Britain's Secret Homes: Episode 4

Modern day photographer Rankin visits an Edinburgh house integral to the development of photography, Greg Rusedski visits the home where lawn tennis was invented and Anita Rani explores the story behind an Indian house in Kent. Archaeologist and anthropologist Mary Ann Ochota travels to a remote Shetland isle to explain the importance of a 2,000 year-old tower and this episode even includes a terrace of houses which are in fact not houses at all. Over in Northern Ireland, we find out why a Belfast poor house became the home of the industrial revolution in the city and in Liverpool Rageh Omaar visits the first mosque in England.

Fairlight: Presented by Greg Rusedski


'Fairlight' in Birmingham has an expansive lawn which was arguably the birthplace of modern tennis. Fairlight was the home of Spanish merchant, Jean Batista Augurio Perera, who, together with his friend Harry Gem, took the previously exclusive sport of racquets outside for the first time. They called their game 'pelota' in reference to Perera's Spanish roots but after the game was popularised by a Victorian entrepreneur it went on to be known as lawn tennis.

India House: Presented by Anita Rani

India House

India House was built in 1766-7 in Margate, Kent. It was commissioned by and lived in by Captain John Gould who resided there after he returned from India following the Siege of Calcutta.

Allegedly India House is built in the style of Captain Gould's house in India, where his wife remained when he embarked on his final voyage. Returning to England after the siege of Calcutta, Gould was appointed Commissioner of Restitution; responsible for distributing compensation payments to other East India Company men (and received a sizeable amount himself). It was this money that probably funded his building of India House!)

List entry number: 1351101

Images of England: 356573

Leinster Gardens

Leinster Gardens

Leinster Gardens in Bayswater appears to be a street of elegant stucco terraced houses but a visit to the street behind it reveals Leinster Gardens' secret. Number 23 and 24 are fa├žades built in the late 1860s when the South Kensington extension to the London Underground reached Leinster Gardens.

The original houses that stood there were knocked down to make way for the creation of the underground tunnel. Building the dummy houses was a way of avoiding a large unsightly gap in the middle of the upmarket terraced homes, ensuring that the aesthetics of the street were maintained. It also left a stretch of open track behind the houses so that the steam-powered locomotives had a place to vent off, ensuring that the underground tunnels did not fill with smoke.

Rock House: Presented by Rankin

Rock House

Rock House in Edinburgh is integral to the development of photography. In 1843 scientist Robert Adamson rented the property to be used as a calotype studio - calotyping being one of the first photographic processes. 

Set high on a hill, Rock House was raised above the smog of 'Auld Reekie' maximising all the sunlight Edinburgh had to offer, essential to the development of these pictures. The painter David Octavius Hill sought out Adamson's new technology as a means to capture subjects from which he would paint portraits.  At the house the pair discovered that photographs were not just a reference tool for painters, but in fact photography was an art form in itself.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

The Cloisters in Hertfordshire was originally built as an open-air school dedicated to psychology, with accommodation for 20 students. They were encouraged to study "how thought affects action and what causes and produces thought." Through healthy outdoor living it was intended that the students would develop healthy minds.

List entry number: 1102019

Images of England: 161838

Broch of Mousa: Presented by Mary-Ann Ochota

Broch of Mousa

This tower was home to a sophisticated community over 2,000 years ago.  The Broch of Mousa is Scotland's most impressive and best surviving Iron Age broch standing at 13 metres high on the remote island east of mainland Shetland. From the top there is a commanding view which would make it impossible to approach the island without being seen. These impressive structures were both defensive and prestigious buildings that would have taken time and great skill to build.

Sir John Soane's Museum: Presented by Bettany Hughes

Sir John Soane's Museum

In the heart of London, an unassuming town house from the early 1800's hides one of the greatest architectural treasure troves ever collated. It's an extraordinary home built and designed by one of the world's most famous architects Sir John Soane.

The reason it is still standing today is because the house and its artefacts were left to the nation and frozen in time exactly as they were in 1837. Today the museum allows visitors to roam around the incomparable collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts.

Visitors not only gain an insight into the intricately preserved home of a great man, but also into the inner workings of his mind and his architectural passions. This great collection was never the property of Soane's biological heirs, instead it passed to the nation for Soane's own personal reasons.

List entry number: 1379327

Images of England: 478706

St Mungo's: Presented by Mary-Ann Ochota

St Mungo's

This former hostel in Francis Street marks a revolutionary moment in our history. Built to accommodate single working girls in the early 20th century, hostels like this provided a safe haven for women settling in London. But they also inadvertently supported the emancipation of women, which started with the suffragette movement.

Clifton House: Presented by Saul David

Clifton House

Clifton House, once Belfast's poor house, is home to the Belfast Charitable Society, an organisation which has been responsible for helping the residents of the city for over 250 years. Today it contains a residential home and sheltered accommodation, continuing the philanthropic aims of the organisation.

It was also the house where Belfast's industrial revolution began - turning the city into the major industrial city which went on to build the Titanic. In the late 18th century one of the home's founders, Robert Joy, determined to give the poor house residents skills which would help them gain employment when they left.

He introduced to the house machines for cotton spinning and eventually a cotton mill was built nearby, with most of the workers coming from Clifton House. It was so successful that many Belfast entrepreneurs followed suit, thus paving the way for Belfast's industrial revolution.

8 Brougham Terrace: Presented by Rageh Omaar

8 Brougham Terrace

Inside this derelict Georgian Terrace in Liverpool lies the fascinating story of England's first mosque and the unlikely Victorian gentleman who founded it. William Henry Quilliam, a local Liverpool solicitor converted to Islam in 1887, after returning from a visit to Morocco, taking on the name Abdullah.

Abdullah Quilliam established the mosque at No. 8 Brougham Terrace and later bought the remainder of the terrace to include a school, printing press and science laboratory. The activities in this house stirred mixed feeling within the local community but quickly became the first centre of Islam in Britain.

List entry number: 1062583

Images of England: 359729

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