Those Places Thursday - Down on the Edwardian Farm

Today I'm writing about the recent BBC series, 'Edwardian Farm', which was set in the beautiful Tamar Valley, on the borders of Devon and Cornwall. In case you didn't see it, the program was about two archaeologists and a domestic historian, who took up residence for a calendar year at Morwellham Quay, living, working and dressing as they would have done in the Edwardian period at the beginning of the 20th century.
Morwellham Quay holds memories for me, having visited there, along with nearby Cotehele House, on a school trip some time during the 1970's. In those days it was very much a history trip whereas when we visited again about 15 years ago, it had turned into a tourist attraction, nevertheless it was still very interesting. I remember seeing the water wheel, the museum and travelling into the copper mine on a small train. Our young son and nephew each had their photos taken whilst sitting on a barrel, dressed as Victorians.

The program brought Morwellham to life and, not only did it rekindle my own personal memories, but it gave a fascinating insight into how my ancestors might have lived.
  • The shoemaker in the program talked about how the industry became increasingly mechanised and perhaps explains why my Somerset-based great-grandfather Weaver didn't take up the profession of his forebears.
  • My great-grandfather (great-grancher) Geake was born in Peter Tavy (about 8 miles from Morwellham), his father having been a Devon farm labourer. Great-grancher also lived in Cornwood (about 17 miles from Morwellham) and became a gardener on the Delamore Estate. I wonder if he practised market gardening in a similar fashion to that depicted in the program. Around the time of the First World War, James Geake moved his wife and young family to South Wales where he became a coal miner. Again, the program's depiction of the Cornish tin mining industry may have been similar to the conditions great-grancher would have endured. Latterly, he came back to Devon and took up gardening once again in Tavistock (4 miles form Morwellham).
  • My husband's family, who were located in Paul and Newlyn, were Cornish fishermen and once more, the program showed an old sailing trawler, which was powered well, by sail of course. I imagine this would have been the type of vessel that many generations of his family would have put to sea in.
  • The 'Edwardian Farm' also showed a blacksmith at work, a profession undertaken by my 2 x great-grandfather Ridley, although my ancestor was based in Birmingham and possibly further north at one time.
  • The accents of the local folk on the program also brought back wonderful memories of my gran who was born and bred in Tavistock, a good, honest accent which I miss, even though I live in Plymouth, a mere 15 miles from there.
Calstock Viaduct
The Calstock Viaduct, a short distance down river from Morwellham Quay

The one thing in the 'Edwardian Farm', which I found slightly distracting, was their pronunciation of Morwellham. I heard some of the locals in the program pronounce it correctly but the presenters and narrator kept getting it wrong. For those of you who are interested, the 'ham' part should be accentuated and the 'well' part should be the shortest syllable, ie. moor-w'll-ham, and not moor-well-'m.

That aside, it doesn't take away from what was a super and insightful trip back in time. I expect the program will be repeated at some stage so, if you missed it, I thoroughly recommend watching the 'Edwardian Farm' if it comes on again.

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[Why Those Places Thursday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

Category: Ancestors Corner

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A few years ago we had a similar style TV program here in the USA called "Colonial House". It was about the Puritan settlers of the early 1600s building a colony in New England. The set was in Maine, not far from me, and some of my neighbors were hired to portray the settlers. I was a bit miffed at the time since I had ancestors on board the original Mayflower, but after hearing from the participants how difficult life was in the settlement I quickly changed my mind. I enjoyed reading your story about the Edwardian Farm very much, and I can see many similarities with my own family ancestry (both here and in England) and your post in both TV programs. The thatched roof houses the "settlers" built were removed to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, so when I read that you were from the original Plymouth I just had to laugh aloud!
Love this post and will look for the program. There is actually a whole series of these shows. I've found them all on DVD through Netflix. Some are filmed in the UK and some in the USA. I recommend them all for historical perspective and just plain good entertainment.

Colonial House (USA)
Regency House Party (UK)
Texas Ranch House (USA)
Frontier House (USA, near me)
1900 House (UK)
Manor House (UK)
1940's House (UK)
This will be such a fun program to watch if I can find it. Thanks for alerting us to it.
There's a Region 2 DVD (Europe) about to be released on 14th February - - it's cheaper at Amazon so it's worth shopping around.

I imagine if anyone has a Multi-region DVD player, it'll play. I don't know if the series will eventually become available for US viewers.

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