Ann Widdecombe and pals sample Victorian life in gruelling Stowe challenge

A gruelling taste of the past was felt by a bevy of celebrities including Ann Widdecombe in a series that was filmed at National Trust Stowe.
Ann Widdecombe in her Victorian costume BBC OneAnn Widdecombe in her Victorian costume BBC One
Ann Widdecombe in her Victorian costume BBC One

The second episode of 24 Hours In The Past, which will air on May 5 at 9.30pm was filmed at the Inn at Stowe.

Stars including Ms Widdecombe, impressionist Alistair Macgowan, Outnumbered actor Tyger Drew-Honey and Olympian Colin Jackson, will learn how a Victorian coaching inn was run, by getting their hands dirty.

There are horses to be groomed, coaches cleaned, tack polished, guests to be fed, linen to be laundered, chamber pots emptied and landlord’s scams to be learned.

The cast of 24 Hours In The Past, which was filmed at National Trust Stowe BBC OneThe cast of 24 Hours In The Past, which was filmed at National Trust Stowe BBC One
The cast of 24 Hours In The Past, which was filmed at National Trust Stowe BBC One

And the BBC One living history programme is certainly a feat of endurance, with many of the stars not expected to persevere with the tough regime until the end of the series.

BBC film crews descended on Stowe earlier in the year, lead by National Trust marketing and audience development officer Mel Whitrow, and commercial operations manager Andy Hill.

Mel said: “During the shoot I found the sight and sound of horse drawn carriages rumbling into the New Inn amazing.

“It was the first time in over 150 years that visitors in a horse drawn carriage have been in the courtyard and it was one of the most magical filming experiences we’ve ever had come to Stowe.

“It was exciting to see the New Inn come to life as we’d imagined it, running like a coaching inn back in its heyday, with a totally absorbing atmosphere of hustle and bustle.

“For the team members that have been at Stowe a long time, and since we opened the New Inn in 2012, it was a really breath-taking moment and quite literally brought nostalgic tears to my eyes.”

In the days leading up the to the celebrities arriving the team worked to dress the Inn as it would have looked in Victorian times.

This included the parlour rooms being used as dining areas as well as sets for an authentic dairy, laundry, kitchen, cellars and upstairs corridors.

Downstairs rooms at the inn were transformed into bedrooms to be used as part of the challenge.

And Mel told of the sheer lengths that the crews and staff went to, in order to ensure that the set was as authentic as possible.

She added: “In order to bring the place to life we had to try and eliminate all loud modern noise.

“We had visitors parking in the overflow car park, so engine noise wouldn’t drive past the front of the inn.

“We turned all hand dryers off in our toilets, silenced every phone in our offices including the main switchboard phone which was bubblewrapped and locked in a cupboard in a locked office.

“Staff were asked to work from home and some offices were completely closed down, at one time we had to sneak the new general manager into her upstairs office through a secret locked area.”

National Trust Stowe is open to the public seven days a week.

To find out more about the New Inn visit

Related topics: