The Workhouse The Charles Dickens Show


The Workhouse

Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. He is joined by fundraising virtuoso Doctor Thomas Barnardo to discuss the Victorian phenomenon of the workhouse.


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Transcript


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Ladies and gentlemen, live from the 19th-century,

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at the heart of Her Majesty's empire in the city of London

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it's the Charles Dickens Show.

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Please will you welcome your host,

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he-e-e-ere's Dickens!

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APPLAUSE

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Thank you, thank you, thank you. Good to have you with us.

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Thanks for stopping by. Hello and welcome to Queen Victoria's England.

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What about this weather we've had recently,

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ladies and gentlemen? Brrr!

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It's so cold, even the flames of our studio fire...

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have frozen!

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LAUGHTER

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Now, tonight's show is all about life in the workhouse,

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and when our researchers did the maths on this thing,

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they came up with some very shocking facts.

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126,000 people living in these places,

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which were originally designed to punish people.

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The people being sent there today haven't broken any laws.

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No, the only crime these people have committed is being poor.

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Now, 35,000 of these unfortunates

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are under the age of 12.

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If that many children were laid end to end,

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they'd be 26 miles long.

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If you stood them on each other's shoulders,

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they would be 140,000 feet up in the stratosphere. You'd suffocate.

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So, kids, don't try that at home.

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And now, we're joined

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by our fearless investigative reporter, Nelly Trent.

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-Hello, Nelly, what have you been up to?

-Hello, Charles.

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I have a shocking undercover expose from a workhouse in Nottinghamshire.

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-It'll chill you and the viewers to the bone.

-Oh!

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And we have a report from a London workhouse kitchen.

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Mrs Burble, the chief cook there, has agreed to share with us

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what she feeds these poor children.

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I'm betting it's not pease pudding and saveloy.

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And we'll be rounding off our show

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with our very special guest, he's a man who's working tirelessly

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to keep these poor, unfortunate children

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out of the workhouses and off the streets,

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will you please give a huge welcome to Dr Thomas Barnardo, everybody.

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CHEERING

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We'll be catching up with him in a moment

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and talking to him about his work.

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-Warm enough over there, Tom?

-Not too bad.

-Good.

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Now, just to put us in the zone,

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here is a film from one of my most famous books,

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The Adventures of Oliver Twist.

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I wonder if the viewers at home

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can spot the horrible historical mistake

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made by the film-makers in the following clip.

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Please, Sir, I want some more.

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What?!

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Please, Sir...

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..I want some...

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more?

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More?!

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Shoot that designer!

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The costumes, the sets completely the wrong era!

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You see, I originally wrote Oliver Twist as a serial,

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in monthly instalments.

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The first appeared in February 1837.

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King William IV died four months later, in June 1837.

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-Did you know that, Tom?

-No. I always thought it was Victorian.

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Ah, yes! Actually, it's a common mistake.

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Now, let's take a look at Nelly's special undercover report.

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Roll the thing.

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I've travelled to the Greet workhouse in Nottinghamshire,

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which is the model for the many hundreds of workhouses

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that now exist all across the country.

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Other parishes thought Greet was so great

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that they borrowed their ideas for their own workhouses.

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Children who live here work from morning till night,

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and their masters are often brutal and unkind.

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One of the young orphans has agreed to secretly film

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a day in his life for the Charles Dickens Show.

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It's half past four in the morning and this is the dormitory.

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We sleep at least two of us to a bed.

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Sometimes that can be a good thing, mind it can get fearful cold.

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I'm 11 now, but I came to this workhouse when I was nine.

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It was just me and Father.

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MAN COUGHS

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After Father lost his job as a farmhand,

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he brought us here to give us a roof over our heads,

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but he always said he was ashamed to bring us to this.

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Children and parents is only allowed half an hour visiting

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on Sundays, though, so I hardly saw him before he died.

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It's just me now. I get sad about it sometimes, especially at night time.

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Though we're not allowed to cry, or we might get the stick!

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'The children live apart from the adults.'

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The men and women are kept apart and all,

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so families are all split up.

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Children together, men together, women together.

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They wash us all over when we come in here.

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After that, we wash our faces and neck at the pump in the yard.

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They give us these clothes so we all dress the same.

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Mine's too big, so I tie them up with string, like this, see?

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To make them fit.

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When we go to bed, we get locked in here,

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and we can't get out until morning, even if we're really desperate.

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That's why they put the pail in the corner.

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They don't like us larking around or playing, because they like us quiet.

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They reckon we'll eat more if we get exercised.

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I don't know if I'll ever get out of here.

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There's no sense in trying to run away, they'll only catch you.

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One fella tried it last month

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and they dragged him back in here and whipped him.

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WHIP CRACKS

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We all had to watch.

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WHIP CRACKS

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They paint the walls in these light colours

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so every bit of daylight gets used.

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Candles cost money. BELL RINGS

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Cripes! Better get a rattle on.

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If you get late for bread, they put you on bread and water for 24 hours!

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Living in here don't come for free. You has to work for your keep.

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I'll show you what you have to do.

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This is the job they give us when we come in here.

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It's called picking oakum. What you do,

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is they give you an old piece of rope from a ship's rigging,

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and you have to unwind it and pull it apart so it's like cotton wool.

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I only wish it were as soft as cotton wool.

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It's full of tar and salt and grit and water,

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and it gives you blisters something awful.

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You end up with a pile of oakum, which the workhouse sells.

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They use it for building ships,

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filling in the gaps between the planks.

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It makes mattresses, too. Money for old rope, it is!

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HE CHORTLES Though I don't see any of it.

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If you're under 16, you have to pick one and a half pounds every day.

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That's the same as six juicy red apples,

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or 24 fat, shiny conkers, which is ever so hard to do.

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They even use it as a punishment for convicts what done wicked things.

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All we've done is be poor, and we shouldn't be punished for that.

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I think that's really wrong.

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METAL CLANKS Here comes the master.

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That's your lot, Nelly!

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Thank you, Billy.

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"Oliver Twist and his companions

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"suffered the tortures of slow starvation for three months.

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"At last, they got so wild with hunger, that one boy hinted darkly

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"that unless he had another basin of gruel, he was afraid

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"he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next to him."

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So, what exactly do these workhouse children

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like our young friend there get to eat?

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Something nutritious, delicious, to help them put up with

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the endless hours of oakum picking?

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Here's a woman who knows the answer. She cooks for paupers every day.

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What's in your pot, Mrs Burble?

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CAULDRON BUBBLES

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Thank you, Mr Dickens.

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Hello, everybody, and welcome to my lovely kitchen.

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As you can see, I like to keep things clean, tidy and shipshape.

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That's because my first husband was a sailor.

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Captain's steward, he was.

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Well, he taught me lots of tasty recipes -

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roast turtle, melange of narwhal, drowned dog dumplings. Ooh!

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SHE SMACKS HER LIPS

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Here we have the total amount of food one of the boys would eat in a week.

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Four pints of gruel, one pint of broth

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that's boiled-up animal bones.

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A whole half-loaf of bread, three spuds.

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I tell you, it's a wonder they don't go off pop, some of them!

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And some... What's this?

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Ah. Rice pudding.

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Some cheese. That is to have with the bread.

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Some... Some...

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Well, it's meat.

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Stickings, I suppose.

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Now, that don't look right, do it? Oh, I know!

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A turnip.

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Well, half of one.

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Now, for breakfast, we're going to give them some gruel.

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Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they gets gruel.

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All the other days of the week, they gets...

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gruel. SHE GIGGLES

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Oh, I am a one! It always makes me laugh!

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Where was I?

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Oh, gruel.

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In this pan I've got some oatmeal,

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which I've had soaking overnight in a solution of...water.

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There's about...well...this much oatmeal in there.

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We're going to bring it to the boil.

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Don't let it boil over.

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Now I'm going to add some suet, for meaty goodness.

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This is raw fat, and it's ever so healthy.

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Now, for every three ounces of oatmeal,

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you want about half an ounce of suet.

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That'll be...well...

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about this much.

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Don't forget your seasoning.

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We leave this to cook.

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And then we add treacle and milk once it's got going.

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Now, how's this doing?

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Ooh, lovely!

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Mmm.

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Mmm! That is good.

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That's oaty, that's treacly,

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that's soapy...

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That's my laundry!

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Well, that's all the treacle there is for today,

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so the gruel will just have to go without.

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Still, I expect they'll survive.

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Ta-ta!

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AUDIENCE BOOS

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I'm shocked.

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Truly shocked!

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I wonder what the Burbles are having for their dinner this evening.

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Next up on my show is a man

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who is busier than a bee in a bed of roses.

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He's always asking people for money

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so that he can build homes for poor and destitute children.

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They say he sleeps just five hours a night,

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and he writes 500 letters a week.

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Can that be true? Surely not.

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Let's find out. Will you please give a warm welcome to Dr Tom Barnardo?

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-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

-Tom, it seems

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we're lucky to have you, thank you greatly for coming on the show.

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I'm delighted to be here, Charles.

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Now, Tom. These 500 letters a week.

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We worked out you must be going through a whole pint of ink a week.

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Are you buying in bulk?

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I've persuaded my supplier to do me a very good deal.

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Maybe I could come in on that with you!

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I have been known to scribble the odd missive myself.

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Tell me, Tom, are you a quill man,

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or do you fancy these new-fangled fountain pens

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we've been seeing in our stationery shops?

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Well, they have been around for some years now, Charles.

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I like them very much. They're so portable!

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I find they have a tendency to clog.

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I like my thoughts to flow straight through the point of the pen.

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"It was the best of times, it was the wor..."

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LAUGHTER

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W... Ahh, you see?!

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Its gone all over my trousers.

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Now, Tom. The name of Barnardo is on everyone's lips at the moment.

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We're all very excited about the work you're doing.

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You provide a wonderful alternative to the workhouse for poor children

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like that young boy we saw in the undercover report.

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But just explain to us,

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if you would, what makes your home so different from the workhouses?

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Workhouses are cruel and desperately hard places to live.

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Our aim is to care for the children,

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to keep them safe, warm and well fed.

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Our children don't stay with us forever,

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usually just a few months until they're healthy and on their feet.

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So there's a very different picture there.

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What was it that inspired you to open your first home?

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-Well, it's a long story.

-I do the long stories, Tom!

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Just the headlines, if you would.

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I see we're going to have trouble this evening. Pray, continue.

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I had just started a community school

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in some donkey stables near Limehouse.

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There weren't any donkeys living there at the time, were there?

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No, the donkeys were long gone.

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One of the boys, Jim Jarvis,

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took me out to the East End of London one night

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and showed me children of five, six years old,

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sleeping on roofs, in gutters.

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It affected me very deeply.

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Can you imagine? It's getting dark.

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You've only had one piece of bread to eat all day.

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Perhaps it's starting to rain, and you have nowhere to sleep.

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Well, that's the reality for many children nowadays.

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Night after night after night.

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And these disturbing images continue to haunt you?

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Yes, very much so. Jim Jarvis had opened my eyes to something.

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My work was here, among the destitute children of London.

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"No destitute child ever refused admission."

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-That's the motto of your organisation, am I right?

-Correct.

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Those words are writ large over every doorway.

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How did that motto come about?

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A young lad came to one of our homes one night looking for a bed.

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Unfortunately, the home was full and the boy was turned away.

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Tragically, he was discovered in the streets two days later,

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dead from cold and hunger.

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From that day forth, we set up our ever-open-door policy

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so that no child should ever have to suffer such a terrible fate again.

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-APPLAUSE

-Well, that's wonderful.

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Now, I hear you've brought along

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some photographs for us to look at of your work.

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That's delightful.

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We're all familiar, of course, with photographs,

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as family portraits and so forth, but I believe that you have

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been using them in your advertising campaign, is that correct?

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That's quite right, Charles.

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This is a before-and-after picture?

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Yes. We photograph the children when they arrive

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and then we photograph them again, several months later,

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after they've had a chance to recover from life on the streets.

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It's a very effective way of showing people the work that we're doing.

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And you're selling these pictures to the public, I believe?

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It's a good way of raising money for the charity,

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so we can help more of these children.

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They're proving very popular, too.

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Only five shillings a pack, Charles, if I can tempt you?

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-LAUGHTER

-How could I possibly refuse?

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On national television in front of millions.

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Oh, Charles, I know that you're a very generous man.

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I bet you'd give the coat off your back to help these poor children.

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I'd give them my trousers, Tom, but sadly they're covered in ink.

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Now, Tom, your success has brought with it some criticism,

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and I read a suggestion somewhere that, "Dr Barnardo

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"is so desperate to rescue abused children

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"that he will think nothing of kidnapping them from their parents."

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That's nonsense. We don't kidnap them.

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We have on occasion removed children from violent or cruel parents.

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-So you are prepared to break the law?

-Yes, because the law is wrong.

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We want to show people the dangers faced by these vulnerable children.

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If you could just look into the eyes of these poor waifs and strays

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who have been neglected and beaten...

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Yes, I am prepared to break the law.

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Our dream, what we're fighting for, though, is a change to the law,

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which will see children protected rather than the parents.

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-APPLAUSE

-Well, we all say amen to that.

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Now, finally, Tom,

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what would you say to our Victorian viewers watching at home

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who see poverty as shameful, a result of laziness and crime?

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I would say that every child

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deserves the best possible start in life,

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regardless of their background.

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When parents feel the creeping cold of poverty envelop the home

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it is often the children who are frozen out first.

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We can't restore lost childhoods

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but we can give those children back their future.

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Well, we certainly wish every child in your care good luck

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and Godspeed.

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During the course of the show we pass around my hat,

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and we've had a little bit of a collection on your behalf.

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Let's see what we've achieved.

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Oh, yes!

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It's a staggering £14, ladies and gentlemen!

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That is remarkably generous. Thank you, everybody.

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And, Charles, for you to say that you would double this amount

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out of your own pocket is just beyond kindness.

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Yes, of course. I'm no Ebenezer Scrooge. Where's my chequebook?

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Has anybody got a basket or a bag or something

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that Tom could put that money into?

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Don't worry, I'll just keep it in the hat.

0:17:560:17:58

You're keeping my hat?

0:17:580:18:00

I have a feeling that one of your fans will pay very good money

0:18:000:18:03

for Mr Charles Dickens' hat and coat.

0:18:030:18:05

-My coat?

-Well, you did say earlier you'd give the coat off your back.

0:18:050:18:10

Yes, so I did, didn't I?

0:18:100:18:13

-Here you go. It's all yours.

-APPLAUSE

0:18:130:18:16

-So, make this out to...

-Dr Tom Barnardo. That would be splendid.

0:18:200:18:23

Dr Tom...Bar...

0:18:230:18:26

You see, these things are useless.

0:18:260:18:29

Gah! It's gone all over my trousers, ladies and gentlemen!

0:18:290:18:31

Never mind, we'll clear all that up after the show. Thank you, Tom.

0:18:310:18:35

It's been wonderful to have you here. You have a real talent.

0:18:350:18:39

I ought to hire you to help with some of my other favourite causes.

0:18:390:18:43

And now a big thank-you for all your wonderful work,

0:18:430:18:46

-Dr Thomas Barnardo, everybody!

-APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

0:18:460:18:49

It's time to fan the sinking flame of hilarity

0:18:490:18:52

with the wing of friendship and pass the rosy wine.

0:18:520:18:55

We'll be back to increase your stock of harmless cheerfulness next week

0:18:550:18:59

but I leave you with this thought.

0:18:590:19:01

No-one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.

0:19:010:19:06

Get to it! Good night and God bless you all.

0:19:060:19:09

APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

0:19:090:19:11

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:19:280:19:31

Live from the 19th century, Charles Dickens hosts a chat show. His famous Victorian guests include Doctor Barnardo, Mary Seacole and Queen Victoria.

With a nod to popular magazine programmes like The One Show - and recorded in its London studio - The Charles Dickens Show sees the celebrated author interview A-list guests of the Victorian era, like reformers Lord Shaftesbury and Dr Thomas Barnardo, nurses Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole, and even Queen Victoria herself.

What was life really like for Victorians? The Charles Dickens Show bursts with shocks, laughs and fascinating facts. Dickens, his roving reporter Nelly and a string of famous guests telly-port us back into a world that's dirty, dangerous and often deeply strange. Special reports include a video diary shot undercover by an orphan in a workhouse; interviews with mudlarks and purefinders on London's mean streets; Ask The Doctors, where Joseph Lister takes on the traditionalists; and Mrs Beeton's guide to Christmas Day. In this episode, Dickens is joined by fundraising virtuoso Doctor Thomas Barnardo to discuss the Victorian phenomenon of the workhouse. He hears from Billy, an orphan who has lived in one for two years, and chief cook Mrs Burble takes him through a typical workhouse menu.


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