TV Cream

TV: H is for...

How We Used To Live

NEVER THOUGHT it ran this long, did you? A Yorkshire schools’ morning stalwart, this historical programme was initially a fairly strightforward lecturey affair, presented in the first instance by JESS YATES of all folk. In ’69 the familiar, semi-dramatised tales of ordinary folk format, with a splash of compare-and-contrast class consciousness thrown in (beginning with a “look back into the past comparing the life of a chimney sweep boy with that of a little girl in one of the comfortable houses in which he works”), was in place, doled out in weekly portions to inattentive primary school classes the land over. The Victorian era was heavily mined at first, then in ’76 came a wartime family saga. In 1978 the scene shifted to the time of the General Strike. By ’79 it was back to the Victoriana, with a clearly delineated 1874-1887 period. 1984 brought the well-remembered 1902-1926 series detailing the antics of the rich mill-owners the Holroyds and the poor Selbys. Each episode contained a section based around newsreel footage when the plot flagged. Wistful oom-pah-pah-pah wandering theme etched indeliby into the ear drums of a generation.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    June 20, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    In the days when morning television was educational. We used to watch this at school in the late 70s, quite a good effort on a schools programmes budget.

  2. Mark Jones

    September 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    We also watched this – the 1902-1926 series – at primary school.

    I’m sure I’ve also seen an episode from a later series set in about 1970/1. Two young characters celebrated their 21st birthdays together at a joint (and very groovy) party – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is played in the background as the pair discuss how they’re both going to vote in the forthcoming General Election.

    Strange that a history programme that began in 1969 should end up covering the very period in which it had first been created to, er, portray the past.

  3. Rob Johnson

    September 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Isn’t this the one with a very young Joanne Whalley in it. Made it very watchable for a pubescent teenager like myself.

  4. Mick

    September 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    A great show, though some episodes came across a bit too Labour Party broadcast for my tastes. Even the stand-offish, plummy Tory woman voted Labour at one point.

    I think the 1880s-1970 were more-or-less its finest hours. Seemed to lose it a bit after that. Anyone after the real deal, smudgy VHS direct from the makers can now go to Ebay for regular cut-price collections. Kind-of defeats the point to have it on DVD.

  5. Joanne Gray

    February 16, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    I remember watching the one covering the mid 30s to early 50s as my grandparents had survived this era with war, destruction and rationing and towards the end had produced my parents. I found it very interesting to have an insight into what family life would have been like for them – and I felt encouraged to ask them questions about what they personally did, based on what had happened in each episode.

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