DMU expert helps uncover Britain's Most Historic Towns


Extensive research on Victorian etiquette has earned a historian from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) a spot on national television.


Professor Roberts and Dr Weller enjoying a spot of afternoon tea while filming

Dr Toni Weller is making her screen debut on Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns, a series studying a key period in British history by telling the story of a single historic town in each episode.

The visiting research fellow and former History lecturer at DMU was approached because of her work on information history, particularly how information was thought of and used in a social and cultural capacity.

Presented by Professor Alice Roberts the six-part series uncovers the extraordinary history underpinning well-known towns to understand how each one was shaped by its time.

In the concluding episode, which airs at 8pm on Saturday 12 May, Dr Weller joins Professor Roberts on a crash course in 19th century etiquette in Victorian Belfast.

Dr Weller said: “Belfast didn’t really exist before the 19th century. It emerged as a Victorian city and etiquette played an important role in defining how society shaped itself within these new industrialised centres.

“I had the opportunity to chat about the Victorians to Alice Roberts over afternoon tea - it was great fun to be involved in this series!”

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Following email exchanges and telephone conversations with Channel 4 researchers and the production team, Dr Weller was flown to Belfast where she spent five hours filming with the crew.

“We were fortunate enough to film in The Merchant Hotel, which used to be a bank during the Victorian days, and it was wonderful to spend time in such beautiful architecture,” said Dr Weller.

“The whole experience also opened my eyes to what goes into making programmes like this. It involves lots of preparation and so many skilled people along the way, all of whom were tremendously generous with their time and willing to share their knowledge with me.”

Through cutting-edge CGI the series brings long-lost monuments back to life with help from aerial archaeologist Ben Robinson, who explores how the layout of each town reflects a historical era to this day.

Dr Weller added: “It’s a fantastically engaging, intelligent and creative way of exploring the past.

“History can be such a vast subject, but this series has found a brilliant way of making it accessible to the public.”

Most of Dr Weller’s work centres on the Victorians, but it also links to contemporary issues around the history and origins of our own information age, as well as the role of history in the digital age.

Britain’s Most Historic Towns was produced by IWC, a Banijay UK company.

Posted on Wednesday 2nd May 2018

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