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BBC2's A House Through Time: A Newcastle home and the forgotten people who lived there; A House Through Time recalls the long-gone people who called Newcastle's 5 Ravensworth Terrace their home.

Byline: David Morton

The house sits a stone's throw from the rumble of traffic on bustling Westgate Road.

It's just around the corner from the motorbike shops, takeaways and tattoo parlours which line the famously gritty street inNewcastle's West End.

Take a sudden left and it's like entering a portal into the 19th century.

Awaiting are smart Georgian and Victorian-built properties and the tree-lined grassy oasis of Summerhill Park.

One of the smart residences, the four-storey end-of-terrace 5 Ravensworth Terrace, is the subject of the newBBC2 series A House Through Time, which starts on Monday at 9pm.

The first series last year turned an unheralded Liverpool townhouse into a local tourist attraction. Series two could well propel this quiet leafy Tyneside location into the limelight.

A House Through Time is presented by historian David Olusoga.

David says: "I was brought up on Tyneside, so coming to the North East to film the second series was coming home.

"I am as proud of my North East roots as my African heritage and think of myself a Nigerian Geordie.

"In the last series, viewers got a glimpse of Liverpool's history as well as the turbulent times of the 1970s and 1980s.

"I wanted to do the same for Newcastle and present a fair and honest portrait of a city which has a global footprint and a global history.

"This series, as far as I'm concerned, is a love letter to the North East.

"I hope viewers are reminded of all we have been through in the past, what the generations before us achieved and all they went through to build a region we have today."

The series tells the story of 5 Ravensworth Terrace, the forgotten people who lived their lives there, while placing it in context with the ebb and flow of Newcastle's vibrant history over the last 200 years.

The house was built in the 1820s for the burgeoning merchant classes who were keen to escape the grime and noise of theQuayside area.

But if it was initially home to Newcastle's upper-middle classes (and their servants), a century later it was a lodging house inhabited by Tyneside's itinerant Irish community.

By 2019, things had turned full circle again, and in episode one of A House Through Time, we briefly meet the current occupants, a young professional couple who are just the latest people to call 5 Ravensworth Terrace 'home'.

They know little of their home's history, but with its grand fireplaces and lofty proportions, the house offers a tantalising glimpse into the past.

Having seen episode one of the new series, I can happily confirm it is a fantastic piece of television.

On one hand there is the house and its former inhabitants - their forgotten stories recovered from the mists of time by painstaking research using a wide range of archive material, business directories, tax records, deeds, land registry documents, wills, maps, census returns, birth, marriage and death records, and contemporary newspapers. Our sister paper, The Journal, makes several appearances in the first episode.

On the other hand is the parallel story of Newcastle, and how its rise as one of the British Empire's boom towns was powered by coal, heavy engineering and a River Tyne frenetically busy with the constant coming and going of ships.

The programme is beautifully filmed and soundtracked, with perhaps the real star of the show emerging as Newcastle itself. A House Through Time is simply a wonderful advert for the city.

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Without giving too much away, the detective work of David Olusoga and his team uncover the fact 5 Ravensworth Terrace was built between 1822 and 1824 on former green fields in Newcastle's West End. The first residents we meet are the wealthy, eminent lawyer William Stoker, his wife and their servant. He proves to be not the most likeable character,

Next through the door, in 1841, is "cheesemonger" William Alder, his sister Mary and two servants. Upon deeper investigation, however, David discovers Alder was in fact an internationally-renowned marine biologist and esteemed member of Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society.

(Today, 5 Ravensworth Terrace bears a plaque to the Victorian scientist).

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, who appears in the programme, says: "Newcastle's history is one of innovation -- in industry, science, politics and culture. But so many of Newcastle's histories are lost or forgotten.

"Joshua Alder was a self-taught scientist at a time when Newcastle was exploding with ideas in so many different domains. It is really important that we remember his story and that time to celebrate what we have achieved and build on it for a prosperous future."

Back in 1857, a devastating financial crash leaves Joshua penniless and forces him and Mary to leave the house.

Nicholas Hardcastle, a surgeon at two of Newcastle's most feared institutions - the gaol and the workhouse - is next to move in with his family. He finds his life affected personally and professionally by one of the most feared diseases of the age, scarlet fever.

Episode one ends with his departure and the arrival through the front door of 63-year-old Mary Colbeck and her grandson. All is not as it seems, we are told!

In future episodes we will meet the likes of Grace Eagle who, in the early 20th century, let rooms in the house to stars of Newcastle's thriving music hall scene, notably a famous pair of trick cyclists called The Lottos.

And later, there is well-to-do couple John and Florence Smyth who rent rooms to lodgers, one of whom is John Bell, a some-time World War II prisoner of war.

Watch film footage of a boat trip on the River Tyne in 1956 from the Quayside to the coast

A House Through Time promises to be a real treat, with David Olusoga effortlessly proving himself to be the coolest of TV historians.

He says: "For most of us, there is an unavoidable truth that until recently our home was the home of other people, and before them yet more people, a line of strangers stretching back decades and sometimes centuries."

It's a fascinating thought.

A House Through Time is presented by David Olusoga. Episode one of four is screened on Monday, April 8, at 9pm on BBC 2.

CAPTION(S):

Credit: BBC/Andrew Hayes-Watkins

David Olusoga presents A House Through Time on BBC2, 5 Ravensworth Terrace, Newcastle

Credit: BBC/Andrew Hayes-Watkins

A House Through Time on BBC2, 5 Ravensworth Terrace, Newcastle

Credit: Newcastle Libraries

Joshua Alder, Newcastle, A House Through Time, BBC2

Credit: BBC

Grace Eagle with children Leonora and Henry, Newcastle, A House Through Time, BBC2

Credit: BBC

John W and Florence Smyth, Newcastle, A House Through Time, BBC2

Credit: BBC

John Bell in WWII, front row, second right, with moustache, Newcastle, A House Through Time, BBC2
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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2019
Words:1138
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