Suffolk fishing firm stars in time-travelling television show
07:15 21 September 2015
Anyone gazing at the River Deben on a crisp spring morning earlier this year may have thought they were dreaming when a boatload of Victorian-clothed celebrities sailed by.
But last night’s television revealed it was all part of a six-part Channel 4 programme, Time Crashers, which sees famous folk attempting to live and work in conditions experienced by our ancestors.
Presented by Tony Robinson, the show’s fifth episode was filmed on the Deben at the end of March, when shellfish producers Simpers of Suffolk helped transport the stars back to 1885 and a day’s work on a Victorian fishery to fulfil a huge order destined for London’s Billingsgate Market.
Dropped onto the shores of Ramsholt, between Sutton and Bawdsey, were actress Kirstie Alley, presenters Fern Britton and Louise Minchin, weightlifter Zoe Smith, Noel Gallagher’s ex-wife Meg Mathews, the actor Keith Allen, long jumper Greg Rutherford, Coronation Street’s Charlie Condou, footballer Jermaine Jenas and stand-up comic Chris Ramsey.
Jonathan Simper accompanied Greg Rutherford and Jermaine Jenas on board the family firm’s restored fishing bawley, while the other celebrities gutted fish, navigated the mudflats, and raked mussels and collected oysters from the shoreline
Mr Simper said: “The researchers first contacted me several months before the filming because they were looking for a location, the boats, and people with expertise to recreate a Victorian oyster farm.
“Our family lives on the farm next the river, and as well as growing asparagus in the fields, operates a mussel and oyster farm on the River Deben and has old restored fishing bawleys which we still use in our shellfish business today.”
Mr Simper, who was asked not to discuss the modern world while around the cast, surprised producers from Wall to Wall Television with how closely his working methods resembled the Victorian time period.
With permission from Natural England, a temporary set of buildings were used as the fisherman sheds in the programme.
Mr Simper said his two makeshift crew worked very hard for about four hours in very windy and tough wet conditions, adding: “They didn’t complain much during the long, wet and cold day we had out dredging. They were hardworking and really put their backs into it. At the end of the day, I said they could have a job with me any time they like.”