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.

Get more previews of this month's top family history TV and radio in the March 2020 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, on sale now

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