Britain's Oldest Family Businesses, TV review: Pomp and ceremony in a family history that's a bit short on frills
A stray glance at last night's BBC4 schedules might have tricked people into thinking that Britain's Oldest Family Businesses were being given the Horrible Histories treatment. Alas, this is actually part of a three-part strand called Hidden Histories, which is similar in that it is about history, but different in that it is a very on-the-straight-and-narrow documentary for BBC4 rather than a daft romp through the past with Steve Punt and pals.
That's that cleared that up, then.
So what, I can very nearly hear you ask, is hidden about the older-than-time family business featured here. Well, if you've ever – and I'm certain you have – watched the Queen's honours ceremonies and wondered "who made those lovely CBEs?" then here's your answer, regalia-maker Toye, Kenning & Spencer. Its CEO Fiona Toye believes the Toye shops have been in the same family since the late 17th century.
Fiona, alas, is only a Toye by marriage having taken over the running of the company from her husband. "I'm not a blood Toye," she declared, and thus possibly fatally undermined the conceit of the show. But let's not dwell on it. To their credit, the programme-makers used this flaw as a good reason to do this sort of Who Do You Think You Are? on the origins of the family firm.
To find out more, Fiona travelled to Rev Tom Hollander's church – St Leonard's in Shoreditch, east London, to find evidence of early Toyes. Sadly, it was not Adam Smallbone, but Rev Paul Turp, who did sound weirdly like Hollander when he intoned: "I have something intriguing for you." It was not Colin's discarded Export cans from the church yard, but a record of a William Toy from 1768 and the start of a story of how the Toy/Toye family survived through the massive decline of silk weavers in the mid-1800s thanks to a – boo! – huge import of silk from France.
We learned that the Toy/Toyes survived this silky invasion and moved into fancy trimmings, which is how they became the numero uno maker of regalia for everybody from the Sally Army to the Freemasons. We followed Fiona from the East End to the National Archives via the National Military Museum, learning the history of her firm. Fascinating for her no doubt, but sadly, even as a viewer with a cavernous appetite for niche BBC4 documentaries, a bit dry for the rest of. And I say that as a huge, huge fan of frilly regalia.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'We're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd