BBC2’s documentary series A House Through Time recently concluded, and everybody is still talking about the fascinating tales that occurred within 62 Falkner Street.
The four-part series follows University of Liverpool alumni and broadcaster David Olusoga, as he tells the stories of those who lived in a single house in Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter, from 1840 to the present. As students living in the city, this is the perfect opportunity to spot recognisable areas, whilst enriching your knowledge of the history of Liverpool.
The saying ‘if walls could talk’ certainly applies to this series, as Olusoga and his team uncover turbulent relationships and dramas; from domestic abuse to untimely illnesses which swept the streets of Liverpool. 62 Falkner Street clearly had its unlucky share of tragic tales. However, what is truly fascinating is how multiple people, with no personal relation or association throughout time, become linked in this series, by having all shared the same home and an apparent aura of drama that comes along with it. It enables us, the viewers, to expand our perception of our own homes, our personal living space, and become intrigued with the possibility of whom might have lived there before.
Watching as a University student, who has recently finished a 10,000 word research dissertation using newspapers, it is difficult not to be fascinated with A House Through Time. The use of archives, old newspapers, digital reconstructions, and the assistance of historical professionals, allows these stories to be pieced together so eloquently, to give an accurate representation of 62 Falkner Street, and the surrounding Liverpool City Centre, from it’s first resident to now.
The series begins with Olusoga meeting the current owner of 62 Falkner Street, Gaynor Evans, who gave the BBC full access to her home, where she lives with her two children. After being given a tour of the impeccable Georgian-style terrace house as it is today, we are visually transported back in time to how the home would have looked in the 19th Century, and to the story of its first occupant, Richard Glenton, a customs clerk. He is the first and not the last unlucky resident to have occupied the house. After learning about him personally through census documents and newspaper reports, it is revealed that Glenton was forced to sell up and leave the residence, after his father left all of his money to his daughter, Glenton’s sister.
As time passes, we become aware of those who lived in the home after Glenton, and the history of Liverpool itself. We learn of a nineteenth-century couple who were both servants, becoming middle-class owners of the house, the life of a cotton-broker, tales of adultery, German bombs which fell just off the street during the Blitz, a Liverpool dock worker, the Toxteth Riots and the AIDs epidemic in the city, concluding with the Liverpool Housing Trust buying and restoring 62 Falkner Street to its former glory. All occupants and their stories are equally as interesting. from the first to the last. What is great about the conclusion is how Olusoga brings all the information and stories he has collected back to the home, to share with its current occupant, who seems just as astonished as the viewers would be in that same situation.
A House Through Time is a prime example of history and culture, not solely within Liverpool, but Britain itself. It enables Liverpudlians to become engaged and proud in the growth accomplished over time, how the city is relatable on a global scale, and what the city still has to offer. This series is every historians and genealogists dream, and is a breath of fresh air to other documentary series’ or shows such as Who Do You Think You Are?, as it uniquely brings Liverpool’s complex and intriguing history to life. Olusoga’s interest and passion is evident in this project, sourcing from his ties to Liverpool as a history student in the 1990’s, and his interest in the history and role of slavery in Liverpool, which he was focused on in his other much acclaimed works.
A House Through Time, the stories surrounding 62 Falkner Street, is too interesting to miss, especially as a student living in the city, with our campus being but minutes away. This series is definitely one to watch.