Press Centre

The Wonder of Britain

  • Episode: 

    1 of 5

  • Title: 

    Beautiful Buildings
  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 06 Jan 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 02 2015 : Sat 03 Jan - Fri 09 Jan
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 30 December 2014.
The Wonder of Britain
 “I can see over a thousand years of history; the Olympic Park built in 2012, the Tower of London started in the 1070s.  And in between, hundreds of buildings, all different shapes and sizes.  It’s a glorious mess, a widely differing mix of styles, design and influences….They are adventurous, they’re inventive and bold, and that’s why I think our greatest buildings are a true Wonder of Britain.” Julia Bradbury
Episode one – Beautiful Buildings
A brand new series for ITV celebrates some of the most impressive natural and manmade wonders that make Britain great.  Julia Bradbury embarks on a stunning 12,000-mile journey around the country to some of Britain’s most spectacular locations and chooses some of the greatest assets she believes we should be most proud of.  
Taking in our industrial, natural and royal heritage, Julia’s scope encompasses rolling countryside, dramatic coastline, bird-filled archipelagos and deep dizzying gorges to beautifully eclectic buildings; from grand stately homes to cramped industrial era terraces.  She investigates our industrial past and learns about how our engineering achievements re-shaped the world.  Beautifully captured using the latest cameras and technology, combined with aerial and time-lapse photography, the Wonder of Britain is vividly brought to life.
In episode one, Julia looks at our beautiful buildings. Julia sees Britain’s architecture as a glorious mess; a wildly differing mix of styles, design and influences borrowed from all over the world and her list captures some of this extraordinary variety and the genius of the people who created them. 
Julia’s first stop is the eclectic and eccentric Castle Howard, a stately home in Yorkshire. Commissioned by the Third Earl of Carlisle and designed by the playwright John Vanbrugh. The fabulous house and grounds are inspired by the classical world, with Italian domes, Egyptian pyramids and manicured English gardens.  
Julia says: “In some ways you could view Castle Howard as a giant manifestation of one man’s ego but what I find so remarkable about this location is that despite the fact that it’s plundered ideas from all over the world, it is so utterly at home here in the Yorkshire countryside.  It’s that eccentric mix of styles that makes this place so iconically British, and I’m a bit of a fan.”
Next, Julia flies over the Eden Project on a zip wire, discovering the dizzying heights endured by those who maintain the revolutionary bio-domes.  Containing two giant futuristic greenhouses, Eden cost £140 million to build and houses almost four thousand species of plant.  It was constructed like a cluster of soap bubbles because they can rest on any shaped surface, an idea that the architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, struck upon while he was doing the washing up.
As Julia flies across the top of the domes she says: “This is the way to travel.  Oh my god, how am I going to stop?”
From the new to the old, Julia then tries her hand at archery and explores Wales’s Caernarfon Castle.   She discovers that the giant stone walls were originally designed to tame the unruly Welsh locals, but ironically the castle has now become a symbol of Wales.
Julia says: “If I was going to build a castle, I’d want it to be architecturally imposing and intimidating.  You’d want it to scream, ‘I’ve got the power round here.’”
Next, Julia travels to the magnificent Royal Crescent in Bath, for a window into Georgian society when Bath was a social whirl.   Built between 1767 and 1775, the Crescent contains thirty terraced houses behind one uniform façade, making it look like a single building. 
Dr Amy Frost explains:  “The idea was that you are building something that looks like a country house but of course it’s not.  It’s terraced housing but it means that the people that stay here still get the same kind of glamour that they have in their country house when they’re actually living in a terraced house in the city.  It’s a completely superficial society, it’s all about appearances.”
Julia says: “The Royal Crescent sums up this fur coat and no knickers personality perfectly.  Whereas the front of the Crescent is a flawless identical smooth sweep, the back of every single house is different.”
Many of Britain’s best buildings are the places we call home. So, Julia reveals that while Bath’s beautiful Royal Crescent was just a façade for Georgian society, the real buildings that built Britain were the humble back-to-backs.  Early back-to-backs had just a single room on each floor and were blocked in on three sides, making them dark and dingy with little ventilation.    By the 1850s, two-thirds of Birmingham’s population lived in back-to-backs but they were all knocked down in slum clearances during the 1960s except for one last court, preserved and cared for by the National Trust.
Julia says: “Now you might think that it looks quite cute in here and it does, but remember, this one room is multi-functional.  This is kitchen, cooker, heat source, your prep table and your dining table.  An estate agent would describe this as compact and bijou.”
She meets Ann Lawton who grew up in a house like this and now works at the back to backs.
Ann reveals that she slept on a landing and her only privacy came from drawing a curtain.  She explains how her family used to reuse fat in the frying pan after cooking and how days on end were spent in the communal wash house where everything was washed and mangled. The laundry would be dried on washing lines and within a matter of hours, the soot from nearby factories would stain them again.
Julia says: “There is no way to spin it.  Life in back to backs was a hard slog.  They were overcrowded, they were dirty, damp.  I’d have hated it, but women like Ann are inspiring.  Our age of industrial enlightenment wouldn’t have been possible without families like Ann’s.  These are the people that really turned this country into an industrial superpower.  These buildings really did help build Britain, despite the fact that they had outside loos.”
Julia’s final leg sees her travel to London, first unlocking the secret of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, before experiencing the future at one of Britain’s newest and most sophisticated skyscrapers – The Leadenhall Building.
Julia says: “I’ve chosen St Paul’s Cathedral for my list, not just because it’s one of our most arresting buildings but also because I think it symbolises Britain’s battling spirit.  It rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of London and it also became an emblem of our defiance during the Blitz.  Yet despite being designed by the most British of architects, Sir Christopher Wren, the Dome, arguably its crowning feature, is in fact inspired by Italy.”
Sir Christopher Wren wanted to make sure that it was the tallest building in London at 365 feet, but the stone lantern planned for the top would weigh 850 tons, too heavy for a Dome to hold up.  So Wren added an ingenious and invisible cone, a stronger supporting structure that held up the lantern and made his vision possible.  As a result the outer Dome no longer needed to bear any weight and this landmark structure is actually just made of wood.
Oliver Caroe, Surveyor to the Fabric says: “The outer Dome is actually like a tea cosy on the outside of the real structure that does the work for St Paul’s Cathedral.”
Finally, Julia heads to one of the most cutting edge skyscrapers in Britain.  The Leadenhall Building has been purposely designed in its unusual wedge shape to protect the view of St Paul’s from Fleet Street.  It’s earned the building the nickname of “The Cheese Grater”.
Julia says: “Soaring above me there are eighteen thousand tons of steel and seventy-five thousand square metres of glass cladding but I think what’s most surprising about this structure is the space surrounding it.  In the cramped City of London, space is at a premium and if you look from here to the neighbours, it measures just about ten feet.  That’s a cosy fit.”
Julia travels to the top of the building in the fastest lifts in Europe which cover two floors every second.  
Julia says: “Yes I can feel my ears popping and my heart pounding.  I have never seen the London skyline like that before.  I mean the Gherkin looks almost tiny. “
In her quest to discover Britain’s most unusual and iconic buildings, Julia has travelled from Yorkshire, Cornwall and Caernarfon to Bath and finally London.
She sums up by saying: “They are adventurous, they’re inventive and bold, and that’s why I think our greatest buildings are a true Wonder of Britain.”