The Edwardian Country House

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The Edwardian Country House
Edwardian Country House UK Manor House.jpg
DVD/VHS cover under the British title The Edwardian Country House
GenreHistorical reality television
Narrated byDerek Jacobi
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Running time60 min.
Original networkChannel 4
Picture format480i (SDTV)
Original release23 April – 28 May 2002
External links

The Edwardian Country House was a British six-part mini-series in the reality television genre, produced by Channel 4. It was first aired weekly in the UK beginning in April 2002 [1] and was later broadcast in the United States on PBS stations in 2003 as Manor House,[2] where extra footage was added. It is third in a series of historical reality shows produced by Channel 4, preceded by The 1900 House and The 1940s House.


In the series the Olliff-Cooper family are given the identities of turn-of-the-century aristocrats and housed in Manderston,[3] an opulent Scottish country house, where they live for three months in the Edwardian style. Mr. and Dr Olliff-Cooper become Sir John Olliff-Cooper and Lady Olliff-Cooper.

Interest and conflict is provided by the 15 servants, portrayed by individuals from several paths of life. Chief among these was Hugh Edgar, an architect from Surrey, who was cast in the role of the butler.

Participants received instruction and a set of rules by which they were expected to abide for the duration of the experiment. Most of the "upstairs" participants enjoy their time in the house, which is meant to represent the years 1905–1914. Those "below stairs" have a different experience; for those in the lowest ranks, particularly the successive scullery maids, life appears to be intolerable.


Title Original airdate (UK) Running Time Episode
"Upstairs Downstairs" 23 April 2002 50mins 1x01
Day one at Manderston and 13 of the volunteers arrive. To help them through the three months ahead of life in the Edwardian Era, they have a rule book outlining their roles and positions in the rigid upstairs-downstairs hierarchy. A Hampshire family has been chosen to live as the masters of the house. The nine-year-old son is especially pleased to find he has people to order about. However not everyone is satisfied. A week in, there is already a situation vacant in the house.
"Getting up to Scratch" 30 April 2002 50mins 1x02
At a time when industrial and commercial wealth was only just being accepted into the ranks of high society, it was crucial for a nouveau riche family like the Olliff-Coopers to hold and improve their position at the top. In episode two Sir John and Lady Olliff-Cooper set about using their new assets, including their country house, their male servants and their French chef, to maximum effect in that most powerful social weapon - the dinner party. The family is settling into their new luxurious lifestyle. Lady Olliff-Cooper feels like a child again. Mister Jonathan and Master Guy are learning to talk to people 50 years their senior while 'looking down their noses' and Sir John is wishing modern society was a little more like it is at Manderston. Downstairs there is some jostling for position going on. There is a new scullery maid - Kelly Squire and she is not enjoying the job much more than her predecessor.
"The Servants' Revolt" 7 May 2002 50mins 1x03
The atmosphere in the Edwardian Country House is tense as our 19 volunteers continue to come to terms with their new Edwardian lives. Upstairs plans are afoot to host a fund-raising fête in the gardens to help the local hospital. But the benevolent masters of Manderston may be missing hardships closer to home. Amongst the staff there are serious complaints about working hours and living conditions. Without time off, they feel they cannot go on. The chef takes matters into his own hands and, breaking all the rules, he takes the two ladies of the house on a tour of conditions downstairs. The mistress of the house takes immediate action. Two new maids are hired, but will it be enough to curb the swell of working class militancy below stairs?
"Cold Comfort" 14 May 2002 50mins 1x04
Hunting, shooting and fishing were the mainstay of country house life and the master has no desire to duck out of these Edwardian activities. While the men get back to nature, the women at home begin to question their roles in Edwardian society. Sexual restrictions particularly affect Avril, the unmarried sister of Lady Olliff-Cooper, who has to bear the discomforts of being single and dependent.

The new scullery maid looks like she will have no such problems - already she is the object of the hallboy's affection. But living as they do under the same roof, the relationship must be kept secret if they want to keep their jobs.

"Home and Empire" 21 May 2002 50mins 1x05
The British Empire is at its height and as a celebration of British achievement abroad, the family is to host a glorious fancy-dress Empire Ball. This means dancing practice, the creation of beautiful costumes and more work in the kitchen. For Guy the idea of having a role in the Empire is remote, but his Indian tutor, Mr Raj-Singh, caught between the worlds of upstairs and downstairs, is determined to bring the highs and lows of Imperial power back to life. So, before the Ball, Sir John agrees to allow Reji to organise a 'Raj' night as a celebration of the British in India.

In honour of the guests the hosts will serve a glorious curry supper. At least, that was the plan. Chef falls ill and upstairs cannot be asked to postpone. A substitute team of Antonia, Kenny and Ellen must prepare the dinner alone. Monsieur Dubiard gives instructions from his sick bed taking them through grinding the spices, cooking the breads and making the bhajis. Contemporary thinkers including Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Darcus Howe arrive at the house to challenge the jingoistic celebrations and to question the system of command, control and hierarchy within the house. As the glittering Ball gets under way, how long can power remain concentrated in the hands of the few?

"Winners and Losers" 28 May 2002 50mins 1x06
Emotions are running high in Manderston as the cast's Edwardian life is drawing to a close and everyone has to face up to going back to his or her normal life in the 21st century. After three months exposure to nothing but Edwardian culture the family and staff consider what their Edwardian future might have been. A servants' ball brings the family and the staff in direct contact on the staff's home ground. This proves an uncomfortable experience for Sir John who is beginning to realise that the apparent deference of his servants may only have been surface deep. As they leave the house, tears of joy and sadness flow and we get our first glimpse of the cast in modern dress. The hierarchy is no more and it is hard to see these confident young people allowing it to return. For upstairs as well as down, a way of life at Manderston is coming to an end.


The narrator is Derek Jacobi.


21st century life Edwardian Period life Role
John Olliff-Cooper Sir John Master of the Household
Dr. Anna Olliff-Cooper Lady Olliff-Cooper Mistress of the Household
Jonathan (Jonty) Olliff-Cooper Mister Jonathan Eldest son of Sir John and Lady Olliff-Cooper
Guy Olliff-Cooper Master Guy Youngest son of Sir John and Lady Olliff-Cooper
Prof. Avril Anson Miss Anson Lady Olliff-Cooper's sister
Reji Raj Mr Raj-Singh Tutor to Master Guy


Senior Staff[edit]

21st century life Edwardian Period life Role
Hugh Edgar Mr Edgar Butler (also valeting Sir John)
Jean Davies Mrs Davies Housekeeper
Denis Dubiard Monsieur Dubiard Chef de cuisine
Eva Morrison Miss Morrison Lady's maid to Lady Olliff-Cooper

Junior Staff[edit]

21st century life Edwardian Period life Role
Charlie Clay Charlie First Footman (also valeting Mr. Jonathan)
Rob Daly Rob Second Footman and (also valeting Master Guy)
Tristan Aldrich Tristan Groom
Ken Skelton Kenny Hallboy
21st century life Edwardian Period life Role
Rebecca Smith Becky First Housemaid
Jessica Rawlinson Jess Second Housemaid
Erika Ravitz Erika Third Housemaid
Antonia Dawson Antonia Kitchen maid
Kelly Squires Kelly Scullery maid
Lucy Garside Lucy Scullery maid
Ellen Beard Ellen Scullery maid

Home video release[edit]

This VHS and DVD was released 27 May 2003 from PBS Home Video.


  1. ^ Banks-Smith, Nancy (2 May 2002). "Confronting the matter of chamber pots". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  2. ^ Gates, Anita (27 April 2003). "And You Complain About Long Hours?". New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Film & Photo Shoot". Manderston. Retrieved 7 October 2018.

External links[edit]