Corset box helps historian prove a point on TV show

PUBLISHED: 12:34 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:15 06 May 2010

Historian Louise Raw

Historian Louise Raw

A VICTORIAN corset box from St Albans City Museum will be helping to give shape to a celebrity s family history in front of an audience of 400 people on Saturday. Historian Louise Raw, aged 40, of Holywell Hill, St Albans, will be appearing in the live ve

A VICTORIAN corset box from St Albans City Museum will be helping to give shape to a celebrity's family history in front of an audience of 400 people on Saturday.

Historian Louise Raw, aged 40, of Holywell Hill, St Albans, will be appearing in the live version of hit TV show Who Do You Think You Are? at London's Olympia, contributing to the family history of actor and presenter Tony Robinson.

Robinson's great-grandfather was a box-maker in the East End - and that's where the museum came to the rescue.

Keeper of Community History Elanor Cowland has provided an ornate corset box from the period to illustrate the work of a so-called fancy box-maker.

Louise said: "The irony is that the lives of people like this were anything but 'fancy'. They made boxes to contain luxury items but in sweat shop conditions or in their own overcrowded homes.

"They might expect to earn the equivalent of £1 per gross or 144 boxes and worked throughout the day and night to try to feed their families. Many died young, often partly due to exhaustion like Tony's great-grandfather. The box reminds us that the Victorian economic boom didn't benefit everybody."

The wording on the box claims the corset it contained is "guaranteed to be absolutely rustless" and is recommended for "ladies in hot climates and for those indulging in cycling, golf and tennis".

Mother-of-one Louise is completing a PhD on Bryant & May matchwomen who went on strike in 1888 in the East End. She is currently writing a book on the topic for Hambledon Continuum called Strike A Light.

She recently appeared on TV's Worst Jobs In History with Tony Robinson and Who Do You Think You Are? with Barbara Windsor.

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