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In the last episode of the series, the top ten homes are unveiled.
Michael Buerk visits Boscobel House in Shropshire, built in the middle of the 1600’s, when England was being torn apart by a bloody civil war over whether the country should be ruled by parliament or royalty. In 1649 the King was executed, leaving his son and heir, Prince Charles Stuart to take up the fight.
At the battle of Worcester in September 1651, Cromwell crushed the young Prince’s army but the heir escaped. Acting on advice, he headed towards Boscobel where he hoped to find refuge. The house wasn’t a safe place for him to stay but after identifying an oak tree in the nearby woods as a possible hiding place, he spent an entire day inside it, hearing soldiers search the woods looking for him. The next day he made his escape to France and was able to return to England, when Cromwell died nine years later, to reclaim the throne. He owed everything to a humble oak tree and Boscobel house.
Michael says: “If it wasn’t for Boscobel and what happened here in 1651 there may be no royal family, no royal weddings, no royal babies!”
Mary-Ann Ochota visits Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Incredibly, the gorge contains several caves that were occupied during the last ice age, between around 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. The caves preserve the record of the first modern humans to inhabit this country. Within the caves, archaeologists have discovered tantalizing evidence of how the first modern humans lived, tens of thousands of years ago.
Mary-Ann says: “The evidence here at Creswell Crags is absolutely amazing. It’s a unique record of life in this country spanning over 50,000 years. These caves show us that people have always had the urge to do something more than just find shelter from the elements.”
Ronni Ancona visits The Jews House in Lincoln, built over 900 years ago, making it one of the oldest houses in Europe. The house is a reminder of the shocking campaign of terror and extortion, which was inflicted on England’s Jewish community in the 1200’s. Life for Jews at this time was extremely restricted. Where they lived and even how they could earn money was decided by the King. Money lending was one of the few jobs they could do and it was a profitable business but it made them targets of abuse and extortionate levels of taxation.
Ronni discovers that the owner of the house was a wealthy Jewess called Bellaset of Wallingford.
Ronni says: “That’s extraordinary, it’s a woman!”
For 50 years the Jewish community were taxed to breaking point and in the 1280’s the King started to accuse them of a series of crimes. In 1284 Bellaset was arrested and accused of coin clipping, a serious crime where bits of silver were clipped off coins and melted down. Shockingly, she was hanged and her death, like many others was as a result of the discrimination and persecution fuelled by a debt crisis.
Six years after she was executed the crisis reached its climax and in 1290 the Jewish community in Britain was ethnically cleansed, expelled from the kingdom, penniless and homeless.
Ronni says: “That is totally shocking.”
Also in this weeks episode, Michael Buerk visits the house in Hastings where John Logie Baird invented the television, David Jason investigates a secret interrogation unit used in World War 2, Mark Williams discovers the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton and John Grundy explores the cottage where world famous railway engineer George Stephenson and his son Robert lived.
Bettany Hughes discovers some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Britain, Mary-Ann Ochota has a fascinating insight into an ancient time on the Orkney Islands and we visit a humble miner’s cottage in Wales.
Which home and its incredible history will achieve the number one place, as our countdown reaches its conclusion?
“We’re counting down the top 50 secret homes in Britain. Extraordinary little known places with amazing stories, that tell us who we are and how we once lived. The homes on our list span more than 30,000 years of human history in Britain and each one reveals something new about our ancestors.”
If walls could talk, what stories would they tell? ‘Britain’s Secret Homes’ is a brand new, five-part documentary series revealing the 50 remarkable stories behind the UK’s most secret, surprising and intriguing homes.
Presented by two award-winning broadcasters, Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes, the series also includes contributions from an eclectic range of well-known people and experts, including Sir David Jason, Ricky Tomlinson, Twiggy and Michael Portillo.
Each of the homes revealed in the top 50 countdown tells an extraordinary story about who we are as a nation and how we once lived. From cottages to council houses, bungalows to palaces, some of the most significant homes in our nation remain relatively unknown to the public. But all these extraordinary places have borne witness to key moments in our nation’s history.
In partnership with English Heritage and the heritage bodies from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, each story is brought to life using archive, cutting edge CGI and dramatic reconstruction. From country manor houses to unassuming terraced two-up two-downs, these homes’ stories deliver eye-opening accounts of political intrigue, conspiracy, invention, romance and heroism that make the very fabric of British history.