A series of programmes exploring art, history, science and innovation across the UK.
Part 1: Arts and Crafts in the South East
Sophie Robinson explores the Arts and Crafts movement in the South East and finds out why it was a rebellion against Victorian mass production.
Part 2: Art and the Sea
Actor Ace Bhatti, himself a former lifeboatman, goes to Whitby, Hull and the small village of Staithes to explore how artists were inspired by the sea and the men and women who make a living from it. He examines the pioneering photography of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, paintings by the Staithes Group of Artists and a piece of art which has been worn by a Hollywood star.
Part 3: Frontier Land
Angela Bruce traces the impact of the Romans on modern-day northern life.
Part 4: The Empire
In days of Empire – from the cloudy north west – the world must have seemed exotic and vividly coloured. Brits travelled the globe to bring back treasures such as mummies, art and even circus animals. Writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie reveals how these discoveries influenced and reshaped our towns and cities from one of the most colourful – and controversial – chapters of our past.
Part 5: Treasures of the Bronze Age
Ray Mears travels back in time 4,000 years into Bronze Age East Anglia in search of clues about its people living in this mysterious yet innovative period of our history. The Bronze Age was a crucial point in time that linked the Stone Age with the Iron Age. Ray discovers its artworks, jewellery, monuments and unusual finds – and how each object tells us something about the spirit of our ancestors.
Part 6: The Art of Mining
How coal created a lasting legacy of art in the east Midlands, and the fight to preserve it for future generations. An industry, which once employed more than 24,000 men in the region, will be remembered forever thanks to the rich collection of paintings, preserved colliery buildings and artefacts, many of them saved by volunteers.
Part 7: Innovation and Inspiration in Birmingham
Mark Williams is on the trail of three remarkable men from the 18th century. He uncovers tales of flamboyant dandies and dealmakers, inventors and innovators – and shares the secrets of what amputations were like in the days before anaesthetics. If you had thought Georgian England was just rich men in posh houses taking snuff, think again. Mark shows that the West Midlands was a hotbed of creativity and discovery, and the evidence can be seen in paintings and other art forms still with us today.
Part 8: The First Refugees
Amber Butchart unravels the story of ‘the first refugees’. The Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields made a perilous journey to Britain over 300 years ago, but they left a legacy of industry, great riches and artistic masterpieces.
Part 9: Dartmoor: From Darkness into Light
Nick Baker journeys across Dartmoor to discover the artists and artisans that brought its wild and raw beauty into the public imagination.
Part 10: The Remains of Slavery
Bristol’s Poet Laureate, Miles Chambers – whose ancestors were taken as slaves from west Africa to the Caribbean. Like the landmark series which has been running on BBC2, the history is told through objects and architecture – but in this West Country addition, they are all found in and around Bath and Bristol. The documentary reveals that while Bristol was responsible for the business end of the slave trade, Georgian Bath boomed on the back of the profits made from it. Throughout the programme we visit landmark sites, including Dyrham Park, home to the Blackamoor statues, the Saltford Mill, where guinea kettles were made and exchanged for slaves, the Henbury slave grave, Beckford Tower and many more. Presenter Miles Chambers talks with experts of the West Country slave trade and explores the artefacts that keep the history alive.
Part 11: Art, Us and the Truth
Tomasz Schafernaker reveals his passion – and talent – for the art of portraiture and discovers that our 21st-century obsession with image is nothing new. In this tour of some of the south of England’s art treasures, he learns how artists down the ages have subtly shaped and manipulated our opinions of their subjects, and the times in which they lived, by enhancing some aspects of their features and erasing others. He discovers how, 2,000 years ago, Celtic Britons looked to Roman coins for tips on how to appear as Roman as possible and that Renaissance artists in the 1600s effectively photoshopped their subjects in oil paint to convey the right public image, and the captivating portraits of pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron inspire him to take more risks with his own art.