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Thursday, 02 July 2015

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Mariella Frostrup visits Barrow to explore her ancestor’s criminal past

A TV star headed for Barrow on the trail of her criminal ancestor.

New ITV series Secrets from the Clink starts tomorrow night and sees journalist and presenter Mariella Frostrup exploring her great-great-grandfather’s criminal past.

The half-Scottish, half-Norwegian celebrity visited Barrow Archive Centre earlier this year to look through newspapers from the time in a bid to learn more about her relative’s misdemeanours.

William Martin Eckersley moved to the town in the 1870s to become a rate collector for Barrow Borough Council, but it was as the owner of the Sun Hotel, on the corner of Ramsden Street, that he committed his crimes. As the business struggled, he declared himself bankrupt, meanwhile siphoning off the equivalent of around £2,000 for himself.

The stress of the ensuing court case caused Eckersley to suffer a stroke aged just 30, and he was left paralysed, bed-ridden and confined to a dingy cell in HMP Lancaster Castle – though evidence suggests he may have played up his disability.

While Ms Frostrup appears upset on the show by the conditions her relative endured, she ultimately found his tale uplifting.

“On the programme, he looks like quite a tragic story, but what I loved about him is he’s hilarious, a total chancer,” she said.

“I thought, ‘this will be amusing, let’s see where it goes’. But actually, by the end, I felt a real connection with him.

“I don’t think I have his resilience at all, I’m sure that jail would have finished me off completely, having seen what it was like. But that sense of being able to reinvent yourself, being fast on your feet and not taking other people’s determination to box you in, is something I’ve inherited from him.”

The two-part documentary sees Ms Frostrup and other celebrities, including Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman and comedian Johnny Vegas, learn about the crimes committed by their ancestors in the Victorian era, and the punishments they received.

  • Episode one of Secrets from the Clink airs tomorrow at 9pm on ITV1.
Have your say

How unusual for anyone to have a criminal in the family and in Barrow. Well I never - must be a first Haha

Posted by Whizzer on 6 August 2014 at 10:30

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