CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

The Worst Jobs in History

Episode Guides

In this five-part series, Tony Robinson sheds light on how a previously unsung army of workers shaped the world as we know it

About the Show

In this five-part series, Tony Robinson sheds light on how a previously unsung army of workers shaped the world as we know it

  • Tony Robinson

    Industrial jobs

    Tony experiences the jobs that made Watt, Stephenson and Brunel what they are today.

    Tony tries his hand at being a bridge-builder, legger, soap boiler, glass blower, knocker upper, bone cleaner, presser, and saggar maker's bottom knocker, before venturing down the mines as a child hurrier.

  • Tony Robinson

    Royal jobs

    Life at court wasn't much fun for the lance maker, armourer, falconer, fireworker, food taster, whipping boy, laundry woman, groom of the chamber, hall boy or the royal messenger.

    But none had a job as rotten as the purple maker who created the colour of royalty. The task of creating the very emblem of the British monarchy - purple coronation robes - depended on the disgusting, dangerous job of the purple dyer, who extracted the colour by rotting shellfish in urine.

  • Tony Robinson

    Urban jobs

    Tony does the back-breaking job of water caddy, confronts his fear of heights as a fireman, suffers the ignominy of clearing up dog excrement as a pure collector and even risks a bloody nose earning a living as a fighting woman.

    But the worst job he leaves to the very end and it's one that would make anyone hopping mad - the asphalt paviour.

  • Tony Robinson

    Worst Christmas Jobs in History

    Tony Robinson takes a slide down the festive career ladder to investigate The Worst Christmas Jobs in History.

    From trudging through waist-deep snow and performing as the back end of a pantomime cow to squelching through mounds of turkey giblets, being deafened by explosions, reeling from the taste of numble pie (deer entrails) and burning the hair off boars' heads, Tony traces an alternative history of Christmas

    And he answers some of the Christmas questions you may never have thought to ask. Why did Jane Austen's Christmas dinner table need an Irishman collecting seaweed? Why did someone have to collect puke at Roman Saturnalia? And how exactly did the poor man Good King Wenceslas saw gather his winter fuel?

    As usual, Tony decides which job is the very worst of all and experiences it for himself - first-hand.

  • Tony Robinson as a lifeboatman

    Maritime jobs

    Tony's all at sea as liar, underdog, midshipman, fusée-chain maker, flying man, lighthouse builder and keeper, gut-girl, stoker and trimmer.

    He then sets out in sou'wester and cork life-vest on the crazily dangerous (but voluntary) job of Victorian lifeboat man.

  • Tony Robinson carrying hay

    Rural jobs

    This green and pleasant land was forged by people willing to do some terrible jobs. After Tony samples life as a shepherd boy, nettle harvester, reddleman, thresher, chaff-box boy, sedge cutter, sin eater, pole man, lead-white maker and featherie man, what could be worse?

    How about the age-old job of steeplejack? 'It's not the heights I mind,' says Tony. 'It's falling on to the hard ground from them.'

The Worst Jobs in History synopsis

In this five-part series, Tony Robinson sheds light on how a previously unsung army of workers shaped the world as we know it

Episode Guide >

Our Picks Tonight

See all TV listings