Gogglebox’s Chris Ashby-Steed has swapped fame for a life in rural Wales with his new husband Tony, after claims he was ‘bullied’ off the Channel 4 programme by his ex-boyfriend and former TV sofa-critic partner Stephen Webb.
Chris and Stephen first joined Gogglebox back in 2013 on the first ever series, before Chris left the show in 2018, and Stephen went on to appear alongside his mum, Pat, before his new husband Daniel Lustig joined him on more recent seasons.
Hairdresser Chris, 41, married his boyfriend of three years, Tony, in 2017, saying: It was the most amazing day of my life and I know it was of Tony’s life as well.’
Now the TV personality and Tony have quit fame and and moved to a rural life in Wales, while keeping doting fans updated on Instagram with renovation scenes, showcasing them building the house, lavish-looking chandeliers and before-and-after pics of revamped furniture.
Making the announcement back in January, Chris posted a snap of their new house in Adpar, Newcastle Emlyn, penning: ‘Introducing you to our new home, finally exchanged contracts on our beautiful Victorian home in south-west Wales, it was love at first site! Xx.’
Shortly after, in February, Chris shared a clip of the pair entering their home with a little house tour, writing: ‘The gays have arrived in Adpar, Newcastle Emlyn!!! We’re like two little boys who wrote to Santa and we’ve just woken up on Christmas morning to find that not only had he granted our wish, but he put a big fat cherry on the top! Very lucky, very happy, (slightly emotional) boys xxx.’
Sharing more updates, Chris captioned his garden view on his most recent post with: ‘Spending a little bit of time in my workshop making things on this beautiful sunny day and this is my view, just love living here in Wales x.’
Last September, Tony made a series of claims about Chris’ treatment both during and after his time on the show, in several Tweets posted after Paige Devill left the show and accused Channel 4 bosses of providing ‘zero aftercare support’.
Following Paige’s announcement, Tony shared several tweets tagging her in which he recalled the circumstances of Chris’ exit, including one where Tony said that the studio helped get Stephen’s mum Pat on the show ‘behind Chris’s back without even telling him’.
Tony began: ‘Our hearts go out to you @paige_deville. The studio stood by and watched Stephen bully my husband Chris off the show and did nothing to stop him.’
Elsewhere in his Tweets, Tony alleged that at one point, Stephen ‘refused to film with Chris and would only film with his mum’, leaving Chris ‘devastated’ when ‘they did nothing’.
‘Then they didn’t contact him once after he was forced off, and I was left to deal with Chris’s shattered mental health,’ he wrote.
Tony claimed that a ‘gagging order’ was imposed to ‘stop the story coming out’.
‘We put in a formal complaint by email to the studio and they marked all subsequent correspondence as “legally privileged”. They also made it clear that if the nature of the complaint came out they would seek to take legal action,’ he tweeted.
In response to a Twitter user who said that in their opinion, the show decided to keep the person who was ‘more popular’ and so it would be ‘best to move on’, Tony responded: ‘You’re right, of course. And most of the time that’s what we do. But it haunts us both. Sometimes it’s hard not to be bitter when you’ve had to talk your husband out of driving his car of a cliff.’
In response, at the time a Gogglebox spokesperson stated that ‘the welfare of contributors – past and present – is of paramount importance and robust protocols are in place to support contributors before, during and after taking part in the series’.
Months before Tony’s tweets, in January 2021, Gogglebox was accused of ‘toxic’ working conditions by members of staff, with employees claiming it could be ‘inhumane at times.’
In an article published in The Guardian, one member of staff who left Gogglebox and has remained anonymous, said: ‘People have had enough. You don’t turn up to work to be screamed at for 12 hours a day.’
‘It was the worst job I ever did. The way that it’s made is inhumane at times,’ they added.
Employees of Studio Lambert, which makes Gogglebox, are also said to have been discouraged from disrupting the show during the pandemic, with several individuals supposedly decided to delete the NHS Covid-19 app from their phones after a few of their colleagues were instructed to self-isolate.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said that the TV channel ‘has a clear code of conduct which sets out the standards of behaviour it expects from its suppliers and production partners’.
‘We can’t comment on anonymous allegations and rumours, but we are satisfied Studio Lambert is taking appropriate action to ensure the welfare of its teams and to enforce appropriate standards of behaviour across the shows it makes for us,’ they said.
Several people who work at Gogglebox reputedly commended Channel 4 on having a whistleblower line for members of staff on the production.
A spokesperson for Studio Lambert said that it ‘takes the welfare of its teams extremely seriously across all its productions’.
They added that the production company ‘has a number of measures in place to encourage people to come forward with any concerns they may have, as well as support systems for a range of issues’.
Gogglebox is available to watch on All4.