The Victorian Slum

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The 1870s

Series 1 - Episode 2 The 1870s



"I don't think I quite understood 'poor' until my experience of the last few days," groans Heather, one of our 21st-century guinea pigs sampling the dark side of the 19th-century East End.

The series’ well-worked experiment has just enough conviction to provide a picture of how precarious Victorian lives were without having to give the children rickets or send a struggling single mum to walk the streets.

Telling details here include our tailoring family moving slightly up in the world to hire a sewing machine (we’ve shuffled on to the 1870s). Single mum Shaz hits rock bottom as she is forced to pawn possessions and struggles to pay her “tick” at the shop as well as her rent. Meanwhile, we learn about the recycled fabric known as shoddy and the global financial crisis… of the 1870s.


The volunteers experience the living and working conditions of the 1870s, which was blighted by a dire economic depression. The Potters can no longer rely on breadwinner Graham as he struggles to find work so they join forces with single parent Shazeda to try to survive by making artificial flowers, while there are new arrivals from Ireland in the form of siblings John and Maria Barker, who are horrified by the conditions that would have greeted Irish migrants to Victorian London.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Mosley
Executive Producer Cate Hall
Producer Leah Caffrey
Series Director Emma Frank
Series Producer Mark Ball