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Hidden histories: Britain's oldest family businesses

Uncover the extraordinary history of three of Britain’s longest-running family businesses with this BBC Four series.

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About the series

Balsons shop front Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Balsons Personal Archive - Used with permission Balsons shop front This three-part series on BBC Four reveals the extraordinary history of three of Britain’s longest-running family businesses. Few businesses last beyond two generations, but against the odds, the families in this series have survived in business for more than three centuries.

They’ve come through more than 50 recessions, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars, and the rise of internet shopping.

Each film follows the present-day head of the business as they face a crossroads in their working life, and joins them on a journey into the past as they discover the secrets of their business, what it’s taken to stay afloat and keep it in the family. Along the way we learn about the techniques and skills their businesses have kept alive, as well as how these trades have evolved as the world around them has changed. As well as their fascinating histories, the series also explores what's happening in their businesses right now as the families look towards the future. 

Balson The Butcher

Richard Balson's family have been butchers for almost 500 years, since Henry VIII was on the throne. He goes back through centuries of butchery to the origin of the British high street. Along the way he discovers how the Balsons have stayed in the butchery business despite scandal and tragedy.

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Balson The Butcher The first of three documentaries following the bosses of some Britain's oldest family businesses as they go on a... Read more
Toye The Medal Maker Fiona Toye married into a family that has been making regalia for generations. Read more
Durtnell The Builder Four hundred years of construction. Read more