Life in a wealthy Victorian family
The three episodes in this programme are about a girl - Emily Anne Barr - who lives in a well-off family with servants and a governess. If you were a child in Victorian times much depended on whether you came from a poor family or a rich one. If you came from a poor family you might expect to be sent out to work as young as 6 years old. Before 1870 you would probably have little or no schooling. And you could look forward to a tough life trying to make enough money to live.
1. Emily’s life
As we meet Emily she is just finished off her ‘sampler’ - an elaborate piece of needlework. Her brother Bertie has just returned to boarding school and so Emily is now alone in the house, spending her time in the school room with her governess - Miss Stevens. In the evening Emily is allowed downstairs to show her parents her sampler and to say good-night. It’s a rather stern and formal occasion. Upstairs again, Emily says her prayers before bed. She appreciates that she is fortunate to have a comfortable life...but she also feels very restricted in the things she is allowed to do.
2. Emily and the beetle
Emily is in the school room with Miss Stevens playing her scales on the piano. Later she takes out a little beetle that she and Bertie caught in the garden on the day that Bertie went back to school - Emily has promised to look after it for him until he returns. When Miss Stevens sees the beetle she is horrified and demands that Emily returns it to the garden at once. Emily refuses - saying that she has made a promise to Bertie to look after it. Miss Stevens tells her that if she will not obey she will have to account to her father for her disobedience that evening.
Evening comes and Emily is summoned to see her father. Her parents are very disappointed with her behaviour. Emily must apologise to Miss Stevens when she goes to bed. Emily suddenly sees Miss Stevens in a different light, as a rather sorry and lonely figure, without a family of her own.
3. Emily at the seaside
In the final episode Emily is granted a rare treat: a visit to the seaside, albeit in the company of her mother and Miss Stevens. They make the journey by train, the new railway network having made such day trips now possible.
At the seaside Emily discovers there is a new list of the things she mustn’t do: no sunbathing, no Punch and Judy, no taking her hat off. Finally Emily is allowed to take off her boots and run down to the sea to paddle...and try to enjoy herself like other children.