|Ripon Workhouse, as visited by the novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford.|
The premise of having celebrities visit, or simply find out about, workhouses associated with their relative, was not altogether a bad one. In the case of Kiera Chaplin, the fact that her antecedent was so famous rather skewed the perspective; evidence coming from Charlie Chaplin's autobiography removed the sense of genuine social history and discovery that the each of the other cases in their own way brought. Similar to Who Do You Think You Are?, to which comparisons by producers and audience must have been obvious, the emotive quality of the past was brought to life. At least in this case, no-one could have expected much else from the title. Again, the success of the programme may depend on how the celebrities are judged to react, but for me the merit of the show (or otherwise) must lie in its historical presentation and interpretation.
The depiction of nineteenth century social history, was, in fact, riveting. The sheer poverty of life outside the workhouse in many cases was not omitted and the particular use by the elderly and mothers of illegitimate
|Shoreditch Workhouse today, where Louis Glück's|
daughter was born in 1846.
The workhouse, whose shadow was cast over so much of the last two centuries, must also be reflected in genealogical survey of the time. As Brian Cox described it, this "endless assault on human dignity", must not be forgotten.