How We Used To Live

Infobox Television
show_name = How We Used to Live

caption =
format = Children's History
camera =
picture_format = Colour
audio_format =
runtime = c.20 mins
creator =
developer =
executive_producer =
starring = Sue Jenkins, Jane Hazlegrove, Peter Howitt, Diana Davies, many others
narrated =
opentheme =
endtheme =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
network = Yorkshire Television
first_aired = 1968
last_aired = 2002
num_episodes =
list_episodes =
website =
imdb_id = 0493329
tv_com_id =

"How We Used to Live" is an award-winning British educational historical television drama. Production began in 1968 at Yorkshire Television studios in Leeds. The series traced the lives and fortunes of various fictional Yorkshire families from the Victorian era until the 1960s, in and around the fictional town of Bradley.

Transmission details

Each series was broadcast as part of ITV Schools, first on ITV and then later on Channel 4 and S4C, usually in two parts: ten episodes were transmitted in the autumn term (usually September – December) with the remainder of the series being shown in the spring term (from the second week of January until late March). However, in the 1980s the series was shown outside the schools schedule, sometime in the early afternoons according to This seems to have been the case for the first run of the sixth series (1902–1926) in autumn 1984. Indeed, the British Film Institute lists "Thora Hird Introduces How We Used to Live" for 30 August 1984. The repeats of the series in the following two years (1985–86 and 1986–87) show the transmission times as being on Thursdays (11:37-11:57) and Fridays (09:47-10:07). When ITV Schools moved to Channel 4 and S4C in the autumn of 1987, the series was shown in the main schools schedule.


There have been several series of "How We Used to Live".

"Series 1" centred around the late Victorian era. It was first broadcast in 1968.

"Series 2" was first broadcast in 1973, according the IMDB.

"Series 3" covered the periods 1908-1918 (Autumn term 1975) and 1925-1945 (Spring Term 1976). The first half of the series centres round the Ackerley family. Albert, the father, is an assistant at a printing works. He earns 22/- per week. His son Harry takes a job as a grocers boy, earning 5/- per week. The rent of their terraced house, with gas and water laid on, is 6/- per week. Albert’s wife Daisey must make the rest of the income cover food, fuel and clothing. Jane, their daughter, is still at school until the age of 14 when she goes to work as a housemaid in a middle class home. The later episodes (1925 onwards) see the Dawson family move into the house occupied by the Ackerley family. Stanley Dawson, the father, works as a stores clerk in a factory, earning £3/2/6 per week. He becomes unemployed in the thirties and he, his wife Doris and son Gerald are forced to rely on the earnings of daughter Marjorie, who works as a library assistant. The Boothroyds move into the terraced house just before World War Two. Later programmes in the series describe how they cope with the varied hazards of civilian life in wartime Britain.

"Series 4" covers a thirteen year period, namely the years 1874-1887. This series was first broadcast in 1978/1979. This series contrasts the fortunes of three families that although linked, have very different lives. Dr Hughes has a successful medical practice in middle-class Upper Bradley. His fee-paying patients live in the better of town, or in the country houses on the outskirts. He gives some of his time to the Bradley Free Hospital, and, as Medical Officer of Health, is appalled by conditions in poor working-class areas. His wife, his son and youngest daughter live comfortable lives in a large house with their every need taken care of by the hired help- namely housekeeper Mrs Tandy, Annie Fairhurst and Nanny. The Hughes eldest daughter, Dora, is married to Captain Bertram Selwyn. His father is the squire of Westmoor (a role Bertram is required to fulfil after the death of his father). They have two children: Humphrey (born in 1874) and Sophie (born 1881). The lifestyles of the middle class Hughes and mildly aristocratic Selwyn families is in sharp contrast to that of the Fairhurst’s. Ben and Mary Fairhurst are poor working class mill workers with more children than they can afford to feed. Annie, the eldest, is in service for Dr Hughes. Among the other children are Matt, Flo, Maudie, Tommy, Dinah as well as the others who died young.

"Series 5" covered the period from 1936 until after the Second World War 1953. It centred around the lower middle-class Hodgkins family. First broadcast in 1981/82, this series embraces the events during the reign of George VI as they affected the family of Arthur Hodgkins, a railwayman living in Bradley. Along with his housewife Mabel and his four children, Patricia, Jimmy, Avril & Edward, they endure the hardships of the Second World War.

"Series 6" was filmed and broadcast in 1984. It covered the major events and social changes from the end of the Boer War in 1902 to the General Strike of 1926. The series tells the story of the friendship between two families of children who meet in Sunday school. The Holroyds, Maurice, Charlotte and Alexander are middle class. Their father owns the local textile mill. The Selbys, Maggie, Tom, Freddy, Albert & Alice are poor. Their father is a drunkard, their mother works long hours in the mill to support them. As they grow up into young adults, their lives become intertwined and the relationship, sometimes strained, shows the huge social changes which affected people in Britain during this time.

"Series 7" covered the period 1954-1970. It was first broadcast in 1987 and centred around the Brady family. Michael Brady, the father of the family, was a character originally introduced in series 6 when he was born to Maggie Selby and Patrick Brady. The series begins with he and his family (wife Joan and children Susan, Roger & Beverley) moving back to Bradley. The series also features Michael’s Uncle Albert & Aunt Bertha (Selby) who were also in the sixth series. Characters introduced in Series fifth series, Jimmy & Eileen Hodgkins and Laurence & Avril Butterworth, are also present.

After this point How we used to live changed its direction. There were now dramas and documentaries and series were less than the usual 20 episodes.

"Series 8" was in two halves. The first 10 episodes were called Victorians: Early and Late. These were first broadcast in 1990. In Spring 1991 five programmes, under the title Expansion Trade and Industry, followed the experience of a merchant family.

Other series include:'A Tudor Interlude' First shown in 1993.In Civil War. First shown in 1993.Britons at War (1997)Spanish Armada (1998)All Change (1999)In Tudor Times (2002)A Giant in Ancient Egypt

Cast and characters

Character name is in bold; actor(s) names are in brackets. Many characters were played by multiple actors as the character grew up from year to year. []

eries 5

The Hodgkins family

* Arthur Hodgkins
* Mabel Hodgkins
* Jimmy Hodgkins
* Patricia Hodgkins (Julie Shipley 2 episodes)
* Avril Hodgkins
* Edward Hodgkins

eries 6

Selby family

* Victor Selby (Jack Carr 6 episodes). Alcoholic father of the family. Often absent from home. Died in 1918 just after the armistice was declared.
* Sarah Selby (Brenda Elder 8 episodes). Working class mother of five children. Died of an illness in 1913.:* Maggie Brady (nee Selby) (Kathy Jamieson 12 episodes, Jane Hazlegrove 5 episodes). Eldest child of Victor and Sarah. Married soldier Patrick Brady:* Patrick Brady. Married Maggie Selby after returning from the Boer War to find the Selby family living in his old house after his family had done a moonlight flit. Killed in action in the Great War.::* Michael Brady (Craig McKay 4 episodes, Stephen Bollard 3 episodes, Nicholas Ross 2 Episodes). Young son of Maggie and Patrick. Character reappears as the father in Series 7.:* Tom Selby (Peter Howitt - 12 episodes, Cy Chadwick 3 episodes). Second child of Victor and Sarah. Gets elected as a Labour Member of Parliament in the 1920s. Eventually marries Charlotte Holroyd.:* Freddie Selby (Ian Mercer 3 episodes). Third child of Victor and Sarah. Killed in action, along with Maurice Holroyd, in the Great War:* Albert Selby (John Laing 6 episodes, Alistair Walker 5 episodes). Fourth child. Lied about his age to sign up to fight in World War I. Marries Bertha Beale after the war. Character reppears as elderly uncle of Michael Brady in Series 7.:* Bertha Beale (Maria Mescki 5 episodes, Katie Hall 2 episodes). Grocers daughter. Married Albert Selby after the war. Character reppears as the elderly aunt of Michael Brady in Series 7.:* Alice Selby (Tara Moran 6 episodes, Lorraine Sass 5 episodes). Youngest child of Victor and Sarah. Went to London in 1920s and inexplicably reappears in 1925 as a socialite and flapper having got in with a posh crowd despite her working class roots.

Holroyd family

* George Holroyd (David Scase 5 episodes). Head of the rich Holroyd family and owner of the factory where many of the Selby family work. Died in 1908 of an illness.
* Emily Holroyd (Elizabeth Kelly 4 episodes). Wife of George Holroyd. Died when the Scarborough hotel she had evacuated to was bombed in the First World War:* Maurice Holroyd (Paul Gabriel 7 episodes, Mark Thrippleton 3 episodes). Eldest child of George and Emily. Friend to Tom Selby. Killed in action along with Freddie Selby in the First World War:* Charlotte Holroyd (Sue Jenkins 12 episodes, Wendy Jane Walker 6 episodes). Eldest daughter of George and Emily. Was a suffragette and eventually married Tom Selby.:* Alexander Holroyd (David Michaels, 8 episodes). Youngest child of George and Emily. Was imprisoned for being a conscientious objector in the First World War

Other characters

* John Pilling (James Walker, 6 episodes)
* Mr Beale (Alan Starkey 4 episodes). Bertha's father
* Mrs Beale (Ruth Holden 5 episodes). Bertha's mother
* Ned Wilkins (Dickie Arnold 4 episodes)
* Hospital Sister (Eileen O'Brien, 1 episode)

eries 7

* Dorothy Clegg (Jane Hazlegrove)
* Bertha Selby (Ruth Holden). A reappearing character, having originally appeared in series 6.
* Albert Selby A reappearing character, having originally appeared in series 6.
* Michael Brady. Head of the Brady family. Reappearing character, having originally appeared in series 6.
* Joan Brady (Eileen O'Brien). Wife of Michael
* Avril Butterworth (Rachel Laurence 2 episodes). Reappearing character having originally appeared in series 2). Married to Laurence. Killed in a car crash.

upport materials

Each series was handsomely supported by a range of materials for teachers and their pupils.

To help teachers make the most from each programme, Teachers’ Notes provided a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Typically the notes contained:

* An introduction to the historical period covered & the principal characters;
* Reading List for teachers & pupils;
* Main events of the period;
* The Story of each episode;
* Historical Notes on each episode;
* Preparation, which suggested activities which completed prior to viewing of each episode would help pupils make sense of what they saw;
* Questions which could be used in discussion or as part of a worksheet;
* Follow-up Activities which would build on what had been seen in the episode, e.g. a wall collage, class discussion, role play etc.


External links

* [] Search for "How we Used to Live"

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