordinary directions. He discovers a portrait of Wilfred hanging in the Walker Art Gallery; but then the evidence leads him to debtors’ prison and eventually to America, where David discovers that Wilfred’s attempts to escape his past have had tragic consequences for his family back home.