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We've travelled to Southern Ireland.
The sea-cliffs here aren't massive, but they can be lethal.
On the headland at Tramore, The Metal Man was raised as a warning to shipping
after The Seahorse ran aground here in 1816, with the loss of almost 400 lives.
Tramore is simply Irish for "big beach". Good name.
But as we approach Waterford, things change drastically
because Waterford isn't an Irish name.
Nor is it English. It's Viking.
It comes from the Old Norse, Vedrarfjord
meaning, "the haven from the windy sea",
signalling the first in a chain of major trading ports
established by the Vikings in virtually every estuary from here to Dublin.
Today, Waterford is virtually synonymous the world over with lead crystal - glass.
And that's given Alice an idea.
I'm just walking along the beach here picking up
these really beautiful little water-worn pebbles of glass.
But what is this stuff?
I think most of us know it's got something to do with silica,
and that it could possibly be made by heating up sand.
But is that all there is to it?
In the interests of science, and for the sheer fun of it, I've decided to see if WE can make glass from sand.
Oh, and try to do it on a beach.
If anybody's going to succeed it's going to be Waterford Crystal's chief scientist Richard Lloyd.
So, Richard, would any old sand do?
It's got to have a component of quartz in it, a form of silica.
Silica doesn't need any other ingredient to make glass other than heat energy.
But you think this looks all right?
-This looks fine.
-Let's go and make some glass.
This is Tony.
-He's the man that's going to provide the heat for us today.
So exactly how much heat are we going to need?
In it's present form we'll need 1,800 Celsius to melt this,
but we're going to mix it with some potash, which helps the sand to melt.
So how much does the potash bring down the melting point of the quartz?
By about 600 Celsius.
So we can then achieve melting temperatures with Tony's burner.
so we're going to pop it on there...
The crucible is already glowing bright red.
Red heat is only 600 Celsius.
-Red head is 600?
-And it's starting to bubble now.
that's the potash releasing its carbon dioxide,
and then it starts to react with the sand grains to form the glass.
So, Richard, how does this from the beach relate to actually what goes on in the factories?
Essentially, the technology underlying the things we've done on the beach is the same as the factory.
And often this glass is talked about as being lead crystal. Do you actually add lead to it?
We do, yeah, in a form of lead oxide. This makes it sparkle.
It also allows the glass to be worked over a longer temperature range,
which lets the blowers do their magic.
It takes years to achieve this level of skill.
Believe me, it isn't easy.
I've just had a go myself.
One way or another, glass has been made here for hundreds of years.
These skills are ancient.
This is Waterford Museum's famous kite brooch of Irish Viking design.
Exquisite gold filigree, and the tiniest beads of glass.
It functioned as a cloak fastener
and was very much like the Irish ring pins that became an essential part of Viking haute couture.
When this brooch was made 1,000 years ago, the glass beads were treated like diamonds.
Glass was a precious, hard-won material.
Glass is a very special substance.
It's not like other solids, it's got no definite melting point.
It just gets softer and softer as it gets hotter and hotter.
It has no crystals, that's why you can see through it.
Once the quartz has formed the glass, the molecules
can't rotate and orientate themselves into regular patterns,
which a crystal is, so they're trapped in irregular shapes. That's what keeps the glass clear.
I'll get it. You clear off that way, yeah?
Oh. Oh, wow.
There we have glass from the beach.
There is something really wonderful about being able to make glass from sand.
And it's really green.
That's because the sand we've used has got a lot of iron in it, which makes it brown.
When it forms a glass,
the iron changes chemically to form the green compound.
Most of the sand in the beaches around the world will have iron in it.
So our beaches are rusty.
'What a great day. Not only have we succeeded
'in making glass from sand, but the craftsmen of Waterford Crystal
'have made something that harkens back to the very foundation of Waterford itself,
'a Viking ring pin.'
That is beautiful.
Oh, Richard, that really is lovely.
That's got designs all the way along it,
and it's like a symbol of Waterford, isn't it?
The Vikings and the glass.
Leaving County Waterford, our journey continues to County Wexford, via the Passage East ferry.
On the far shore lies Ballyhack,
base camp for the 140-mile Sli Charman, or Wexford Coastal Path.
Travelling up the peninsula towards Hook Head, there's a little inlet known as Herrylock,
where beach and cliff face are made up of layers of old red sandstone.
And all over the beach, there are these strange regular bowls in the rock.
You could walk past this and think it was natural,
you could just overlook it,
think it was maybe cut by the sea or the wind,
and if you look really closely you start to pick out strange marks, cut marks.
These are the marks left by tools that have been used to cut something out.
Once you get your eye in, you realise they're all over the place around here.
Now, I'm not going to pretend that I don't why these holes are here.
These are the remains left behind by quarrying for millstones,
which are used to grind flour,
and right up until the end of the 19th century, Herrylock was famous for the quality of its millstones.
The incredibly hard, gritty Herrylock sandstone was ideal for millstones. They were sold all over Ireland.
But how did they manage to extract the stones intact from the rock?
To find out, I'm meeting up with local stonemason Paul O' Hara.
Paul has a fascination with the old stonemasons' techniques.
I'm just working on a bit of the stone here.
What is the process then?
How do you start with a piece of bedrock and end up with a millstone that's free?
Well, initially you'd mark it out.
Roughly a 4ft diameter is
the stone that's been quarried here, then you score around your shape,
skirting down along it, and follow the channel all the way around the circle.
They would have gone down maybe 16 inches.
How long will that take with a hammer and chisel?
I'd say roughly three weeks, they would have taken.
-To take out.
And once you've cut this gutter
around the millstone, how do you get it off the bedrock?
How do you get it free?
You would bore a hole, again using your hammer and chisel,
then fit a timber wedge, and maybe a willow timber, cos willow has a great absorption.
The sea would have come on in, flooded the channel...
..the timber would then expand, and the stone would have lifted.
So as the wood expands with the moisture, that is enough force to crack this?
That would have been enough force, yes.
I've got a lovely picture of the actual, the scene here.
Up beyond there was ten houses or so,
there must have been great comradeship between them.
And then when the conversation went dead,
the only thing you would actually hear
would be maybe the clanging of the hammer and the stone.
By the late 1800s, the Herrylock chisels sang no more.
Cast iron replaced old red sandstone as the perfect material for making millstones.
Is it just me, but I feel a little sad this ancient industry came to an end?
Cutting a millstone like this one
involved some of the hardest physical labour imaginable.
But what makes it such a satisfying story
is that the secret ingredient was human genius,
using the power of wood swollen by water
to break these free from the bedrock,
so the final tool that they had in their armoury
was the power of the sea.
Placid as it might appear, this peninsula has a terrifying reputation for mangling ships.
No surprise to find a lighthouse then.
But it's perhaps the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world.
In fact, historian and author Billy Colfer
believes it dates back 800 years.
Now this, I've got to see.
Well, Billy, it does look like it's taken a pounding over the years,
but how do you know it's as old as you say it is?
-Let's go inside, Neil, and I'll show you.
Now, Neil, if you look up, you'll get your first impression of a medieval building.
Right, oh, yeah, it's like a castle keep or a cathedral.
-It's so massive.
-Exactly, they used castle technology to build the place,
that's the reason for the roof vaulting.
And why is it black?
It's black with Welsh coal, because for 500 years the light was
kept burning mostly with coal, and this was the coal store. OK?
The three chambers are similar,
each vaulted. The stone vault can be seen as a fireproofing feature.
If you have a big fire burning on top of your building, you don't want wooden floors.
Over 500 years, that big fire to create the light meant importing thousands of tonnes of Welsh coal.
Whoever built this place had a lot of clout.
The first historic record of the building come from the Pembroke Estate papers in the 1240s,
when the monks of the monastery of Rinn Dubhain are given money for the maintenance of the building.
So, was the tower built by a monastic order, is that whose idea it was?
No. They were financed by one of the most powerful knights in England, William Marshall,
who controlled this area.
Hook weather. Some view.
William Marshall, the builder of this lighthouse, was one of the new breed
of adventurers, really, who came to Ireland, one of the Anglo-Normans.
He had this lighthouse constructed at this extremity of the Hook Peninsula to guide his shipping
up Waterford Harbour to his new port of Ross, which he was determined to make into a financial success.
So, this was a practical addition to the landscape by a businessman on the make?
Yes, it was highly practical and functional, but it was also a highly visible symbol
of Marshall's power and status, which became an iconic feature in the Irish landscape.
The lighthouse's builder, William Marshall, had powerful connections.
It was his father-in-law, Strongbow, who first landed a Norman army on Irish soil,
just beyond the lighthouse at Baginbun and Bannow Bay.
The irony is the Normans first came here as mercenaries, not invaders.
They were invited. But they liked what they saw.
They settled. And they dominated Irish history for centuries.
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