Series: BBC Historical Farm Series

A loose series/collection of historical docudramas about everyday life, farming and industry in the English countryside throughout the ages, produced since 2005 by the BBC, in association with Lion Television. The series currently consists of seven one-season TV shows, each mapping one specific historical period in British history.

All seven shows to date were created and produced by David Upshal (of Lion Television) and broadcast on BBC Two and occassionally BBC HD. The shows have a steady main cast in the form of a trio of professional English historians, ethnographers and archaeologists : Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands (later replaced by Tom Pinfold). In each show, these experts act as both presenters and protagonists.

Shows in this series so far :

  • Tales from the Green Valley (2005) - Set in the 1620s, at a long-abandoned and desolated Welsh grange originally built in the early 17th century. This first show focused on the restoration of the centuries old cottage and its surroundings and the cast's struggle to simulate a whole calendar year of farming and handicraft work with nothing but 17th century level technology. It established most of the elements seen in its later sequels, including the active participation of the cast in restoring run-down historical farming buildings before jumping into the action of recreating a farmer's everyday life in a given historical period. Besides Peter, Alex and Ruth, the main cast also included historian Stuart Peachey and archaeologist Chloe Spencer. Shot at the Grayhill Farm, part of the Bullace Hill living history grange near Llanvair Discoed, in Monmouthshire.
  • Victorian Farm (2009) - After a hiatus of a few years, the concept was revived in 2009 as this eponymous series, set in the late Victorian era (1880s and 1890s). Shot at the Acton Scott Estate in Shropshire, the team relives history once again, though this time in a more modern and more relatable setting. Received a Christmas Special spinoff due to high demand.
  • Victorian Pharmacy (2010) - Spin-Off of Victorian Farm. Since the show covers a different field than their usual expertise, Ginn and Langlands don't appear and Goodman co-hosts the programme with experts on period pharmacy, professor Nick Barber and his colleague Tom Quick. The show will generally leave you glad for having today's pharmacies, since the first public ones in the 19th century were a mixed bag - offering reasonable cures and therapies at best and completely barmy or unscientific ones at worst. Shot at at the Blists Hill Victorian Town living history museum in Shropshire.
  • Edwardian Farm (2010) - Shot mostly in Devon at the Morwellham Quay Heritage Park and the surrounding Tamar river valley. Set in the The Edwardian Era and largely similar to Victorian Farm, but generally shows a lot more than just the agricultural bit of the 19th century British countryside. The show has not only at least twice as many episodes in total, but also broadens the scope to topics like the importance of industry, transport, trade and tourism to the English countryside during the late 19th and early 20th century. Naturally, a lot of vanished local industries and crafts are revived by the cast.
  • Wartime Farm (2012) - The spectre of World War II is knocking at the door and British farmers have to come to grips with the realities of rationing, reclaiming uncultivated land, the threat of foreign occupation, the dearth of old style farming and vast political and social changes to the agricultural sector of the UK. Shot at Manor Farm and Country Park in Hampshire, not too far from Southampton. Received a Christmas Special in December 2012.
  • Tudor Monastery Farm (2013) - Moving back in time for the first time since the series began, the cast enter the early 16th century, simulating life at a monastery-serving farm during the reign of Henry VII., just before the beginning of the English monarchy's break with Rome. This time, Goodman and Ginn are joined by archaeologist Tom Pinfold and together, they explore the life of tenant farmers on monastic lands. Shot at Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex. The Christmas Special aired on New Years' Eve 2013 and focused on Tudor era rural festivities during the Christmastide period (especially the Twelve Days of Christmas).
  • Secrets of the Castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom (2014) - The team turns the clock back all the way to the High Middle Ages and takes part in the construction and the day-to-day routines of running and supplying a medieval castle. Shot in France, at the site of the famous Guédelon Castle project, the first and only medieval castle to be constructed from scratch in contemporary times, by using only period-appropriate methods and technology.

Most of the cast also appeared in the documentary special A Tudor Feast at Christmas, which, while only loosely linked to this series, followed a similar format and was aired in 2006, between Tales from the Green Valley and Victorian Farm.

If you are familiar with these shows, you can help improve this page, since it still Needs Wiki Magic Love.


Tropes seen in the shows of this series :

  • Anachronism Stew / Hollywood History : Averted, thankfully. Though each show has to represent a somewhat general, broad picture of the era it covers, the cast and crew usualy do their best to point out when exactly did an actual agricultural or industrial practice or certain piece of technology come into wider use. They also try to tie in the crafts, industries, handiwork and recipes shown with the specific region of England they're filming the show in. (So, the shows generally try their best at stressing the importance of regional geography and history in the perspective they offer.)
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Whether their clothing is downright awesome or just nice but plain, the three presenters do wear some really snazzy civilian outfits from each era.
  • Background Music: All instrumental and period-appropriate. Local 17th century folk music in Tales from the Green Valley, a mostly orchestral score in the 19th and early 20th century shows, a mix of orchestral and jazz music in Wartime Farm, 16th century folk music and religious music in Tudor Monastery Farm, French medieval lay music and orchestral music in Secrets of the Castle.... David Poore composed the music for Tales from the Green Valley and most of the music from later shows was created by Matthew Winch and Andy Hamilton.
  • Beneath the Earth: In one or two episodes of Edwardian Farm Peter and Alex venture with the guidance of a mining industry historian into some of the disused Devonshire tin and copper mines. They even try out a late 19th century hand-held motorized drill (one of the first of its kind), powered with compressed gas. Wartime Farm revisits the topic of mining, though this time around, it's the strategically crucial coal mining of the WWII era.
  • Big Fancy Castle: Guédelon Castle Well, it's getting there... The focus of the project is to build well and build authentically, so it will still take a few years or a whole decade until it will be mostly finished. Currently, it's "the biggest piece of experimental archaeology in the world".
  • British Brevity: Zig-zagged. Though each show has only one season (being documentaries) and usualy no more than 5-6 episodes in total, Edwardian Farm and Tales... each have 12 episodes in total. Wartime Farm had 8 episodes. If you count the 3 episode Christmas Special of Victorian Farm as a direct part of that show, then Victorian Farm is the third longest show, with a total of 9 episodes. Victorian Pharmacy only had 4 episodes, due to being always intended as a shorter spinoff.
  • Christmas Special: Hey, after all, it's a British series ! The three-episode miniseries Victorian Farm : Christmas was a holiday-themed spinoff of the usual iteration of that show. Besides showcasing Victorian era preparation of decorations, presents and Christmas recipes, the cast also work on several more mundane tasks as well. One of them - the careful restoration of a historical blacksmith workshop - is cleverly tied in with the plotline about the preparation of presents (with the help of Alex and the blacksmithing instructor guest, Peter uses the restored worskshop to create a hand-made doorknocker as a present for the owner of the estate where the series was shot). In December 2012, Wartime Farm became the second show in the series to receive a Christmas special (though Alex was, for once, absent in that one). 2013's Tudor Monastery Farm also gained one, which unlike the Tudor Christmas special from a few years prior concentrated on the Christmases of the commoners instead of the nobility and royalty.
  • The City vs. the Country: Brought up several times in Wartime Farm, since British countrymen and Blitz Evacuees had to learn to live and work alongside each other during Britain's war years. As the presenters mention, the positive side effect of the initial tension was the gradual erosion of the bigger differences between British social classes of the era. World War I and the post-war years kickstarted the process and the conditions necessitated by The Blitz during World War II only added to its growth.
  • Cool Boat: A preserved sail-powered fishing trawler and a holiday river steamboat in Edwardian Farm.
  • Cool Car: They come into play in Edwardian Farm, with the advent of motorism. A particularly lovely-looking one is an early bus, which the cast take for a holiday at the seaside. And then there's this stunning blue convertible... Wartime Farm also features a small 1930s ambulance converted to run on gas produced by coal fumes. Modifications like this were made due to the wartime shortages of petrol for civilian users.
  • Cool Horse: The shire horses used in several of the series.
  • Cool Plane: The Blériot monoplane displayed at a local fair in the final episode of Edwardian Farm.
  • Cool Train: Appear only sparringly, but there are a few lovely period locomotives and cars to be seen in a few episodes of Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm and Wartime Farm.
  • Darker and Edgier: To small extents, Wartime Farm, given the era and subject matter it deals with... The most serious and darkest it gets is when the trio of presenters cover the participation of English farmers and other countryside folk in the UK's extensive civil defence and secret anti-spy network. Peter and Alex take part in civil defence militia training in the woods during night time and Ruth becomes a secret radio station operator. In one of the later episodes, Ruth even helps out the Royal Observers Corps with spotting and reporting friendly and enemy aircraft at night, while Alex and Peter take part in Operation Starfish, lighting decoy fires and lights for enemy bombers.
  • Down on the Farm: Well, duh. (A British example though.)
  • During the War: Wartime Farm's subject matter, complete with a documentation of The Home Front and Blitz Evacuees (some even enter the narrative of the show, played by extras).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Not that pervasive, but due to it being the first show and because of both the historical and production-related Time Skip between it and the later shows, Tales from the Green Valley's presentation and tone have shades of this at times. The presence of two more experts in the main cast, the greater focus on experimental archeology, and furnishings and everyday chores less familiar to a modern TV viewer (unlike in Victorian Farm or Edwardian Farm, there are no real "old household tips" that the viewers could appreciate in everyday use).
  • Edutainment Show: A pretty well balanced combination of a lighthearted, entertaining reality TV narrative with a factual live-action documentary populated by professional historians.
  • Genre-Busting: Part live-action historical crafts recreation documentary, part edutainment reality show starring and featuring actual experts on a specific historical period and the lifestyle of each era.
  • Hard Work Montage: Appears in a more documentary-style form whenever the members of the main cast (or the main cast and their guests) are working on a new project.
  • Home Counties: The setting of Tudor Monastery Farm (shot in West Sussex) and Wartime Farm (shot in Hampshire), including each show's Christmas specials.
  • MacGyvering: True to Real Life history, there was a lot of it going on in the WWII era UK due to wartime shortages, as detailed in Wartime Farm. The trope also occassionally crops up in the other period shows as well.
  • Long Title: Secrets of the Castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom.
  • The Midlands: The setting of Victorian Farm, Victorian Farm : Christmas and Victorian Pharmacy (all three were shot in Shropshire).
  • Odd Name Out: For years, Tales from the Green Valley was the only show that didn't follow the pattern of "[NAME OF ERA] Farm". Subverted in 2013 with "Tudor Monastery Farm". The trope made a full comeback in the 2014 show, Secrets of the Castle....
  • Once an Episode:
    • The opening montage of each episode, complete with Opening Narration. "Turning back the clock" seems to be something of a recurring phrase in these intros.
    • Then there's the "Once A Show" formula: When the cast arrives in the first episode of each show, their first task is to restore or renovate the historical buildings they'll be living and working in. And at the end of every final episode, they gradually pay farewell to the estate, tidy up and then walk away...
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: In Tales from the Green Valley, Peter's name is mentioned in the first episode. Otherwise, he's only referred to as "Fonz" (or "Fonzy"), even by the narrator.
  • Opening Narration: Via an opening exposition-filled montage in every episode of each show. Some examples: Edwardian Farm, Tales from the Green Valley, Victorian Pharmacy.
  • Power Trio: Hard to pinpoint a specific type, but comes closest to the Big, Thin, Short Trio variety.
    • Big: Peter (though by no means fat)
    • Thin: Alex, later Tom (thinnest and tallest of the group)
    • Short: Ruth (also The Heart of the team)
  • Power Walk: Ruth, Peter and Alex do a rather period one at the end of the opening montage of Edwardian Farm. They also do a more slower and less brisker one at the end of every episode of Wartime Farm. Subverted in the Christmas special of that show, where Peter and Ruth do a new variation on it in a very different (but plot-related) location. A variation in Tudor Monastery Farm is more of a calm little stroll, with baskets in hand.
  • Recurring Character: Each episode of each show has guest historians visiting the main team to elaborate on a particular historical craft, trade or production method. Some of these visitors are recurring and appear in several episodes of a single show.
  • Retro Universe: As a ploy to enhance the authentic look and feel of each show, no modern day devices or objects ever appear in any of the shots. If it wasn't for the consistently Out Of Character edutainment commentary of the three hosts, you could mistake any episode of the shows for a TV period drama. No chance of an Out-of-Genre Experience in these shows, outside the scientific commentary of the main cast.
  • Scenery Porn: Each and every show is shot in very pictoresque and well preserved rural parts of England. So far, the shows were shot in the west, southwest and southern parts of England and some great panoramas could be witnessed in each show. Tales from the Green Valley was set and shot in the Welsh-English borderland and in one or two episodes of Edwardian Farm, Peter and Alex ventured to study the old coal-mining areas in southern Wales.
  • Sequel Escalation: Edwardian Farm to Victorian Farm, in general. Both cover largely similar social and technological periods and have a similar feel, but while the older show is mostly focused on agriculture and everyday chores at a relatively small farming estate, Edwardian Farm massively ups the ante and has the team travelling large parts of Devon and southern Wales, trying out various industries, crafts, trades... and even going on vacation at the seaside !
  • The Simple Life Is Simple: Averted. Hard work at the farm or in industries is not trivialised or romanticised. However, you couldn't tell by how the presenters seem to react most of the time: The cast is usually having genuine fun while working on authentically recreating the housing conditions and farming and labouring methods of the past. They even tend to rediscover and learn certain facts that have been lost to history, due to some production method not being tried for a very long time, and previously being little documented.
  • Simple Yet Awesome: While many of the once popular recommendations, inventions or solutions to various farming and industry related problems and tasks are revealed to be outdated or ineffective, a surprising amount of them prove valid and useful methods even today.
  • Shown Their Work: A given in shows like this. The presenters will often dig up almost completely forgotten traditions, recipes and agricultural or industrial techniques from the period they're covering in a specific show. And they love trying out almost every old handicraft imaginable.
  • Spin-Off:
    • Victorian Farm had its three-part Christmas Special and then the proper four-part spinoff Victorian Pharmacy. Wartime Farm also had its own Christmas Special.
    • A Tudor Feast at Christmas can be retroactively considered a spinoff of Tudor Monastery Farm, despite getting made several years earlier.
    • Secrets of the Castle with Ruth, Peter and Tom has the same cast as Tudor Monastery Farm, but instead of farming, the series is about the decades-long project to construct a mediæval castle with period techniques.
  • Spiritual Successor: The shows are this to conceptually similar 1980s and 1990s BBC documentary shows like The Victorian Kitchen Garden, The Victorian Kitchen, The Victorian Flower Garden, The Wartime Kitchen and Garden, etc.
  • Steampunk: Not in play literally, but many of the clever and more unusual contraptions and machinery seen in the shows mapping the Victorian and Edwardian era evoke this trope. The last episode of Edwardian Farm highlights how the rapid advancements in technology at the start of the 20th century and during WWI massively reshaped life in the countryside and farming not only in England, but elsewhere as well. This commentary occurs at a recreation of an early 20th century industrial fair - among the displays are the latest tractors and harvesters, and even an early Blériot monoplane. And with the introduction of the Wartime Farm show, the aesthetic has moved further, towards a kind of "WWII English Countryside Dieselpunk".
  • Team Pet: Clumper the shire horse in Victorian Farm, Laddie the Dartmoor pony in Edwardian Farm, Henry the Border Collie in Wartime Farm.
  • Those Two Guys : Peter and Alex, doing most of the outdoor work related to experimentally recreating various bygone crafts and jobs of the past. While not outright Vitriolic Best Buds, Alex does poke fun at Peter in a friendly or snarky way from time to time. This dynamic is less pronounced between Peter and Tom.
  • War Was Beginning: The Opening Narration of Wartime Farm.
  • Wales: The primary setting of Tales from the Green Valley (specifically, a grange in Monmouthshire), and an occassional setting for a few episodes of Edwardian Farm (the south Wales coal mines).
  • The West Country: Along with Wales, the setting of Tales from the Green Valley and Edwardian Farm.