Telly Talk: Rome Wasn't Built in a Day
Telly Talk: Well they say Rome wasn't built in a day - and based on the first instalment of Channel Four's new documentary series, I'd say they are definitely on the money with that.
This six-part series follows a group of modern day workmen trying to build an authentic Roman villa at Wroxeter Roman City, near Shrewsbury. Last night's opener proved exactly what most people already knew - that the Romans were damn good builders.
And it would appear that their 21st century counterparts aren't in the same league when it comes to a hard day's graft. For starters, there was no clocking off at 4pm 2,000 years ago when the great and the good of Wroxeter, or Viriconium as it was known, were building homes or public buildings like the bath house and market.
"They worked until the sun went down," the team was reminded by designer of the villa and architect Professor Dai Morgan Evans, who appears to be a stickler for discipline.
The team of tradesmen were drawn from across the UK, and the programme documents their trials and tribulations as they built the villa over six months last year.
Some had never been to a rural area before, with London labourer Ben particularly impressed by the friendliness of the Shropshire locals. He couldn't believe that people round our way will talk to you without trying to work out how to steal your wallet.
The rules for the project were that they had to use tools and materials that would have only been available to a Roman labourer - so no Black & Decker hand drills or cement mixers were available to call upon.
And viewers saw foreman Jim Blackham get a verbal lashing from Professor Morgan Evans when the team tried to take the easy way out by using wheelbarrows to transport rocks to the development site.
In fairness to Mr Blackham the guys had just seen their 'dodgy' Roman style hand-built cart collapse in pieces in the heat of the midday sun. But history-buff Mr Morgan Evans was having none of it and grew visibly wound-up by Mr Blackham's argument that a metal wheelbarrow would not have appeared so alien to the Romans.
"I don't want to be seen to be party to something that's a fake," snarled the architect.
The programme was a real eye opener to the great building skills and forward-thinking minds of the Romans, whose building legacy can be still be appreciated across the world today.
The show is helping to put Wroxeter on the tourism map and the team of builders are a credit to themselves for sticking to the Roman traditions, even if their choice of language could never be described as 'classical'.
By Russell Roberts
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