Q: What sort of readjustments did you go through once you
got back to your present-day lives? Was there anything you had
gotten used to about your 1900 lifestyle, even if you didn't realize
it until you got back home?
Paul and Joyce: It took time to adjust to being us again.
It was easier for the children -- they just brushed it all aside;
but as adults we thought more about the experience. Not being
filmed was odd and [so was] not being asked what we felt like
on a daily basis. Strangely enough, a lot of how we felt is being
mirrored by the leavers from the English BIG BROTHER programme.
We did feel like we'd been let out of prison!
Q: Are there any aspects of Victorian living you miss since
returning to the 20th century? Are there any aspects of Victorian
life you think you missed experiencing?
Joyce: Paul misses the apparent lack of pressure and the
way we seemed to have more time. I think that this was because
we became diurnal -- a posh way of saying that we got up when
the sun rose and went to bed when it got dark! Plus, the isolation
in our own home made time go slower, i.e. no telephones, radio,
TV. We didn't know what was going on around the world, and somehow
it didn't seem to matter.
missed most of what being Victorian was about -- it was just a
little glimpse into one lifestyle at the time that we had. Luckily,
we missed all the illnesses that were considered part of life's
battle then. We missed having other Victorians to talk to.
Q: How do you think a Victorian family would react if they
had to spend three months living in the year 2000? Basically the
reverse of your adventure.
Paul: Good question! We talked about this when we came
home. Joyce thinks that a Victorian lady would have fainted with
the impact of all those domestic technological advances. They'd
have become addicted to things, we think, like e-mail and television!
They would have been as tired as we were after 3 months -- so
much to take in. Also, we reckon they'd be much fatter from junk
food and not so much exercise.
Q. This is for each member of the family: What was the
first modern thing you used when you went home to your real house?
Bowlers: Paul -- shower. Joyce -- kettle to make a quick
cup of tea, opened fridge for cold milk. Kathryn and Hilary --
CD players. Ruth -- turned on all the lights. Joe -- computer
games. We think this is correct, although we did all need a good
shower, so there was a queue.
Q: As the oldest child in my family, I was concerned about
Constance. I know I'd have felt so left out if I wasn't involved
with this project, as it seems like you all have had this unique,
"growing" experience without her. How did she feel throughout,
and why exactly did she remain at home?
Constance: I had left home and was enjoying my new job
when the rest of the family applied to do 1900 House. I didn't
want to do it! I moved back home for three months to mind the
house and look after our cats, Topsy and Tansy.
Q: What was it like for Constance, with the family away
so long? Did they or you write? Or visit? How did you explain
to other people about the rest of the family and 1900 House?
Constance: We wrote every week and I visited twice. When
I visited, I had to wear 1900 costume. It was horrible. The house
was dark and smelt of coal, gas, and candles. Most close friends
and family knew what was happening, but nobody got the full impact
until the programme went out.
Q: Prior to living in the 1900 house, given the chance
to choose just one modern convenience to have available to you,
what would you have chosen? After spending three months in the
house, would your answer now be different?
Joyce: After the event, there is no competition: it has
to be detergents and preferably very sophisticated stuff like
SHAMPOO and CONDITIONER! Before, I would have liked a washing
machine; I knew that it would be hard work. Paul wished for a
decent oven. The range would have worked brilliantly on real coal,
[but] we had to use smoke-free fuel to comply with the Clean Air
Act. We would have liked more regular newspapers too -- stingy
Q: What was the hardest thing to adjust to in the 1900
House? What was the strangest appliance you used? What was the
Bowlers: It was hard to adjust to the lack of freedom and
choice. We have so much freedom of choice in our modern lives,
from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to how we spend our
free time. Victorians didn't have free time!
strangest appliance? We can't think of anything strange, although
the bannister brush had us flummoxed for three months. We never
did work out how to hold it!
best part was different for all of us, although we all LOVED going
to the Players Theatre. Anyone going to visit London must visit
The Players. It's under the arches at Charing Cross and is like
stepping back in time. We felt really at home as it's the only
place in London where you don't look out of place dressed in 1900
Q: Your family has a wonderful sense of humor and already
seemed to be very close. What have you done to raise such a strong
family in modern times?
Joyce and Paul: We don't know! We have always talked a
lot to each other and done things together. This gets harder as
the children grow older, but allowing them space to be themselves
is important. Joyce: I would hate for anyone to think that I have
moulded my children! A sense of humour is important to me, and
I believe that's what has played a large part in bringing up the
Q: Joyce, what was the most difficult adjustment you encountered,
and did you ever come close to walking out on the project?
Joyce: I found it difficult a lot of the time. I did not
want to become a stereotype cartoon cut-out of the woman who lived
in the house in 1900. It was hard to be filmed and "do my own
thing," especially when all I wanted to do was research in local
museums, etc.; this does not make good TV (ask any TV producer)!
We had enormous mood swings -- well me, really -- so I came close
to leaving once or twice, but something made me see it through.
I knew that I would hate myself if I didn't give it my all. By
the way, I wasn't miserable all the time and want to set the record
straight -- I'm quite funny and lighthearted most of the time!
How much research did you do before you went travelling? There
are so many antique books from the period; did you spend time
getting familiar with the resources and techniques available?
Bowlers: We were not encouraged to do any research,
as the production crew did not want us to appear too clever! We
did go to Shugborough Hall, which is the ancestral home of the
Lord of Lichfield, to cook, wash, and learn to iron in his magnificent
kitchens. Unfortunately for us, it was much grander than our kitchen
at Elliscombe Road would be and everything was in perfect working
order! The cooking range was huge and worked beautifully. Ours
was a cheap version and had been adapted to comply with 1999 health
and safety rules. 1900 was not really a year for health and safety
in the home!
If there was one, which meal did you find was the easiest to prepare
in your Victorian kitchen if you wanted 1900 "fast food"?
Bowlers: If the hens were laying well then anything eggy
was good, for eggsample (sorry, bad yolk -- I mean joke) -- for
example, omelettes or fried egg on toast. If all else failed,
then we went to the fish and chip shop.
Q: When Paul went to work was he allowed to read the daily
Paul: No, I wasn't allowed to read the daily papers. I
wasn't allowed to use the telephone or computer, either.
Q: I'd like to ask the family if they have made any changes
in their modern lives as a result of their experience. Do they
feel they've lost a family closeness as a result of re-entering
the modern world, and might they be willing to give up something
(such as television) to get it back?
Bowlers: We are still close but not perfect; we do
argue and fight like normal people.
I wanted every modern device known to woman when I left but
have calmed down now and realise that I don't need it at all.
Paul and I could give up television easily, except for the old
films! We are very strict about what our family watch -- we have
criteria, which goes like this: "Would we invite these people
into our home?" And if the answer is no, then we don't watch it.
I could rattle on about this for ages; it's a pet subject of mine!
Q: I was wondering how the children dealt with attending
modern school while living in the house. How did they handle the
transition between the two worlds, how did their schoolmates treat
them, and did they ever bring friends home? Would the friends
need to wear period dress as well?
Hilary and Ruth: It was not hard to go back and forwards
in and out of modern clothes, but it was hard to explain what
we were doing to our friends. We did not have friends visiting.
I had a friend called Sharon who stayed for two nights. She
wore Victorian dress and borrowed [clothes] of mine and some of
Connie's. Connie had two outfits for when she came to visit. Lots
of people wanted to come and see what we were up to.
Q: Apparently, for your family, there were many struggles
involved in living in the 1900 world. In particular, operating
the various gadgets from that time was a big challenge (such as
using the stove, washing clothes, etc.) But did you get the feeling
that using these items might not have been as difficult for those
who actually lived during that time? After all, they were born
and raised during that period, and did not know that there would
be better alternatives in the future. In your family's case, you
knew what you were missing. So, do you think that this is what
caused the frustration that you sometimes felt?
Bowlers: Of course, if you had been born 100 years
or more ago, then the gadgets, etc. in the house would have been
familiar. For us it was amazing how many things we did recognise
and how many we did not. For instance, the can openers were fairly
recognisable but one brush was a real puzzle to us. It was designed
to clean bannisters -- we never did work out how! A lot of the
confusion was caused by us knowing that there was a better alternative
or quick fix. We had to try to forget that the year 1999 existed
and entrench ourselves in the year 1900. That had weird effects
in itself. It made the whole thing seem increasingly real.
Q: Did any of you ever feel uncomfortable with the camera
men there all day?
Bowlers: No! The crew were nice company and very supportive.
We learnt to ignore them and got used to them. Although [they
were] using modern filming equipment, they did turn off their
mobile phones and wore carpet slippers.
Q: In 1900, women's main focus was their family and their
home. In 2000, many women have careers outside the home, but also
have families. Since your return from the 1900 house, do you feel
that women are more respected now or then? Which do you respect
more, the 1900 woman or the 2000 woman? (This question is for
the entire family.)
Bowlers: Each period had different values and women earned
respect in different ways. We all feel that the 1900 woman deserves
a lot of respect, not least for wearing a corset all day.
Q: Was the housework and the house maintenance so grueling
that you were constantly exhausted? If so, did you get to take
afternoon naps? Also, did you find that you went to bed earlier,
because of less distraction with TV, computer, etc.?
Joyce: It was very tiring physically because the corset
didn't aid ease of movement. Everything took a long time and demanded
strong biceps. Afternoon naps weren't possible because of time
(shopping usually, if [it was] not done [in the] a.m.), and it's
near nigh impossible to relax or recline wearing a corset. Kathryn
and I did manage a sort of relaxed position but it wasn't comfy
Q: For Mr Bowler: What was the reaction of your military
peers and others to your wearing 19th-century military atire?
How have the customs of the military changed in the last 100 years?
Paul: The Royal Marines were very supportive of the project
and allowed me to change jobs over the 3 months. I was attached
to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Career Office in London. They
were very strict with me; they only allowed me to interview potential
candidates for the RN/RM. I wasn't allowed to use telephone or
computers. I became a conversation piece; as individuals came
in the career office, they were faced with a Quarter Master Sergeant
of the Royal Marines Artillery (a good ice-breaker).
WO [Warrant Officer] Bowler, how did you blend in your life
in The 1900 House and your duties as a Marine?
Paul: I believe the traditions have been handed down
through the generations of serving members of the armed forces
and have become customs and important traditions which gives the
military man a history to be proud of.
Q: Now that you've had a taste of Victorian life, do you
think that you could have been happy living in that time? And,
if you had the chance to do the experiment again, would you?
Bowlers: If we had time-travelled and not been able to
return then I think that we could have managed to be quite happy
then. We were starting to get the hang of it after 3 months.
I would have been going to rallies in support of women getting
the vote and subscribing to the vegetarian magazine. As a family,
we agree that we would do it again, although Joe is less keen.
If he could pack a jar of peanut butter, I think he'd make a more
willing time traveller.
Q: Does the fact that you have experienced the conveniences
of modern living continue to inhibit your appreciation of how
truly marvelous turn-of-the-century "technology" was to a family
of that era?
Bowlers: No, we did realise that people of 1900 would
have been jolly proud of everything they had. Victorians were
very pleased with themselves in 1900. A book of the year which
we had in the house declared as much! We had to forget what was
to happen in the next 100 years.
you for all your questions and interest. Happy historical adventuring!