IF WALLS could talk, what stories they’d tell. Working on that premise, this show puts a compelling spin on the usual history documentary, exploring the past of a single house.
“Every house in Britain has a story to tell. We’re going to uncover the secret life of just one,” says historian David Olusoga.
The house is a Victorian property in Headingley, Leeds, built in the mid-19th century, and currently owned by couple Jackie and Pete who know very little about its history.
There are however tantalising clues about its past – from a name scratched into a wall, to a crack rumoured to have been caused by an earthquake.
“There are also signs in the house that there used to be servants here, such as bell pulls on the fireplace,” says Jackie.
David turns detective, combing the archives, tracking down evidence and interviewing experts to reveal the residents’ untold stories.
The timeline reveals everything from domestic dramas and love triangles, to tales of larceny, childhood abandon
ment and reversals of fortune.
He discovers characters from above and below stairs, and from all walks of life.
These include a Victorian lawyer entangled in a scandalous poisoning case, a ruthless factory owner hit by a vengeful arson attack, a traumatised soldier-turned-thief, and a war bride with a mysterious past.
In the first episode, David finds out about the house’s first resident – idealistic Victorian lawyer William Bruce, who tried and failed to save the life of a man convicted to hang for murder.