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Jericho, a new eight-part series from ITV, follows the story of a group of industrial era navvies building the Culverdale viaduct, a re-imagined version of the real world Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire.
Navvies were the men responsible for building much of the infrastructure during the Industrial Revolution, from canals and dams to bridges and railways, but their incredible feats of engineering cost the lives of many of their people during the process. Jericho brings to life a story that has been widely ignored for years by focusing on the navvies who built the structures that held up the industrial world.
The series is based on the frontier town of Jericho in the 1870s. Navvies at the time would have entered the wilderness and built the town up from nature, miles away from the nearest sign of civilization. To this day, one can still see the outlined remains of the shanties that made up the town around the Ribblehead viaduct.
Creating a viable setting for something as grand as a shanty town required immense planning to ensure all the scenes could be shot in a timely manner, especially those that took place away from the town itself. Finding wide tracts of open land that would be reminiscent of life in the 1870s was no easy task, but the team finally settled on a farm near Wakefield with perfect, dark vegetation.
“We were always particularly drawn to Ribblehead and to the work they did there. Particularly because the Yorkshire moors felt like a proper frontier. It felt like this was a place nobody had visited. Jericho was entirely filmed on location in Yorkshire which made a huge difference.”
The story follows Annie Quaintain, a woman forced from her home after her husband’s death, leaving her and her two children with nothing. She decides to start anew in the nearby shanty town, Jericho. The location for Annie’s home was a period cottage at the Colne Valley Museum located in Golcar that already came equipped with proper scenery, so it was ideal for shooting scenes without much disruption. The scenes at the cottage were shot when the museum was closed, and the small dwelling was completely retrofitted into an authentic 1870s structure by removing the piping and electrical components.
Another location used for filming beyond the shanty town was Heptonstall in Yorkshire, where few alterations over the past 200 years afforded the production crew with an opportunity to create an authentic 1870s setting without many changes. All the trappings of modern life, including satellite dishes, road signs, and plastic piping were removed in a two week period before filming to guarantee a genuine industrial scene. Once filming was completed the town was restored to its original state.
When Annie arrives in Jericho she meets a navvy named Johnny Jackson, and the central plot of the show revolves around their relationship. The town of Jericho has many other inhabitants that the show touches on, including a railway agent, a tavern owner, and a prostitute. The man who envisioned the structure of the viaduct itself lives in his namesake Blackwood House, which is actually a secluded home in the Peak District near Meltham. It was chosen as the ideal location for its stone architecture and imposing stature. The home was unoccupied at the time, so it was furnished with old pieces from local antique shops after the removal of the lights and radiators for a truly realistic interior.
The production crew chose the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway near Skipton as the location for the train scenes. Severals fences had to be relocated during filming to maintain authenticity, but local farmers provided assistance where they could, and no permanent changes had to be made to the landscape.
Other: Railway Filming Locations
Construction of the viaduct itself was filmed in the abandoned Rockingstone Quarry not far from Golcar, and only the bottom three segments were actually built for the set. The rest was created via CGI and added during post production. This allowed for the grandiose scale of the viaduct to appear as awe-inspiring as it rightfully deserved.
The first episode features a disastrous explosion that develops a sense of conflict in the town. One unhappy navvy attempts to sabotage the viaduct with dynamite, destroying a large portion of the structure. The set was painted black for the scene to generate a burnt appearance, and the explosion was contained by safety professionals.
A model of the shanty town was built from plans researched and developed by the production crew, and the buildings and huts were all constructed in the same style as their authentic counterparts. Many of the wood or tin homes were split down the middle, and one half would be rented to navvy lodgers. Annie would have had a hut similar to this style in Jericho. Other available lodgings during this period would have been ‘flop houses’ with outdoor hammocks and rentable tents, both of which only provided minimal shelter, but were common amongst the working class.
Many of the events of the day occurred outdoors during the 1870s, so it was fortunate that the outdoor settings provided decent weather conditions during filming. Jericho was filmed primarily during the summer and autumn months, and the elements played almost no part in the filming schedule. In fact, when the weather played a part, it was usually positive. One scene during the sixth episode saw a coffin being marched through town, and a natural mist settled over the set. It provided an unforeseen bonus to the scene through a perfect atmosphere.
Unlike many period productions, Jericho is not a tale of poverty and filth. The inhabitants of the shanty town may not have been wealthy, but they weren’t desolate and downtrodden either. It has a sense of appeal that modern viewers can appreciate, despite the dirt and mud. A lot of that appeal can be attributed to the bright personalities of the navvies. They typically dressed in exquisite clothing complete with scarves and kerchiefs, but their work often damaged and dirtied their garb throughout the day.
The producers were careful to recreate the appearance of each character based on their lifestyle, often applying several layers of dirt or dust mimicking make-up to exemplify the hard work done by the navvies. By taking special care to make each scene as authentic as possible the show producers have created a beautiful reflection of an often ignored portion of history. To be the first to build a fictional story around a historically accurate setting is a rare challenge, one that Jericho succeeds at exceptionally well by realistically showcasing the sacrifices and resilience of those who laid the foundation for the Industrial Revolution.
The architects and designers of the industrial structures of the 1870s have been praised and honored for their genius, but it’s not until now that the men who made those structures possible have gotten their story told. Jericho promises to continue to show the struggles and strengths of the common man during one of the most volatile times in history, and the authentic settings provide even more realism for the viewer.