I don’t watch a lot of television, apart from Who Do You Think You Are? there is not much else that I would make the time to watch. This evening I put aside 30 minutes to watch the first episode of series two of Great British Railway Journeys on the BBC iPlayer.
I didn’t watch the first series and very nearly missed this one. In this episode former MP Michael Portillo travels by train from Brighton to Crystal Palace via Godstone (although Godstone is a bit of a way out if you are travelling from Brighton to Crystal Palace) armed with a copy of George Bradshaw‘s Tourist Guide.
The programme was is a travel documentary with plenty of history (and historic film) and discussions with historians thrown in for good measure. It helped of course that the places featured were familiar to me.
Starting at Brighton on the Sussex coast we saw the Brighton Aquarium (now the Sea Life Centre) which I think I have only visited once, probably about 30 years ago whilst still at school, I really ought to go back again this year. Then we heard about the long destroyed Chain Pier and took a ride on the Volk’s Electric Railway.
Heading up the railway line towards London we saw briefly the magnificent Ouse Valley Viaduct, which I believe at least once of my distant relatives helped to build. In fact I would imagine that plenty of my relatives were involved in the construction of the London to Brighton railway, if only there were records to prove it.
Portillo took a detour to spend the night at Godstone, Surrey. I have been through Godstone on the train several times, but have never actually visited despite have connections there with my GASSON ancestors. I certainly had no idea that there were underground quarries there and wonder if my ancestors had anything to do with them.
The programme finished at Crystal Palace, an intriguing place with a fascinating history. I paid a brief visit to the park and the remains of the Crystal Palace last year as part of my Capital Ring walk. It was one of several places on that walk which I hope to be able to visit again to explore the park and museum further.
This programme seemed very personal to me, it was almost as if the programme was made specifically for me, truly thirty minutes well spent. Now where can I get hold of one of Bradshaw’s Guides?