Chester-based TV presenter Louise Minchin has swapped the comforts of the BBC Breakfast sofa for life as a downtrodden house servant for a new Channel 4 documentary.
In the new celebrity-based reality show Time Crashers, the mum-of-two joins other famous names including Keith Allen, Fern Britton and Kirstie Alley as they go back in time to different eras of British history before electricity and hot water were readily available.
For each time period, Louise and the celebrities are required to don blindfolds and get themselves dressed before being driven off to a new era each week and so far they’ve gone back to the eras of 1558, 1468, 1796 and 1913.
Tasks have included skinning a deer with a blunt knife, grooming horses and washing clothes in urine, but Louise said taking part in the show has made her appreciate the comforts of the modern world even more.
She told the Radio Times: “What got me was that as servants you weren’t supposed to be seen or heard, so if the lady of the house walked past you, you had to turn your face to the wall so she couldn’t see you. You were basically not considered worthy of being looked at.
“As a journalist, I’m really interested in stories, so by agreeing to take part in this living history show, I thought I would get a unique perspective on history, one that was much more instructive than what we see on Downton Abbey or in history documentaries.
“I wanted a 100% immersive experience and that’s what we got, from what we ate to what we wore and the tools we used,” she explained.
But it wasn’t exactly easy to adopt a whole new way of life.
“Other than obviously missing my family, the lack of hot water and baths was a particular hardship,” remembers Louise.
“We have a romantic view of history; we think life was simpler, calmer, more bucolic. Maybe. But it was also physically tough, cold and dirty.
“What I came to realise is that we have lost the knowledge of the practical skills that our ancestors used on a daily basis. Whether it’s gutting a fish, plucking a chicken or foraging in a hedgerow, we have lost being in touch with our environment and the food that we eat.”
Time Crashers is on Channel 4 on Sundays from 8pm.