Family Tries Victorian Life

You may not realize how much you have to give thanks for, but the members of one British family do. They volunteered to live for three months as Victorians did almost 100 years ago.

CBS News Correspondent Richard Roth reports for The Early Show.
The family's experiences were recorded and broadcast in a compelling British television series. It has a simple premise: Pick a modern-day family from hundreds of volunteers, turn on a TV camera and put them in a replica of middle-class Victorian England, in a house stripped of every modern-day convenience.

"To wash, dress, eat and live every intimate detail of life - in the 1900 house," says the announcer.

The series has become a hit on British TV, as the Bowler family copes, complains or feels the routine constraints of daily life 99 years ago.

Take corsets, for instance.

"Women wore these from early teens to the day they died. Why I could have walked up the stairs without panting and being out of breath; I could've done everything so much easier!" Joyce Bowler notes.

For three months they stuck it out without a computer, microwave, telephone or even toothpaste.

Now the Bowlers are living in the present again - glad to put the past behind them.

"When I came back, I just loved my washing machine, and I just appreciate my vacuum cleaner," Bowler says, laughing.

"I think I was living in fairyland; I had an idea it was going to beÂ…the very Laura Ashley picture of Victorian life that we have at the moment, and I couldn't have been more wrong," she adds.

It was hard, they say, without pizza, peanut butter and recorded music. What Bowler missed most, though, was a modern way to wash her hair.

"Shampoo became the elixir of life. I needed it. I needed it badly," she says.

The house itself is empty now and on the market. In 1900, a place like this would have been worth about $500. The asking price today is the equivalent of about $350,000.

The broker says it'll bring that, though a new owner will probably want to renovate.

"A lot of houses still have their outside toilets but I think you'll find a modern person is more likely trying to stay inside," notes real estate agent Guy Epps.

Victorian style did have romance, say the Bowlers. There was amusement in the make believe. But there was also a lesson that came from living in the past.

"I don't think it's the good old days at all," says Bowler.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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