Pick of the month
Back in Time for the Corner Shop
When is it on TV?
Back in Time for the Corner Shop is a six-part series showing on BBC Two at 8pm on Tuesdays. The first episode was broadcast on 25 February and is available on BBC iPlayer.
What’s it about?
The local store is a key institution in communities up and down the country. It’s both a place to buy a pint of milk, and a hub where people meet to exchange news and check that the neighbours are OK. It’s also an institution that’s changed much down the years, as the latest series in the Back in Time ‘living history’ strand explores.
This is experienced at first hand by the Arden family, whose own forebears were shopkeepers, as they go back first to 1897 and take over a former corner shop in Meersbrook, Sheffield. This was the year the shop was built, intended to serve the needs of 40 houses as the area was developed. There were no teabags or pre-packaged foodstuffs. The family of five have to weigh out loose goods such as flour and sugar, and prepare their own stock, ranging from jam and baked goods to hair tonics. Deliveries are made by horse and cart.
As the years roll by, the demands on the family change. During the Second World War, for example, local shopkeepers were at the sharp end of the rationing system, partly responsible for making sure that people didn’t get more than their fair share of scarce foodstuffs.
Over the years, the items that the Ardens sell begin to change. The arrival of now familiar brands, the phone card, Smash Hits and the launch of the National Lottery all offer evidence of how people’s lives changed through the 20th century. Another recurring theme is the way that gender roles have evolved over time.
In a series produced by Wall to Wall, the makers of WDYTYA?, and presented by Sara Cox, social historian Polly Russell is on hand to offer the Ardens expert advice and encouragement. Although whether anybody could make the prospect of a meal featuring Shredded Wheat doused in Marmite broth appealing is at best a moot point.
Weekly from Thursday 5 March
This new documentary series follows the engineers and enthusiasts around the UK who keep historic aircraft flying – including a Second World War Spitfire, a US Douglas C-47 that served in D-Day, and planes from the Spanish Civil War and the Cold War.
Julian Fellowes’ follow-up to Downton Abbey takes viewers back to the beginning of the 19th century as it follows the interlinked fates of two families, one aristocratic and one nouveau riche.
Based on Fellowes’ own novel, Belgravia tells not just of years when one of London’s most fashionable districts was being built, but looks back to 1815 and the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, held in Brussels shortly before the Battle of Waterloo. A starry cast includes Philip Glenister, Alice Eve, Tamsin Greig, Harriet Walter and Tom Wilkinson.
Confronting Holocaust Denial with David Baddiel
Until Thursday 19 March
One in six people worldwide now either think the Holocaust was exaggerated or never happened. In this timely and important series comedian David Baddiel – who discovered his family’s escape from the Holocaust on Who Do You Think You Are? in 2004 – traces the history of Holocaust denial, from the Nazis’ own efforts to conceal the genocide to modern-day fake news.
A Very British History
Episodes expire between 5 and 26 March
In this series, famous figures from the immigrant communities that make up modern Britain explore their heritage through archive footage and personal memories. The episodes look at the Vietnamese Boat People, the Birmingham Irish, the British Chinese and British Bangladeshis.
Weekly from Tuesday 17 March
Operating from the market town of Leominster in Herefordshire, father and son team Dave and Steve Nuwar run the military antiques business War & Son. To obtain the best prices, they have to research the stories behind the items that they sell, often uncovering tales of courage under fire as they do so.
In the first of six episodes, Dave gambles when he makes one of his most expensive purchases ever, and Steve and Dave investigate a mystery surrounding a missing duelling pistol.
Royal History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley
Available for over a year
Lucy Worsley gets to do more costumed correcting of the historical record with this series about key moments in the history of the monarchy.
The episode on the Spanish Armada, for instance, questions the idea that Philip II’s flotilla was somehow “invincible”, and flat-out rubbishes the suggestion that, in 1588, Drake found time to finish a game of bowls even as the Spanish were sighted.
Lucy also points out that Elizabeth I’s rousing speech at Tilbury – “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too” – was given after the English had already sent fireships against the Spanish, which caused so much panic that the armada was already on its way home.