Shropshire Estate in BBC Series
PUBLISHED: 17:10 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
The hit BBC series Victorian Farm brought the nation's attention to Shropshire and the estate whose owners' passion for the past has ensured it has a fruitful future
The hit BBC series Victorian Farm brought the nation's attention to Shropshire and the estate whose owners' passion for the past has ensured it has a fruitful future.
You may have been one of the millions who recently tuned in to watch BBC television's smash hit Victorian Farm; you may have bought the book, which has topped the Sunday Times Best-seller List. But did you know that Victorian Farm was filmed for a year on the ancient Acton Scott estate, in South Shropshire?
An image of Acton Scott Hall viewed from the east.
Thomas Acton, whose family has owned land at Acton Scott for some 850 years, is a leading authority on Victorian farming and his enthusiasm is much in evidence. Not for him trading heavy horses for heavy machinery, or soaking his land in chemicals. David Upshal, Executive Producer, says: "For half a century, following World War II, many landowners were busy obliterating all trace of the past to modernise their land and farm buildings, while the Actons chose to preserve much of the history and heritage of theirs."
Consequently, Acton Scott's period buildings, and its glorious rural situation, made it ideal for the series' producers. Mr Acton's son, Rupert, who manages the estate, was first contacted by Lion TV in 2006. He says: "Every now and again we are approached by TV and film scouts, but it largely comes to nothing. But on this occasion, I was able to offer a number of period buildings, including Glebe Farm and Henley Cottage, together with all the domestic bygones, tools and machinery of the Victorian era that they needed.
Image: Victorian Farm being filmed at Acton Scott.
Acton Scott is already well-known for its Historic Working Farm, originally conceived by Thomas Acton and located on the estate's Home Farm. This popular visitor attraction offers a fascinating insight into farming life at the turn of the 20th century, and is managed by Shropshire County Council's Museum Service. However, because it is open to the public, an alternative farm location was needed for the year-long filming, and Glebe Farm was instead settled upon.
Image: Acton Scott's Historic Working Farm, located on the estate's Home Farm.
Rupert says: "Once we had agreed the various locations, I made the decision to do everything we could to ensure Victorian Farm was a success. Great effort was made by the Acton family to assist the production team and we even made appearances in the series."
Image: Rupert Acton in 19th century costume, filming Victorian Farm.
The Actons strongly believe in the need to keep alive traditional skills, conserve historic buildings and preserve the natural landscape. The restoration of a number of dilapidated estate properties, for example, as holiday houses, used traditional methods and materials where ever feasible. The disused Walled Garden has been brought back into production and wildlife is actively encouraged through sympathetic land management.
Rupert's latest project has been inspired by the television series. He is returning Henley cottage, as featured in Victorian Farm, to its original 19th century condition. It is about to become available as a very different holiday cottage. Complete with candles and oil lamps, water pumped by hand from a well, traditional kitchen range and vegetable garden, it is creating a lot of interest from those keen to sample real Victorian rural life and has many bookings for the months ahead.
Image: Henley Cottage, an authentic Victorian Farm labourer's dwelling, available as unique self catering holiday cottage.
Ruth Goodman, one of the TV presenters, has been persuaded by Rupert to host several residential courses in Victorian domestic skills, based at Henley Cottage. A social historian, Ruth will demonstrate how natural products were made and used, together with typical 19th century cooking, such as preserving and smoking. These will coincide with a full schedule of one-day courses in rural trades and crafts, at the Historic Working Farm.
One image of
Ruth Goodman, who is returning to Acton Scott to run courses in Victorian domestic skills, filming inside Henley Cottage.
There are further developments underway at Acton Scott, with which Rupert has been closely involved. The TV series has coincided with a 1.75 million investment in The Historic Working Farm site, by Shropshire County Council, funded by the National Lottery. It will see the Old School returned to its original Victorian condition and a new gateway building is being constructed.
The programme seems set to benefit the entire south Shropshire region, as local tourist officers are reporting a big increase in enquiries and bookings by holiday makers, who mention the TV series as the reason for their interest. The Historic Working Farm has received more enquiries from school parties in one week, than in the entire preceding year.
Rupert says: "I believe Acton Scott is uniquely placed to offer the opportunity to connect with our rural heritage and I'd encourage people to come and visit for recreation, learning or holiday to see this in action.
"Moving forward, we will continue to restore the estate's historic buildings and landscape using traditional methods, which may not always be the cheapest option, but as demonstrated by this TV series may occasionally pay dividends."
Henley Cottage, an authentic 19th century Farm Labourer's dwelling, as featured in BBC Television's Victorian Farm, is available to rent as a holiday cottage, from April 2009.
Ruth Goodman returns to Acton Scott tutoring two day courses in Victorian domestic skills, at Henley Cottage - 5-6 May, 23-24 June, 21-22 July (non residential option), 20-21 October 2009.
Acton Scott's Historic Working Farm runs traditional rural skills and crafts courses throughout 2009 and welcomes school groups to visit. Open 7 April - 1 November, Tues - Sun and bank holidays, from 10.30am.
The BBC's Victorian Farm DVD and book to accompany the series, written by Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn, available now.
For more information, including walks and holidays, at Acton Scott, visit www.actonscott.com