Historical reality show. Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn return to their farm in Shropshire. There's harvesting to be done before Christmas, and mince pies to be made.
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Here in Shropshire is a farm frozen in time, lost in Victorian rural England.
Last year, Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn
brought it back to life, as it would've been in the 1880s.
Under the watchful eye of their landlord, Thomas Acton, they enjoyed many successes...
Cute and cuddly!
..and tasted failures.
It's the first time sowing the crop myself and then, come the big day, he's lame.
As their time on the farm ended, it was a year that none of them would ever forget.
Now they're returning to the farm...
-..to celebrate a Victorian Christmas...
Pangs of expectation.
Pangs of expectation!
..on a grand scale.
They'll learn new skills...
Oh, good grief!
..and be tested to the limit as they return once more to life on the Victorian Farm.
-Don't spoil it!
So here's to hard-working Victorian farmers. Cheers.
Before the Christmas festivities begin, the team must get the farm ready for winter.
That means bringing in new livestock...
-What are you looking for?
-Just to see if he's got his manly bits about him.
..stockpiling food for themselves...
If you don't put your back into it,
you really notice the difference.
..and the animals.
I think we're going to get a really good crop off of this.
But farmers are always at the mercy of the weather.
It's been a year since the team left the Victorian farm.
They have an appointment with the estate's owner Mr Acton,
and his son Rupert is on his way to take them there.
-Rupert's picking us up, isn't he?
-I believe so. What time did he say?
He said... I think it's three o'clock.
-Glad to be back?
-It's weird, isn't it?
-It is a bit strange.
-It is a bit strange coming back.
Looking forward to seeing Mr Acton again, though.
Catching up with the affairs of the farm, see what's happened over the last year.
Hello! What a welcome!
Has it been a busy year while we've been gone?
It certainly has, yes...
Rupert's got big plans for the team.
I would like you to recreate a Victorian Christmas at Acton Scott.
-What, for the whole estate?
-Oh, my giddy aunt!
'When Rupert said that we're to do Christmas for everybody,'
there's a bit of me that's a bit daunted, I suppose,
but I'm also quite excited about it because I do like entertaining.
I like putting on a big spread.
So this Christmas feast you want us to lay on - what sort of scale are we talking about?
I would think in the order of 30-40 individuals.
For me personally, Christmas is about coming together.
It's going to be about uniting a community.
The Victorians did invent Christmas.
They made it what it is today.
They brought us Christmas cards, paper decorations, crackers, and of course Christmas trees.
I'm sure I've seen some amazing large-scale decorations in the book...
As far as this Victorian Christmas is concerned, well, I remain to be convinced. I'm a bit of a Scrooge.
I really can't stand the sort of modern commercial Christmas,
and in many ways I blame the Victorians for that.
There's the hall.
Looking forward to seeing Mr Acton.
Ah, Mr Acton, good to see you again.
-Are you well?
-Yes, thank you.
Hello, Mr Acton. Pleasure to see you.
-That's a good firm handshake.
Well, it's certainly good to be back, Mr Acton.
Yes. Well, we're just coming to the busy time of year and I'm very glad to have you.
Christmas may be a few months away, but preparations must start well in advance.
I'm sure you'll be more than capable of doing it.
To get through the winter, the Victorian farmer needed a good stock of hay to feed his animals.
The survival of his farm depended on it.
this is the first task. Right.
This is a meadow which has grass and clover, and we want to have it made
into hay for next winter's animals to live on. Right.
So the hay harvest is going to be our first big job? It is.
Big job is the operative word there.
Hay is made from a combination of grasses, which are cut and then dried in the field.
A good crop will depend on the weather.
And the main thing we want to avoid is rainfall.
Last year, the hay crop was destroyed by rain.
It was the major failure of their twelve months on the farm.
Um, I think I'm slightly daunted by the prospect again this year.
Naturally. Well, you can't dictate the weather but,
when it's right, you must get on with it as quickly as you can.
They only have a few weeks if the hay is to be harvested in its prime.
The team's base for their year was a labourer's cottage
which they restored from scratch, but since their departure, Rupert has been making changes to it.
-Brings the light in, doesn't it?
-Oh, where's my garden gone?
-Ah, yes, I'm sorry.
I've actually seeded your...
-garden to grass, but there is some compensation over here.
-All that work!
I've actually made you a new garden in this position,
but it needs a bit of work.
I thought perhaps you could plant some vegetables for the Christmas celebrations.
Oh, right. Yeah.
But the real surprise is that Rupert's added a whole new room to the cottage.
Lovely brand-new copper.
Yes, well, I know how much you love doing laundry,
I built you your very own copper.
Coppers were used to heat water for many household tasks.
This one can hold about 15 gallons.
Oh, it's lovely. Great big brick box in the fireplace.
Oh, it's so clean! Has there not been a fire in it?
It's never been used yet so you'll be the first one to use it.
Ooh! Everybody thinks they're just for laundry, but they're really useful cooking vessels, especially
when you've got to do great big puddings and things, you know, big boil-in-the-bags, and
actually Christmas pudding.
-Seeing as I've got to do for all those people, that'll be perfect, won't it?
Go and have a look at Clumper?
Yes. Hello, fella.
How are you?
Long time no see, eh?
Clumper was the team's shire horse.
Last year, he went lame.
He's lovely and smart.
Although he made a full recovery, it's crucial he stays fit.
Now, the question is, are we going to be able to get him out and do some work with him?
-See if we can remember how to tack him up.
The shire-horse's tack was perfected in the Victorian period.
It evolved from what was used on oxen in earlier centuries.
I think he's lost a bit of weight, unlike us.
A horse like Clumper can pull around one and a half tons.
-Now, this was always the difficult thing for Clumper.
Cos he never used to like this bit in his mouth. Stand still, stand there.
-There we go.
That's a tough one, isn't it?
The trick that myself and Alex were taught -
put the thumbs right in the corner of the mouth where there are
no teeth and that makes them bite...move their teeth open.
He's a powerful horse, even if he was a bit lame last year.
-Good to be back, isn't it?
The boys want to see how well he's recovered by using him to pull a cart in their old farmyard.
Ah, I can see a little pair of ears in the pigsty.
Yeah. It's good to see them being used, isn't it?
And here's the Thomas Corbett tip cart.
Are you all right with the first complicated manoeuvre of the afternoon, Peter?
-This really is the toughest job, really.
-Good lad, good lad.
-Whoa. Good boy... Ooh!
Steady, steady, steady.
That's all right. Steady.
The tip cart's loaded with manure for use in the new vegetable garden.
As they set off, all eyes are on Clumper's hind legs.
There's no signs of stiffness there, so it looks like he's made a full recovery. Good boy.
-How's he feeling? All right?
-He's looking good. We might be able to use him for our hay harvest.
Wow, look at that.
Our cottage! Doesn't it look smart?
-Good lad. That's brilliant, that's perfect. Spot on.
That saved us a lot of shovelling.
Yeah. Shame you can't tip it INTO the cart.
This should keep...
I thought the first thing I'd do with my lovely new copper is make some soap to do the cleaning.
Making your own soap at home is something that people have been doing for generations, and
there are, in the Victorian period, still any number of soap recipes in ordinary household manuals.
All soap, wherever you buy it from, or wherever you make it, is just a
fat and an alkali mixed together, in essence.
The alkali releases the acids in fat, reacts with them, and forms soap.
It could be any sort of fat, so I'm just using some rather old
beef fat that I managed to cadge off the butchers.
So I'm starting off by popping it in the copper and letting it all boil down into a liquid, basically.
That's going to take quite a while.
The alkali Ruth's using is caustic soda.
So I'm going to add my caustic soda
into the water. You have to be really careful when you do this cos
an exothermic reaction will occur, which means it'll sort of boil all by itself chemically. It's great.
Something quite violent is beginning to happen in there. Oh, gosh, it is!
Well, there's a nice selection of bits and pieces over here.
Now they've seen Clumper in action, the boys must inspect the hay-making equipment.
They've dug out their trusty farming bible, Henry Stephens' Book of the Farm, for advice on what to use.
Throughout the 19th century, thousands of workers flocked from the countryside to the cities.
As part of this upheaval, much farm work became mechanised.
That one here, in the Book of the Farm, and this kicks it up.
Alex and Peter will be relying on this labour-saving machinery.
And there's one piece of kit they'll need more than any other.
This is the daddy-o.
-This is the thing that is really going to save us some labour, isn't it?
-Bamfords hay loader.
What a wonderful piece of kit.
The hay loader scoops up the hay and lifts it onto a horse-drawn wagon, or dray.
Traditionally, you'd have a whole army of villagers pitching the hay
up onto the dray with pitchforks but, in the late 19th century, there was a shortage of labour,
so these kind of devices really were a bit of a godsend.
-Right, so we'll get this out, shall we?
-Yes, let's give it a try. Shall we go together?
-I'm clear at the moment. Just let me...
-Stop, stop, stop.
I mean, that's heavy. That's got to be heavy!
Here it comes.
Have I got clearance up there yet?
The Bamfords hay loader weighs nearly a quarter of a ton.
OK, I'm going to need you up here to put this down.
-Welcome back to the Victorian Farm.
It smells soapy.
It certainly no longer smells of fat.
I'm just going to pop a little handful of common salt in.
Don't need a lot.
Give it a good stir. Ooh!
Yes, look, something's happening immediately.
There it is.
There's a solid forming.
That solid is soap.
This is my hard soap, quite caustic and tough, so it's good for doing
really filthy, dirty jobs where you need something super-powerful.
This is going to be super-hard soap.
I can tell by the very white graininess as I push it into the mould. It'll set rock solid.
The soap takes around four hours to set.
So I'm just giving this chamber pot a really good go with a more caustic soap,
brilliant for this sort of job.
Alex and Peter are struggling to get the hay loader working.
Underneath's a big... Complicated piece of kit, this.
That chain's tight but it's on.
Is that going to be too tight to give it a try now, do you think?
-Shall we give it a go?
Yeah, let's give it a go.
Yeah. And there we go.
Excellent. So we're the dray, this is attached to the dray being pulled by the horse.
The dray is the cart that we're loading the hay onto.
-And this machine is driving these spikes which will be lifting
the hay up this elevator, lifting it right to the top - whoa!
-..over the top...
-Onto the dray.
..onto the dray and, hopefully, that's going to save us
an inordinate amount of work in the field.
It's ready to go.
Right, do you want to put this back in, and I'll go and check the other bits of kit.
While things are still quiet, I thought I might get on with a couple of preparations.
I'm going to get started on the mincemeat for Christmas.
It's one of those things that, the further in advance you make it, the better it tastes.
Ruth is using a recipe from the 1850s containing lemons, apples, raisins, currants and candied peel.
If you go back to the medieval period, and you look for mince or shred pies, you'll find that
they're mostly meat and then they're just sweetened and flavoured with a
little bit of raisin and a little bit of spice, which were fearfully expensive ingredients at the time.
And, of course, over time,
as these expensive imported ingredients begin to drop in price, people put more and more in,
and gradually the meat content goes down and the sweet content starts to rise.
In the 19th century, for many people, that meat element just falls away completely.
The only thing, however, that sort of harks back and tells you where it came from is the suet,
and modern mincemeat does mostly still contain suet.
And suet, of course, is fat from a cow.
In particular, this is a piece of what sometimes gets called
a cod lie, which means the fat which hangs near a cow's cods.
Cods is another word for genitalia.
And finally, the last ingredient - brandy.
The mincemeat will be stored in jars to absorb the liquid, becoming sweet and juicy over the coming weeks.
It should be really delicious and make the most wonderful mince pies for Christmas.
A week into their return, it's time for a catch-up.
You look like a man who needs a top-up there, Peter.
Thank you very much.
Go on, then, get that down your neck.
-So what state is all the hay in?
-It doesn't look too bad.
The grass is coming through and, give it a couple of weeks, it'll, I'm sure, be ready to cut.
But it's largely going to be a case of keeping an eye on the weather.
-What a familiar story!
Every time we talk about making hay, a sort of dark cloud comes over, as if to say, "Don't even try it!"
-So, Ruth, what do you think of the cottage, then?
It's so posh, isn't it, in comparison to what it was when we were here last.
It's good to be back.
-Good to see you again.
That's good old Acton cider.
You can feel it going down.
With a few weeks to go before the hay is ready to cut, there are plenty of other jobs to do.
The estate's flock of Shropshire sheep needs a new ram,
and the run-up to winter is the perfect moment to choose one.
The ram can then be introduced to his ewes in time to produce lambs for spring.
Where better to find a top-class animal
than at the Royal Agricultural Society of England's annual show?
The show was started by the Victorians in 1839.
Today, it's held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire.
Dr John Wilson is the society's librarian.
You know on the farm yourself... The whole thing about
the society and about the shows was this achievement of excellence -
the finest livestock, but also the best type of farming.
It was very competitive.
It was a great distinction to have a prize,
not only to the owner of an estate or the owner of a farm, but for the stockman, the workers and so on.
Don't forget, Britain at that time was the stock farm of the world.
The Victorians were masters of animal breeding, and their skills
were amongst the most celebrated and highly prized in agriculture.
Selecting the right ram could determine the quality of a farmer's flock, and his profits, for years.
Peter's called in an old friend, Richard Spencer, to help.
Richard has five decades' experience of sheep farming.
I've been tasked to come and purchase a ram for our flock.
-So I've called on you for a bit of advice, if I may.
-OK. You've come to the right place. There are quite a few different breeds.
You've got some really good examples of different breeds and, when we've looked,
-you make your decision.
-You make the decision, you're spending the money.
Richard's lined up four Victorian breeds for Peter to choose from.
We've got two Hampshires, two Shropshires, two Wensleydales and two Oxfords.
The Oxfords are the first in line.
-So what exactly am I feeling for here?
-Well, what you are you wanting these sheep for?
You want these sheep for the meat.
You put your hand there - the gigot.
That's your Sunday roast, new potatoes, garden peas.
Imagine carving a slice off that. Mint sauce - beautiful.
These are totally different.
These are a long-wool breed. Wensleydales. These will milk their socks off.
With more milk, do you get a better quality of lamb?
You may well get a faster-growing lamb because he's among the Shropshires.
The Shropshires will provide the base and he's just put something different in there.
Would you be looking for anything on the face of the sheep?
If you're looking to buy a ram, you want something that's masculine.
You don't want a weak, pathetic, effeminate face. That's all right in the right place, but not in a ram.
A ram's got to be macho, in control, ready to go,
to take on a flock of ewes, and you want a ram with an aggressive face.
All these rams have got it.
Next, they move onto the Shropshires, the only breed of ram Peter has any experience with.
What's the ram there for?
Well, it's there to progress my flock.
Exactly. To breed.
What does he breed with? His wedding tackle, and there must be two of them, hanging level. Beautiful.
But you've got to make this decision. I don't envy you.
So basically I've got to picture the offspring from this and my flock.
-That's a very, very difficult choice to make.
-That is what breeding is all about.
Back at the farm, with the hay field growing fast, Alex is busy preparing for the harvest.
He's come to see Acton Scott's resident woodworker, Ian Wall.
Ian, we've got a hay harvest imminent, and one of the tools we're in desperate need of is a hay rake.
Apparently, you're the man to show me how to make one.
I can do that.
The hay rake is an essential tool for gathering the crop in the field. It's made from an ash log.
-The idea is, you're going to split that with an axe and a mallet.
-Place the axe in the centre and smack it with this.
And how many blows do you think this is going to take?
I think you'll probably do it in about ten.
One, two, three...
-It's a bit like a fairground game, isn't it?
Come on, go for it! Right, one more.
-You've failed there, Alex.
-Well, it's not split.
-It's still splitting, though, I can hear it.
I've got the axe stuck.
-Keep going, keep going. Move...
-There we are.
I'll hold the axe. I'd hate to see that blunted on your leg.
-There we are.
-You're now looking at something that no-one in the world has seen before.
-The inside of this tree.
-This is the original sapling that was grown,
the very heart wood.
The wood is shaved into a rectangular shape in order to make the head of the rake.
-This is the vice where we're going to drill the holes.
-We've got the rake head here.
-Tip it forward.
Forward a bit more, a bit more, a bit more... Stop!
So the trick is here, keeping them all in good alignment
because you don't want your rake ending up buck-toothed.
Next come the teeth.
We're going to knock this bit of wood onto this metal bar which is hollow
and, as we knock it, it'll come through and out the other side.
OK? So there you go. Your first tine.
Woodworkers like Ian were common in much of the Victorian countryside,
but despite being highly skilled, they were called bodgers, and the work they did was known as bodging.
Ian has a theory about this.
A bodger - he worked with green wood.
He would make the legs and spindles for chairs and,
because it was green, they then needed to dry out.
And one theory is, when you made the holes in the seat, the round hole,
you go to put the leg in, and the leg had dried out.
As it dries, it shrinks and it doesn't quite fit, so you could say that was a bodged job.
But it wasn't the bodger's fault, it's Mother Nature's fault.
Finally, the teeth have to be banged into the rake head.
That's it, you're through.
Here we go. The moment of truth awaits.
OK. So here we are.
Look down the line.
Ooh... What are you thinking?
I can see one out from here!
-Well, one or two are drunk.
-That's not as bad as I thought, actually.
Could be better.
Well, that's smashing, Ian, it really is.
That's a work of art, the finished product.
You should be proud of that.
Right, Pete, you've seen them, you've looked at all the attributes.
It's now up to you to make the decision. Go for it.
It's a tough decision. Very tough decision.
I am quite drawn to the first Oxford we looked at, purely because of the shape of the rump.
-I can understand that.
-However, I think Mr Acton did say it can be any ram as long as it's a Shropshire.
-As long as it's a Shropshire?
-Yeah, I think he wants to keep the breed pure.
OK, so you've now got to go for one of two.
This one is slightly broader in the back, I'd say.
Yeah, I wouldn't disagree.
Probably, for that reason, I'd be inclined to go for this one.
It's not only livestock the team must bring in before the cold weather.
Bread was a staple of the farmer's diet, so flour was crucial for winter stores.
Ruth and Alex are going to make wheat into flour the traditional Victorian way.
-Ah, now, that's a sight.
-Look at that.
-I bet you're glad to see it, carrying that lot.
-Yes, I am.
In the mid-19th century, England had around 10,000 working windmills.
Only 50 or so are operating today.
Wilton windmill in Wiltshire was built in 1821.
The first job is to get its sails turning.
Each one is 32 feet high.
Volunteer Steve Chidgey has been trained to climb them.
It must be pretty nerve-racking up there, is it, Steve?
Yes, it is when you get to the top.
-How did you feel the first time you did this?
I couldn't stop my feet from shaking!
Mills were usually worked by just one miller, helped by his wife or an apprentice.
Just pull it snug
and she's ready to go.
Mike Clark has been a miller for 15 years.
Up she goes.
They're going up to the...fourth floor, so we wait for three lots of bangs...
-One... Creak, creak...
-It's not a rush job.
When we hear the third one, I just let go...
-and the sack will come down and sit on the closed trap doors.
-Oh, that's cunning, isn't it?
Four flights up,
the wheat grain is funnelled down again for the grinding to begin.
Brake off, please!
So that was...? What was that, then?
Oh, that's taking the brake off.
Excellent. Do we go inside now?
I would think so, yeah. We can start the milling.
Come on, rammy.
The new Shropshire ram has arrived on the farm.
What do you think of Acton Scott, then?
We've got the fields down here, this is the hall.
It's going to be your new home. RAM BLEATS
Mmm, I know.
Don't let me down. Hi, Merle, how are you?
-I've got a ram here.
-I'll open the gate.
Merle Wilson is in charge of the home farm's livestock.
It's up to her to decide whether Peter's made the right choice.
What are you looking for?
Just to see if he's got his manly bits about him.
-Oh, fair enough.
-There's no good having a ram that can't do the job.
-This one's got both of them.
I'm just going to look at his mouth to see that he's got his teeth.
We're just looking to see that they lie nicely against the top...
-Top gum there.
Sheep only have front teeth in the bottom of their mouths.
This may make it easier for them to grab the grass with their tongues.
All species of ruminant, including cattle, antelope and giraffe
lack these top front teeth.
Yeah, it's these two big teeth here.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth, but if you're paying
-through the nose for your sheep, check its teeth.
What do you think of him, anyway?
He's quiet and that's very important because some rams can be very nasty.
Mr Acton will be very pleased.
Well, he's all yours.
So what's happening here?
These are the millstones.
The bin up there that we tip the wheat in, comes down this chute
and feeds this hopper. This hopper is open at the bottom
to this shoe. This shoe shakes the wheat
and this little metal four-prong thing,
you see - it's called a damsel,
and that damsel meters the wheat into the eye of the stone.
Why is it called a damsel, then?
That's a good question! THEY CHUCKLE
It's because it chatters away all day.
Chatters away all day, like a damsel.
But we're not allowed to say that.
Each of the millstones weighs three quarters of a ton.
They can move at 120 revs a minute, two turns a second,
but it's all dependent on the strength of the wind.
Look how quickly that's dropped away again.
That little gust of wind and just straight back down.
We might grind to a halt!
-Right. So that's the origin of the expression?
So when something grinds to a halt, it's simply because there's not enough wind and everything stops.
-Can we go and see where the flour comes out?
-Next floor down.
-Well, it seems like it's totally ground to a halt now, doesn't it?
-I'm afraid it has.
-It's such a funny day.
-Let's have a look at this flour
-Let's feel a bit.
-What do you think, Ruth?
-We've got a quite coarse grind, haven't we?
Can you alter the size of the grind so you get finer or coarser...?
Oh, indeed. The grindstones are just up here
and this screw here controls the gap between the stones.
And when she's turning, you catch what's coming down the spout,
put it between your finger and thumb, and by "rule of thumb"...
-Rule of thumb.
..if it's a little coarse, just a twitch on this makes all the difference.
It's a really sort of organic thing, this, isn't it?
Everything by touch and by smell and by feel.
It's all the senses used to run the mill.
Being at the mercy of the elements,
the Victorian farmer needed skilled judgment to know when best to sow and harvest his crops.
With the hay meadow in its prime, Peter's decided to seek some advice.
-The swallows are fairly low.
Mr Acton has lived on the estate all his life
and knows its climate intimately.
The Victorian farmer wouldn't have had access to a weather forecast,
so how are we going to tell what the weather's going to be like when we come to make hay?
-Well, he has to do the best he can with predicting from the signs that he sees.
Such as these swallows which are feeding on insects, and they're flying very low.
-That means that the air is moist.
If it was drier, the insects would go up and so would the swallows.
Then we can look at the clouds and we can deduce a certain amount from that.
One over there which is becoming a cumulonimbus.
-That's not good.
-No, that can drop heavy amounts of rain.
For over 50 years, the Acton family has kept a record of rainfall on the estate.
It's a crucial tool for the farmer to work out
how much moisture has fallen on his crop.
Now, yesterday, there was quite a storm, so we decide
how much it was in terms of inches
by putting it into that measuring glass.
And we read it.
Now, an inch of rain is 100 tons to every acre.
So working down from that, how would you calculate it?
Around about the 25 tons per acre mark...
-..if it's 0.29 inches.
-That's a lot of rain.
You don't want that falling on your hay if you can possibly avoid it.
While the hay meadow dries, preparations for Christmas continue.
Christmas was given a complete make-over by the Victorians.
To find out more, Peter's come to meet toymaker Jeff Nunnery.
-Hi, Jeff, how are you?
-Hi, Peter. Good to see you.
-Pleasure to meet you.
I love these wooden toys. Really takes me back to my childhood. I grew up in Germany
and, even today, it's awash with wooden toys.
The Victorian age saw the birth of the toy industry
and, since then, toys and Christmas have become inextricably linked.
So who would be the customers in the Victorian period for these kind of toys?
Well, I think there'd probably be two groups.
Obviously, the people with the most money
would get these toys which are panelled doors for dolls' houses.
These obviously take a lot of work, a lot of time.
These are the windows for the doll's house.
So they were very expensive.
less income had the hoop and ball sort of toy
which was fairly simply made -
less work, less time, less expensive.
Even the cheapest toys, though, were out of reach of the working classes.
It was in the Victorian period that the idea of giving gifts really took off,
as did many Christmas traditions, and one of these is Father Christmas.
Even in the Victorian period, his identity hadn't yet been sealed.
You could still see him in a number of guises, a number of different robes.
But the image we all know and love today
didn't come about until the 1930s, when Coca Cola had a gentleman dressed in a large red suit,
white beard, very, very jolly, advertising their product.
I'm hoping to pick up something that the kids at Acton Scott are going to enjoy.
-So I'll be taking a couple away if I may?
Yes, no problem.
For the Victorian farmer, work didn't stop for Christmas,
and it was crucial to have a good store of animal feed for the winter.
The weather's set fair for the next few days
so it's time to make hay while the sun shines.
Expert local horseman, Brian Davis, has come to help out.
Brian has brought along his highly trained pair of shires.
-Take it away.
And we're off. Here we go.
The boys' job is to gather the cut grass into rows.
This is perfect, this is good. It's actually quite thick.
I think we're going to get a really good crop off of this.
-And you won't believe it, but the sun's come out as well.
-How's your hay rake doing?
-Well, it's doing very well actually, and I'll tell you why it is.
Because Mr Acton gave me a really hot tip on how to use it.
Normally, you're out in the garden, you're raking leaves like this.
-OK? But that's bad for the tines, you'll snap the tines.
You're supposed to use it like this, OK?
I'm really getting under it, just pulling it up and out...
-Yes, very nice.
-Yeah, thank you, Peter.
Less chitchat, more work!
This is only the first stage of hay-making.
Once cut, the grass needs to dry out in the field.
But as the day goes on, the colour of the sky doesn't bode well.
What do you think of that, Peter?
Don't think it looks good.
See that? That's cumulonimbus right at the back.
If it rains, we'll just deal with it.
It's all we can do. We've cut it now.
It's a lot further than we got last year.
In the dairy, Ruth and her daughter Eve are preparing for the hay harvest celebrations.
We're making butter so, first of all, the cream goes in.
This is a great thing, this Victorian churn.
It's just a barrel, really, on a hinge so that it spins round.
OK, you're the youthful muscle of this operation
so go for it.
What's happening inside the churn is that all the cream's being agitated and bashed around
and it's making the little globules of fat bump into each other. When they bump into each other,
they stick together. They're joining up, getting bigger and bigger.
It's like planet formation or something.
And eventually we will find that we've all the fats in one lump
and we'll have a complete separation -
a solid fat and a liquidy buttermilk.
So what we're listening out for
is the moment that the butter comes -
and that's the technical term.
You'll hear this sort of wet splash
because it's now separated into solid and liquid.
Oh, that feels different.
And sounds, I think...
-Can you hear?
So that's our butter and our buttermilk.
The next stage is to remove the buttermilk.
It's squeezed out using a 19th-century invention called a butter worker.
Oh, you can hear that buttermilk coming out.
This ensures the butter isn't touched
by the dairy maid's hands, which could melt it.
In fact, the most prized quality a dairy maid could have was cold hands,
but that wasn't all they were known for.
Dairy maids were considered to be, um, well, a bit sexually alluring, actually.
Dairy maids have to be very clean. You have to keep the spaces around you scrupulously clean,
you have to keep your clothes scrupulously clean,
and gentlemen used to have fantasies about them. You see that in all the literature, as well.
If you read things like Tess of the d'Urbervilles, you know?
Tess works as a dairy maid.
She's clean, pure, sweet, beautiful and, of course, has her reputation destroyed.
So you watch your step, young lady!
-You see anybody posh...
-Run a mile.
-..run a mile, cover yourself with dirt. Don't let them know you do dairying.
Why do mothers have to be so embarrassing?!
That'll be great for the hay harvest. I hope the boys like them.
Steady does it.
The rain is holding off, so Alex and Peter are getting on with the next stage of hay-making -
drying the cut grass to turn it into hay.
This process is called tedding.
The boys are keen to try it because it's featured in Henry Stephens' Book of the Farm.
Good boy. Looking good, isn't it?
-Let's see what this beauty can do.
Now, the thing is it's quite controversial this, because a lot of the people round here
have said the old way of making hay is to cut the grass and let the sun do the work for the first
two or three days, so it dries to top of the grass and it makes it that much lighter to work with.
But, of course, Stephens here is recommending a new
and innovative way of making hay.
And the idea is that, with its spikes there, its tines,
it goes round the field, just picking the freshly mown grass
up into the air and starts drying it out.
We just need to set these spikes so they're going to touch the ground.
There we go. That's now pretty dangerous.
-Are you excited?
-I'm slightly nervous, to be honest.
Well, this is it, Alex.
-We're making hay.
-Let's make hay.
Like Alex and Peter, Clumper's never used this equipment before.
Steady, boy. Steady!
Steady, steady, steady.
Steady! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Whoa whoa whoa!
Whoa! Just stand there.
Something is clearly bothering him.
Is that particularly...?
-It's coming over the top.
-Yes, it's coming over the top and hitting him on the...
On his backside. That might be the problem. It might well be.
-Shall I change the gears round?
Right, that's now going to kick it over the top.
Ah, that's more like it.
With the grass no longer falling on him, Clumper's much happier.
is just great to see.
If he can keep his cool, and I can keep my cool,
we will be making hay.
It's already drying out quite a bit.
There's still a hell of a lot to do, but
we really are getting there.
Steady, boy. That's it.
After a week, the hay is turning golden in the field.
Now it needs raking so that it can be lifted easily onto the wagon.
This is a side-delivery rake which effectively combs all the hay into long rows.
It's a fantastic piece of kit.
So dare I say it seems as if we have a hay crop?
Success at last within our grasp.
But before they can bring the hay in, the weather takes a turn for the worse.
For several days, the crop is battered by rain.
Once you've cut the hay, you're committed to making hay,
and you can control pretty much every element except the weather, and it's raining.
It's raining hard and, if this keeps up, it'll be a failure
and it'll be deja vu, basically.
We've come this far but, with this rain, it could now just all be lost at the last minute.
It'll just rot in the field.
This is awful.
This is truly awful.
With no hope of working outside, Ruth gets on with an indoor job -
turning the freshly ground flour into bread.
Traditional brick ovens like this one
go back for centuries and centuries, and right into the Victorian period were the best for baking bread.
What I'm trying to do is make a fire inside that will heat the bricks.
It's not the fire, it's the hot bricks that cook the bread.
Victorian farms generally had good supplies of fuel, but most non-farmers
could ill afford the firewood or coal,
so bought their bread from a baker.
When we went to the windmill,
they ground the flour nicely for us cos all the bran is still in there,
and although it's very good fibre through your system, if you have a lot of it in the bread,
you get a very heavy bread that's really quite chewy,
and Victorians were looking for a much lighter loaf where they could possibly get it.
So I want to take some of the bran out.
This process is called bolting. It removes some
but not all of the bran, leaving behind a creamy-coloured flour.
But in the 19th century, new technology meant that all of the bran
was taken out at the start of the milling process.
What you get out the other end is pure ground starch.
This began to cause problems. With so many people living on bread,
bread, bread, bread and potatoes, bread,
if you got a bread that is less nutritious, even though it's bulky,
you have people having problems with their diet.
In fact, it became so much of a problem that eventually they had to introduce legislation
to put nutrients back into flour for bread-making.
Next, yeast, water and salt are added.
It's starting to come together now into a mass.
Now comes the really fun bit. I get to knead it.
Now, the longer and more vigorously I knead this,
the more chance we have of a light, fluffy bread.
Like every other job, this is hard work!
And it's one of those jobs that,
if you don't put your back into it,
you really notice the difference with the finished product.
After four hours, the dough has risen.
I've got to knock it back...
and then start shaping my dough.
So the traditional shape for bread made at home
in your own bread oven was the cottage loaf,
so that's what I shall do.
Now I'm going to rake out the oven. This bit's always a bit frantic.
The fire's died down it's nice and hot.
I've got to get all this ash out quickly and the bread in before it starts to cool too much.
Always a dangerous moment
cos you're raking burning ashes out on top of your feet.
There we go.
Breads go in.
Traditionally, ovens like these would hold 12 loaves,
with perhaps a 13th to make a baker's dozen.
I'll leave that for 45 minutes to cook.
At last, the sun is out.
The hay has survived the downpours.
Alex has lent Ruth his hand-made rake
and it's time to bring out the loader.
It looks good.
Giddy up! Come on!
We're supposed to work whilst it's doing this.
Here it comes!
It's... This is going to be extremely hard work.
It's coming through my legs now!
We're trying to build... It's like a wall of hay along one side and a wall along the other
and all the time just trampling it down, packing it down, so that we can get as much on here as possible.
-Are these bits for me to rake up?
-Yeah, that's the idea, Ruth.
Well, you've got to have a job, Ruth, or you'd be in the workhouse.
-Was that your leg?
-Very, very close!
Who had money on the hay rake breaking?
-Not me. You'll just have to get on your hands and knees now, Ruth.
HORSE HANDLER: Giddy up. Come on.
-It's like canoeing.
-Good going, Peter.
This machine is brilliant!
Absolutely brilliant, and I've only stabbed Alex once with the pitchfork.
Despite the fact that they helped save labour, hay-loaders weren't popular in Victorian Britain,
and Peter and Alex are discovering are discovering a possible explanation.
So this is in fact one of the reasons why this thing didn't take on!
Because you can't do this whilst you're standing... whilst it's moving.
Is that the dray there?
It's all right, I'm good, I'm good.
Oh, Peter, no!
That is hay-making done.
The final job is to store the crop in the hay loft,
ready to feed the animals throughout the coming winter.
Their first major task in the run-up to Christmas is complete.
It's an absolute joy to find myself almost immersed in hay
cos I really didn't think I'd see the day.
-Tell you what, Alex.
-I need a beer.
After all the work and worry, a triumphant hay harvest calls for a party.
# Now turns as the sun was shining bright
# In the high days of the year Down in yonder... #
Folk musician John Kirkpatrick has come to celebrate with the team.
# ..See how the little fishes
# How they do sport and play
# Causing many a lad
# And many a lass to go there a-making hay Causing many a lad... #
He's chosen one of the few hay-making songs with a wholesome theme.
Most are much racier in tone.
Corn harvest and hay harvest
were the biggest times of the year where everyone'd muck together,
and so you'd spend all day with people of the opposite sex, and so a lot of these songs deal with
sort of running round the back of the haycocks and having a bit of a frolic in the hay,
and guaranteed a different harvest of a different kind in a few months!
Maybe this is why they introduced machines to get rid of the labour force.
Yes, that's why they had to invent machinery!
Here we go.
It's time for the homemade bread and butter.
That butter's nice...
and that bread... Yeah, it's got something to it.
It's absolutely delicious, isn't it?
But does the hay meet Mr Acton's exacting standards?
-Hello, Mr Acton.
-Hello, Mr Acton.
-Ah, well, Alex, Peter,
-is this a sample?
-This is a sample, yes, for your inspection.
Yes, not bad at all.
Can you tell a lot from the smell of hay, then?
Oh, yes, you can, yes.
Yes, it needs to smell sweet.
If it smells musty, that means...
spores of mould and that's not good for the animals.
-Yes, each time I smell it, it smells better.
-That's a good sign.
I think the animals will relish it during the winter.
OK, folks, we're going to do Sir Roger de Coverly,
a lovely old English country dance that's been done for hundreds of years
and, in Scotland, this dance is called the Haymaker's Jig, so it's very appropriate.
It's mentioned in A Christmas Carol
as one of the classic dances for Christmas so it'll get you in the mood for Christmas.
And right and turn.
And the other way.
Back to back.
We now have a hay loft brimming with freshly mown hay so...
-All done and dusted. One weight off our minds.
-JOHN: Two hands!
-Yeah, that hay's going to last the cattle over the winter.
-JOHN: Back to back!
Roll on Christmas, eh?
-JOHN: Down the middle.
Next time on Victorian Farm,
Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to presents, treats,
and staving off the cold.
There are 10,000 bricks to be made.
Oh, it's tough,
It is so tough.
And a blacksmith's forge to get up and running.
Inject some Victorian magic into your Christmas as Alex, Peter and Ruth
show you how to make gifts, food, decorations and more.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.
E-mail [email protected]
Historical reality programme. The Victorian farmers - Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn - return to the Acton Scott estate in Shropshire to celebrate a traditional Victorian Christmas.
There's an enormous amount of farm work to be done on the estate in the lead-up to the festive season, including the hay harvest, to make food for the animals over winter. Having been thwarted last time by rain, the team anxiously monitor the weather.
Peter travels to the Royal Agricultural Society's annual show with sheep expert Richard Spencer to choose a new ram for the flock; back at the farm, Ruth makes mincemeat for the Christmas mince pies. She also prepares for the hoped-for hay harvest celebration with some essentials - bread and butter.