Largely due to its period buildings, rural heritage and picturesque situation, the ancient and privately owned country estate of Acton Scott in South Shropshire is the film location for a new BBC Two Television series Victorian Farm, on air at 9pm, Thursday 8 January 2009, and repeated on Saturdays at 7pm, as a six part weekly series.
Victorian Farm follows a team of historians, Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn and Ruth Goodman, who spent a year, between August 2007 and September 2008, recreating farm life at Acton Scott as it might have been in 1885 using only period buildings, materials and resources that would have been available to them at that time.
Rupert Acton, who manages the Acton Scott estate, was first contacted by the series' producers, Lion Television, in 2006, regarding the feasibility of locating the series on the Acton Scott estate. He was able to offer period buildings, with filming focused at Glebe Farm and No 1 Henley Cottage, in addition to domestic bygones, tools and machinery from the 19th century, still in his family's possession.
David Upshal, Executive Producer, explains: 'In an age when most landowners were busy obliterating all trace of the past to modernize their land and buildings, the Actons lovingly preserved much of the history and heritage of theirs.'
Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the South Shropshire Hills, the Acton Scott estate has been owned by the Acton family since the 12th century, and remains in their hands today. It consists of a number of small farmsteads, stone and timber framed cottages, ancient woodland and open pasture with visitors actively encouraged to visit, either to enjoy its network of public footpaths or stay in one of the estate's finely restored holiday houses.
The Acton Scott estate is also well known for its Historic Working Farm, a favourite visitor attraction for families, which may also be seen in the television series. Located in the Estate's Home Farm buildings and managed day to day by Shropshire County Council, the Historic Working Farm is open to the public from April to October.
The original concept of demonstrating the farming practices of 1900 for the general public to enjoy was conceived by Thomas Stackhouse Acton in the 1970s, so as to help preserve traditional farming skills that might otherwise be lost to modern day practices, Mr Acton was of invaluable assistance to the series' producers and presenters.
"Thomas Acton had first hand-experience of Victorian farming practices because he could remember them from the 1930s, a time when many traditional skills still survived, and he was a mine of information," explained Stuart Elliott, Director.
Victorian Farm is accompanied by a book which provides real insights into 19th century rural living and forgotten skills, it is written by the television programme's presenters, and draws upon images from the Acton family's archives.
Victorian Farm is published by Pavilion.
A DVD of the television series is available.
Victorian Farm follows another successful BBC television series, also produced by Lion Television and shown in 2005, called Tales from the Green Valley, which aimed to recreate Elizabethan rural life, located on the Welsh borders, and in which Ruth Goodman and Alex Langlands also feature.