Disappearing Britain, Five

by | Nov 20, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A hybrid of Who Do You Think You Are? and The Lost World of Mitchell And Kenyon in which Sarah Lancashire exhumed rose-tinted memories of community holidays, and succeeded in making an entertaining and informative documentary.

What was good about it?

• Sarah Lancashire was a genial guide, never boring you with melodramatic woes of her ancestors, instead simply reciting her memories plainly or accumulating testimony from folk older than her who more clearly remembered the joy and chaos of Wakes Weeks – the one week in the year when mill workers in places like Oldham and Rochdale were allowed off (unpaid) during which they would flock en mass to either Blackpool or Llandudno, for the more refined workers.

• The archive Mitchell & Kenyon footage of mill workers is endlessly fascinating as it represents the only animated record of life from that time, whether it’s the cheeky lads ambling in front of camera or the slightly embarrassed middle-aged women hurrying by; oddly the more banal the more enthralling it is.

• The poorest families couldn’t afford to even visit Blackpool during Wakes Weeks, so had to make do with the fairground. Mary Timms recalled to Sarah her biggest thrill was when her father paid for her to have another go on the one pence horse merry-go-round.

• Eileen Cook’s recollections as a child of trying to win the contest, and sixpence, by being the first to spot the Blackpool Tower looming into view. And also of how the beaches were so crowded it was sometimes difficult for children who went paddling in the sea to find their way back to their parents.

• Sly old Ray Rochford providing first hand evidence of why Blackpool had the highest rate of illegitimate births in the country with his account of how the space under the pier was crammed full of copulating couples. “It was a release,” he beamed.

• Sarah’s visit to a grave in Oldham in which were interred four members of her family. It took her a long time to find, even with the help of the gravedigger, because her great-grandfather was so poor he couldn’t afford a marked grave. This greatly upset Sarah, and the programme ended with a shot of the new headstone she had had made

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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