HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

 |   |  1 min read

HOW WE BUILT BRITAIN, a documentary series with DAVID DIMBLEBY (BBC DVD)

Anglophiles and architects may naturally be drawn to this six-part series which comes with the subtitle "The Dramatic and Heroic Story of Britain's Architecture". But architects might be disappointed.

Starting in 1066 -- which rather ignores quite a chunk of history -- this digressive series fronted by the eye-twinkling and winking Dimbleby becomes something more like a social history of England -- the rest of Britain is almost scrupulously ignored aside from a journey to Scotland -- with buildings sometimes added in for emblematic effect.

Which means if you come here to find out how and why those great cathedrals, castles, manor houses or even modernist buildings were erected you will go away disappointed. But set aside the misrepresenting title/subtitle and this is an enjoyable enough romp through history in which Dimbleby stops to interview rabbiters and chimney sweeps, clambers up to the roof of great stately piles, drops in to discover some family history in the village of his name and takes a tour of those dark satanic mills and alleyways of a darker Britain.

He travels by Land Rover so there are many helicopter shots of it being driven through impossibly picturesque, sun-soaked country lanes between orderly fields. But he does frequently ignore the obvious to take in some fascinating and less well-known places -- such as the dancehall beneath the Blackpool Tower.

Dimbleby also gets you inside places you might never see (enormous wooden barns, beautifully preserved Victorian homes, a massive and now deserted mental asylum with a huge ballroom for its inmates) and into the breathtakingly beautiful music hall in Leeds which will have you booking a ticket.

Leeds in fact comes off as an interesting microcosm of England's increasing prosperity in the Victorian era: a mill town with suburbs of two-up two-down houses where washing is still strung between houses and a city centre with beautifully preserved shopping arcades of glass and ironwork.

The details of craftmanship -- whether it be in stone or timber -- and the dedication of visionaries throughout the century are the eye-candy here and Dimbleby is a genial, dry host.

So while it might not explain just how Britain was built in a strictly architectural sense, this series certainly illustrates how people formed their world right into the 21st century and Sir Norman Foster's big gherkin.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Film articles index

THE COVE, a documentary by LOUIE PSIHOYOS (Madman, DVD)

THE COVE, a documentary by LOUIE PSIHOYOS (Madman, DVD)

At the time of this writing Japan's fishing industry is in the news for all the wrong reasons: The annual whale kill is down drastically because of efforts by Sea Shepherd to stop Japan's kill in... > Read more

SUFI SOUL by WILLIAM DALRYMPLE (DVD): Seeking the Beloved within

SUFI SOUL by WILLIAM DALRYMPLE (DVD): Seeking the Beloved within

In these post -9-11 days it is odd to consider that the biggest selling poet in America in the Nineties was Islamic. The deeply philosophical works of Rumi, a poet of the Sufi branch of Islam,... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Essential Roy Orbison

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Essential Roy Orbison

With his extraordinary range, a catalogue of original songs which (like Arthur Alexander) told often told interior monologue stories, personal tragedies hidden behind dark glasses and a mystique... > Read more

THE VENICE BIENNALE 2009: Art for art's, and its curator's, sake

THE VENICE BIENNALE 2009: Art for art's, and its curator's, sake

Should Venice sink beneath the sea, it is possible the city could be reconstructed exactly by referring to the millions of photographs tourists have taken of every palazzo, piazza, corner and... > Read more