Secrets from the Workhouse: Fern Britton, Brian Cox and Felicity Kendal are among the stars learning about the hardships faced by their ancestors in this ITV documentary

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The Victorian workhouse represented the underbelly of society, where anyone who was poor, homeless, unemployed or ill was sent to live. As there was no benefits system in place, destitute people were either left to starve on the streets or forced to submit themselves to the harsh conditions of the workhouse where they worked ten hours a day doing menial tasks such as breaking up rocks or picking ropes apart.

Now, in this brand-new two part series – Fern Britton, Kiera Chaplin, Brian Cox, Felicity Kendal and Barbara Taylor Bradford go back to the workhouse sites where their ancestors lived in order to find out what happened to them.

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This first episode sees Fern Britton in shock as she discovers one of her ancestors was dissected for medical research because his family couldn’t afford a funeral for him. Brian Cox learns that his great-grandfather was branded a malingerer by the workhouse when they refused to believe he was really ill.

Barbara Taylor Bradford discovers her grandmother was forced into the workhouse to give birth to two illegitimate children. While Kiera Chaplin discovers her grandfather, Charlie, was sent to a school for poor children when his mother was taken away from him and put in a mental asylum.

Secrets from the Workhouse starts tonight on ITV at 9pm

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