Episode 2 Victorian Farm Christmas


Episode 2

Historical reality show. The team tackle restoring the forge, and Ruth makes remedies for typical winter ailments and gets advice from Christmas cracker historian Peter Kimpton.


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Transcript


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Here in Shropshire is a farm frozen in time,

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lost in Victorian rural England.

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Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn

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have returned to Acton Scott estate to celebrate a Victorian Christmas on a grand scale.

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I would like you to recreate a Victorian Christmas at Acton Scott.

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-Right.

-What, for the whole estate?

-Yes.

-Oh, my giddy aunt!

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So far, they've brought in the hay crop to feed the livestock through the winter

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and begun the festive preparations.

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This should make wonderful mince pies for Christmas.

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Now as Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to presents...

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treats and staving off the cold.

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But work on the farm never stops.

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They need to make 10,000 bricks by hand.

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It's tough. It is so tough.

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And the blacksmith's forge must be restored and ready for business in time for Christmas.

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So here's to hardworking Victorian farmers.

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-Hardworking Victorian farmers!

-Cheers!

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Peter and Alex are about to get their first taste of the donkey work involved

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in preparing for a Victorian Christmas.

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We use shire horses for most of the big jobs on the farm,

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and they are the equivalent of a modern-day tractor.

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When you've got two of them out in the fields ploughing, that's your tractor.

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Just one on its own is more like a sort of four-wheel drive, a Land Rover-type thing, OK?

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But every farmer needs a nice little run-around on a farm, a quad bike,

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and what we have is Dusty, the donkey.

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No Victorian farm would be without its donkey.

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The thing we've got to get to grips with

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is just how to tack him up. Right.

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-OK.

-Just like a normal horse - ever so small!

-Everything's in miniature.

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You know, I've never seen an animal that looks quite so miserable all of the time.

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Dusty!

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-Saddle.

-Here's the cart saddle.

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There we are. That's on there.

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Yeah. That's tight enough. So we got everything we need.

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Let's go, then. Try and get him in the cart and see how he fares.

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The boys are in search of a centrepiece for their Victorian Christmas celebration -

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the yule log.

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I think it's over just past that oak.

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Lovely big oak tree, though, isn't it, that?

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Well, there's something over there that's fallen down.

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What about the beauty over there?

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That looks nice, doesn't it?

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That is a tasty bit of wood.

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Traditionally, the yule log would have been large enough to burn for several days throughout Christmas.

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-You won't be able to get up and put some more logs on the fire.

-No.

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Hopefully, I'll be drinking all 12 days of Christmas!

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But we need a bit of wood that's going to burn in the hearth.

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-OK. You can pull.

-I'm pulling? I'm pulling.

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To cut the log, they're using a genuine Victorian cross-cut saw

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borrowed from Mr Acton.

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This won't be ready in 12 years, let alone 12 days!

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You're a man that hates Christmas.

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I'm hating it even more, Peter.

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-Ugh!

-Oh!

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Oh, my word!

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Actually, it is normally me that breaks everything,

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so it's nice to see someone else on the Victorian farm breaking something.

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Oh, dear. It's typical, absolutely typical.

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At the cottage, Ruth's growing food for the winter.

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I'm starting off our mushroom bed. It's such a Victorian thing to do.

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Almost all the books you read have instructions on how to grow mushrooms,

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and it does make a really good crop that you can be harvesting right through the winter.

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So the first thing you have to do is to make a really deep bed of well-rotted horse manure.

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Trample it down!

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By having a big, deep, fat layer

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it will sort of warm from underneath, and hopefully

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they should fruit and fruit and fruit and fruit!

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I've got spores to go in here - sort of the fungi equivalent of seeds.

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So I'm just going to sprinkle me spores on.

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# La, la, la la, la, la, la. #

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And lightly fork it.

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Mushrooms like to grow somewhere damp and dark,

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so leaving the heap just exposed to the air, the top would dry out, and they wouldn't like that at all.

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So this is to keep the damp in and to keep the worst of the sunlight off it.

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It would be rather nice at Christmas dinner to be able to offer mushrooms home-grown with everything else.

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The saw breaking turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

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You bungled, didn't you?

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Well no, actually, you didn't see the good favour of breaking the saw just before we cut through THIS log here,

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which in fact has a conservation order on it,

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and it would have meant that this yule log would have cost us an absolute fortune.

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-Thousands of pounds.

-They have conservation orders because

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they are allowed - they're left here to rot in the field, and all of the insects that then take to the tree -

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and you can see all the little worm holes here then encourage all sorts of different wildlife.

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In particular, woodpeckers would be bouncing up and down this log

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seeking out lovely little tasty grubs,

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so it's really, really good for the environment to have logs like this lying around

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and not burning in the hearth at the hall as a yule log.

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However, thankfully, we have got a piece of ash that fell down in this field

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that's been down for about three years. It's well seasoned. We've chopped off the end.

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It's going to make a lovely yule log.

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Ooh! Your end on.

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Oh! Perfect fit.

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-Stand!

-Down there, Dusty - to the hall.

-To the hall!

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Good lad.

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Get this bark stripped off it, a few more months' seasoning,

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-and this will be absolutely perfect, wouldn't it?

-Yeah.

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This should burn really well.

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Need to put a bit of oil on these wheels, don't we?

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With Christmas approaching, Ruth's come to the nearby Blists Hill Victorian village in Shropshire

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to buy some material for making presents.

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-Ah, good afternoon.

-Good afternoon.

-Can I help you?

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Well, I was thinking of some flannel, actually.

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-I've got some very good Welsh flannel. Would that be interesting?

-Yes.

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Welsh flannel is a really nice warm fabric, not fancy, but really quite hard-wearing,

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and very insulative, really good against the cold.

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Such woollen fabrics were believed to help wick all the sweat and things away from the body

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to leave you with a really healthy skin. Right.

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-What did you want to make?

-I want to make two pairs of gentlemen's drawers and two gentlemen's vests.

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It's for a Christmas present.

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-Right. There we are. Thank you very much.

-Thank you.

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Back at Acton Scott, Alex and Peter have an appointment

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with their land agent, Rupert Acton in a neglected corner of the estate.

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This is a project which I'd like you to come have a look at to see if you can perhaps get it working again.

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-Let's give it our best shot. It's a bit overgrown here.

-It certainly is.

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This tumble-down cottage was once a blacksmith's forge, the industrial heart of Acton Scott.

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-How long has it been derelict?

-This has been unused for about 40 years.

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-It would have been in its heyday in the Victorian period.

-It certainly would.

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I mean, this forge is actually geographically at the centre of the parish,

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-it's equidistant for all the people within that parish, very important.

-Dead centre in the village?

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And it would have been a hive of activity and a hive of gossip.

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Come on in, then.

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The forge was especially important during winter.

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So this is the old forge.

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This is when maintenance jobs on the estate were done.

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-Fantastic!

-Wow!

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All manner of iron work was needed as well as the more day-to-day tasks, like shoeing horses.

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-What do you think?

-That's amazing.

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This is just...

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They're not horseshoes, are they, where they have been put up hot?

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They look like they have been put up there hot, don't they? You can see the scorch marks on the rafters.

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-Yeah, yeah.

-And it looks like that the anvil has been placed here on this ring of stone.

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-Round stone there.

-This is where the fire would have been in the hearth behind you.

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Right.

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-What are you looking at up there, then, Peter?

-Well, I'm trying to find the chimney.

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There seems to be a distinct lack of one.

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Yeah, I'm afraid that the chimney's been blocked up, so that's going to be one of the many tasks.

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To help get the forge up and running before Christmas,

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the team have called in stonemason, Paul Arrowsmith.

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Paul, on this, we'd be very grateful.

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-Certainly.

-This is our forge.

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The first job is to assess the chimney.

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Blimey. It's higher than it looks.

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The question is, where's the blockage?

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-I found the bottom of the blockage.

-OK. So you want to pull it up and measure it.

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One, two, three...

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-Three.

-..four, five yards.

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Five to the end of the stone, so five yards down is where exactly?

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-Five yards would be roughly the top of the lintel in the bedroom.

-Right.

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So we've got quite a lot of work on our hands here trying to unblock this.

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-I love my job. I think I've just about gone through now.

-All the way through?

-Yeah.

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-Excellent.

-Daylight.

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-Daylight?

-Daylight.

-That's great.

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So what's the next stage, then, now we've got this chimney cleared?

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The next step is re-establish the masonry back into here

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to form a hood to take the smoke up into the chimney.

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What sort of materials are we going to need to build this?

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-Well, brick would be good.

-Right.

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Contemporary with the time.

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So we're going to need quite a few bricks for this?

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We will, yes. We'll need quite a few bricks to rebuild this up again.

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OK. Your favourite job - sewing.

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Oh, brilliant(!)

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I know you love it so much.

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So much fun(!)

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For the Victorian farmer, staving off the cold of winter was a major challenge,

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so Ruth and her daughter, Eve, are making useful Christmas presents for Alex and Peter - warm underwear.

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So ordinary working people were still making their own flannel underwear at home

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and really quite simple shapes.

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Everything I read said that in this Victorian period,

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men wore full-length drawers right down to the ankle.

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So the best thing I thought was really what we want is a really simple trouser pattern, isn't it?

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Just straight.

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Rural poverty in the 19th century made sewing and mending an essential skill.

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Girls would start as young as five-years-old.

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It was one of the most important parts of any young woman's education, sewing.

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I mean, where compulsory education comes in, they're all taught at school.

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So that is his back waist, and then that's his front waist.

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See? That was only that much - halfway around,

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doubled - that's a waist that big. That's not particularly big. Then that's going to be pleated slightly.

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Now it looks like he's got a REALLY small waist and a really big bum!

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I mean, I really like sort of real clothing - ordinary people's clothing.

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If you go in most museums, what you see is the really posh stuff, isn't it?

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You see all the really beautiful - it's all beautifully displayed.

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You see ball gowns and the - you know - what you don't see is the ordinary work-a-day stuff.

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Because they trashed it. OK.

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That's one pair of trousers.

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The cold of winter made it a prime time for jobs that could be done regardless of the elements.

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Tasked with restoring the forge before Christmas,

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Peter's come to the estate's brick maker, Colin Richards.

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..compressed, and the air go into it. It will take a few minutes to go through.

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The clay has been mined locally.

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It will be processed using a pug mill, powered by the estate's shire horse, Clumper.

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Well, the pug mill is like a food mixer almost to actually get air into the clay.

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It makes it into a material which is pliable.

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You can make the bricks more easy.

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Constant restoration work is needed on the 1,200-acre estate,

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so Colin's making 10,000 bricks

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identical to those used to build the distinctive red brick Acton Scott Hall.

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Well, we got to get Colin in because I think it's getting a little bit too much for Clumper,

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and he's doing a sterling job there.

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-Do you want some more water in there?

-Yeah, just a bit.

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It's getting a bit sticky.

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Got Alistair outside pushing the gin,

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and I've resorted to using my hand because it's so hard to shovel the clay.

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It's all going wrong...

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Except...

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Ooh, it is just teetering on the edge.

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It's tantalisingly close.

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It is. And there it goes.

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We now have milled clay.

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Once the clay's processed, it's ready to mould the bricks with help from expert, Alistair Compton.

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Basically, a two-part mould.

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We get some kiln-dried sharp sand.

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We use this as a releasing agent because it's easy getting the clay into the mould, but...

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-Not so easy getting it out.

-Sometimes it can be problematic.

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All right? Forming a clod, straight into the mould.

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Then you get the bow, just take the top off.

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That stops it sticking to the board.

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Bring her out.

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This is where you need long thumbs.

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And that there is a brick.

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-That is a brick.

-Right.

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From here, it's got to be dried.

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About two weeks later, we'll be able to put it into the kiln, go through the firing process,

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and you'll get your quality bricks coming out.

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-Brilliant.

-So we've only got another 999,999 to do.

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Probably nowhere near as speedy as a professional brick maker by any stretch of the imagination!

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I missed - again.

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In Victorian times, a group of eight to ten people

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could produce around about ten to 12,000 a day, so basically, I mean,

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you've got enough bricks there for a large cottage.

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-Yeah?

-But all I can tell you - it's hard work.

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Yeah, it... And, I suppose, quite monotonous as well, quite repetitive.

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Well... Therapeutic to a degree.

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That's what my psychiatrist keeps telling me.

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Ruth and Eve are using the nights to work on the Christmas presents.

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Winter evenings are so long, what are you going to do?

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You can't be gardening or doing very much with the animals.

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You can't be doing very much outside at all once it's dark.

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It's useful to catch up on these sorts of jobs,

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which at other times of the year there is no time for, no time whatsoever.

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The onset of winter means shortening days and falling temperatures on the Victorian farm.

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Ruth's finishing off Peter and Alex's warm underwear.

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They've come out quite nice.

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They certainly look warm.

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And 10,000 bricks have been moulded to restore the blacksmith's forge before Christmas.

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Two weeks have passed, and the bricks have dried out.

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Now they must be baked to make them rock hard using a kiln.

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So how many bricks does this kiln hold?

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Well, about 7,000, depending on what size bricks we make.

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Crikey! That's a lot of bricks.

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Yeah, that's enough to make a small cottage.

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-Right.

-So every time we fire it, you could effectively build a house.

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I've got some of the bricks I've inscribed. I got one for Alex.

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Right. Where do you want that one?

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-Probably at the bottom.

-Right!

-Near the fire or it's going to break! One for Ruth. One for me.

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The kiln must be sealed, and Colin has a tried and tested method.

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A piece of clay - right!

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-It's a very effective way of sealing it all up.

-It's the most fun way of doing it as well!

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And with it being soft, it gets in all those little crevices and makes quite a strong wall, really.

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It's really good fun, actually!

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Thanks. So far, Colin has resisted the urge to throw the clay at me.

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It's only matter of time!

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These eight kiln fires need tending around the clock for five days.

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Are you quietly confident this is going to go well?

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Well, whenever we light a kiln, it's an unknown quantity, really, and it is a bit nerve-racking.

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Once you've started, that's it now.

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The kiln fires 7,000 bricks, but Colin needs 10,000.

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So he's also attempting a more primitive, old-fashioned method of firing bricks using a clamp.

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Here, bricks are simply stacked on a slow-burning fire.

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-They were used for cities, weren't they?

-That's right.

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This was a way of bringing the firing process right to the site where the houses were being built.

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Often, you use the clay that was dug from the foundations and cellars to make the bricks to build the house.

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Stacks were so long that as the fire moved through the stack,

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they would actually be unloading at one end, while fire was moving through,

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so it was a continual process, and, you know, they were sometimes 40 feet high.

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So I'm glad we're not going up 40 feet!

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But it gives you an insight as to the amount of work involved in making a clamp -

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very labour intensive.

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With a clamp, you don't know what's happening inside.

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It's very much when you open this, you know, there's an element of surprise.

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You hope it's going to work, but until you crack it open, you just don't know.

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Ruth's discovered a novel Victorian way to keep warm in winter.

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I came across quite an interesting thing in this lovely little book called Common-Sense Clothing.

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It was written in 1869. And it's got this piece - and it absolutely intrigued me when I read this.

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"The Charletine blankets, now so much used are made of paper with cotton cool between."

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Well, I'd never heard of such a thing - a Charletine blanket.

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I suppose being made out of paper and cotton waste,

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they haven't survived - they are the sort of thing that would last a couple of years,

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get in a state, you put it in the fire and burn.

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And like many things, those at the sort of cheap working end don't get recorded in the same way,

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so I thought it would be really good to have a go at making a paper blanket - "cheap and warm", it says.

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I haven't really got a clue.

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I'm having to sort of make it up because nobody's ever heard of a Charletine blanket.

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Right!

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That's me pieces of paper.

0:23:260:23:28

Now I want my cotton wool, and I'm going to have to sort of just loosely glue it to the surface.

0:23:280:23:35

I think I'll start in one corner and move me way down.

0:23:350:23:38

Cotton wool has been around in Britain for over 400 years.

0:23:380:23:43

The next layer of paper.

0:23:450:23:47

Not quite sure how this is going to work.

0:23:520:23:54

We'll find out.

0:23:540:23:56

The only thing Common-Sense Clothing says about paper being a problem on the bed

0:23:560:24:03

is it doesn't breathe,

0:24:030:24:04

and the Victorians are very worried about

0:24:040:24:08

not allowing the body to breathe.

0:24:080:24:11

There had been new work done on the pores of the skin.

0:24:110:24:14

And they also worried about putting something on the bed that didn't breathe.

0:24:140:24:18

And it is surprisingly hard to get the needle through.

0:24:190:24:22

It's been three days and nights since the kiln was lit.

0:24:290:24:34

Peter and the brick team have been continually stoking the fires.

0:24:340:24:37

Alex is joining them for the final night of the kiln vigil.

0:24:410:24:45

-OK. Grub's up, guys.

-Hi, Alex. What do you mean "Grub's up"? They're raw potatoes.

0:24:450:24:49

They are indeed, mate. But you're the one with the oven.

0:24:490:24:51

-Shall I take that cider?

-Yeah, take that cider. That's the most important thing!

0:24:510:24:56

What's the idea with the potatoes?

0:24:560:24:58

-Slam it in.

-See, this is the sort of thing that over 150 years ago

0:24:580:25:03

Victorian brick makers would have done.

0:25:030:25:05

Oh, that's right, because this is a big oven, really. You've got your fire.

0:25:050:25:09

You've got your shovels, and you've got all your embers, so you use that to cook your meal.

0:25:090:25:13

-So that's your brick.

-I'm liking it.

0:25:130:25:15

Just stick it in, and I just fold it over.

0:25:170:25:22

-Wow! It's like a potato-brick pasty!

-Yeah.

0:25:220:25:27

-Amazing.

-The thickness of a brick is just perfect.

0:25:270:25:31

It leaves the skins intact and a lovely tasting potato.

0:25:310:25:34

There we go.

0:25:360:25:39

Stoking the fires day in, day out

0:25:400:25:42

has raised the temperature of the kiln to around 1,000 degrees.

0:25:420:25:47

-That's very hot - like you wouldn't believe, really.

-It is incredibly hot, isn't it?

0:25:520:25:57

Blimey. That is just crazy.

0:26:040:26:06

That just demonstrates how hot this thing is.

0:26:060:26:09

It also emphasises that we're not playing at this. These are real forces that we're dealing with -

0:26:090:26:15

with the fire and the earth and the clay, and we have to be mindful of what's happening all around us.

0:26:150:26:22

-Job done?

-Yeah, that's the last one in.

0:26:240:26:27

-Right.

-And I'm...

-Pooped?

0:26:270:26:29

I'm knackered. And I've only put eight potatoes in there.

0:26:290:26:32

-But what do you reckon, an hour, then?

-An hour, almost to the minute.

0:26:320:26:35

I'll have to lose this jacket.

0:26:350:26:37

-I'm roasting.

-Until you walk away from the kiln and then you are freezing.

0:26:370:26:41

Having prepared for the cold of winter,

0:26:460:26:48

Ruth turns her attention to the long, dark nights leading up to Christmas.

0:26:480:26:54

Now that the nights have really begun drawing in,

0:26:580:27:01

this has become a weekly task - cleaning, maintaining all the oil lamps,

0:27:010:27:07

and the candles too, all the artificial light.

0:27:070:27:12

The glass on the mantles gets really, really dirty, and of course,

0:27:120:27:16

if I don't clean it, then obviously the light can't come out, and we get dimmer and dimmer and dingier

0:27:160:27:22

dingier and dingier. I always find a little bit of vinegar on the cloth helps when I'm doing this.

0:27:220:27:28

You also have to trim the wicks.

0:27:280:27:30

If you don't get off all the sort of old wick,

0:27:300:27:35

it doesn't burn very bright, so I use my lovely little trimmers here

0:27:350:27:41

and just take off anything that's a bit old and burnt.

0:27:410:27:45

This was the way most rural homes were it will until the 1930s when the creation of the National Grid

0:27:450:27:52

brought electricity to most corners of Britain.

0:27:520:27:56

The managing of light - such a central thing.

0:28:020:28:05

Oil lamps are a good deal brighter than a candle lamp, and it doesn't blow out.

0:28:070:28:12

So you find that there are quite a lot of things that you can get on with,

0:28:120:28:16

nothing that needs really close looking at, but you can read by oil lamp.

0:28:160:28:21

You can sew by oil lamp, but not maybe the finest of stuff.

0:28:210:28:24

For fine sewing and lace work, the Victorians had an ingenious solution,

0:28:250:28:31

a blown glass bowl filled with water acted as a lens to focus the candlelight on the work.

0:28:310:28:37

Ooh, ooh! I can see up my arm!

0:28:370:28:39

It's a bit like playing with mirrors when you're a child and flashing the light around the room.

0:28:390:28:43

Huh! How many more hours is it going to take?

0:28:490:28:51

While the potatoes cook in the kiln, Alex and Peter check on the brick clamp.

0:28:540:28:59

This has to be one of the most bizarre sights I have seen.

0:28:590:29:03

It's just like one enormous brick on fire.

0:29:030:29:06

We say "enormous" - this is small.

0:29:070:29:10

With this clamp, whilst it's maybe cheaper to set up,

0:29:100:29:14

-it's not something you can tend.

-You've got no control over this.

-Yeah.

0:29:140:29:18

That is really gone up the back of my throat now.

0:29:200:29:22

HE COUGHS

0:29:220:29:26

-Oh, blimey!

-Imagine being in London in the 1850s, 1860s.

0:29:260:29:32

The only way that Britain was going to build these vast expanding industrial centres

0:29:320:29:36

is if it could find a cheap and economic way to build the homes for all the labourers and the workers.

0:29:360:29:43

-Imagine a lifetime of this.

-It would have been pretty short.

0:29:430:29:46

-I know.

-You wouldn't have lasted very long, would you?

-No.

0:29:460:29:49

Life expectancy in Britain's cities was just 40 years.

0:29:510:29:56

The whole of the city would constantly be covered in this smog.

0:29:560:30:00

You get that real sort of, you know, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper-y type of feel from this, don't you?

0:30:020:30:08

-Yeah.

-You could imagine these kilns burning on the suburbs and outskirts of these growing industrial cities.

0:30:080:30:15

Smoke pouring down the streets and...

0:30:150:30:17

This is tiny compared to what they were building.

0:30:170:30:20

When theirs were half a mile long, 40 feet high, they must have produced some smoke!

0:30:200:30:25

-They must have done.

-Why are we whispering?

0:30:250:30:29

Wouldn't want to wake Mr Acton up!

0:30:290:30:31

-Let's have these potatoes out, then.

-Right.

0:30:370:30:39

An hour has passed since the potatoes went in the kiln.

0:30:390:30:42

-Looking good! There we go.

-That's red hot.

0:30:420:30:46

It's red hot I feel like a surgeon.

0:30:460:30:50

Oh, oh, oh, you beauty!

0:30:500:30:53

Look at that. Ready to receive the butter.

0:30:530:30:57

-Butter made on the farm, no less, Peter?

-Yes, butter made on the farm.

0:30:570:31:01

It doesn't get better than this, chaps, does it?

0:31:010:31:04

Colin, this one yours?

0:31:040:31:06

Got your name on it.

0:31:060:31:08

Right.

0:31:080:31:10

There's your fork.

0:31:120:31:14

-How does that taste, then?

-It's great, yeah.

0:31:140:31:17

The... I think the clay around the edge sort of adds something to it, really. It's really nice!

0:31:170:31:23

That's a stone!

0:31:230:31:26

So it's got a nice texture, then, has it?

0:31:270:31:30

Tell you what, Alex - this will taste a darn sight better once you've done some work.

0:31:350:31:40

I'm looking forward to it. But you should have some of that.

0:31:400:31:44

But how are the bricks doing?

0:31:440:31:46

If we look in the fire hole, you can see they're sort of going from sort of yellow to white.

0:31:460:31:53

Yeah, I'm with you. Those ones right in the middle.

0:31:530:31:55

And that's where we want to be at this stage.

0:31:550:31:57

It's taken us four days and four nights to get to this point.

0:31:570:32:01

But we've got to hold that temperature for about 12 hours

0:32:010:32:03

to ensure that it soaks through the kiln.

0:32:030:32:07

To miss this stage of it would mean that all that work and effort has gone to waste.

0:32:070:32:12

The team work to maintain the intense temperature of the brick kiln until dawn.

0:32:120:32:19

If they fail, their plans to have the forge in use by Christmas will be scuppered.

0:32:220:32:27

Away from the kiln, temperatures are dropping.

0:32:350:32:39

Ruth heads off to bed.

0:32:390:32:41

It's such a cheap solution to keeping warm, this.

0:32:490:32:54

It's quite a surprising thing once made up. It feels, um,

0:32:540:32:58

well, it feels like one of those padded envelopes that you send through the post,

0:32:580:33:02

and actually, thinking about it, some of the older ones are actually full of cotton, aren't they?

0:33:020:33:07

Mind you, I bet the bubble wrap ones would be warm. too.

0:33:080:33:11

I'm sleeping in an envelope!

0:33:110:33:13

Oh, I certainly feel nice and warm at the moment.

0:33:180:33:21

I hope it stays like that all night.

0:33:210:33:24

For the last few nights, Peter's had nothing but the brick kiln and cider to keep him warm.

0:33:330:33:40

Now it's over.

0:33:440:33:46

We've done it. We've done the kiln.

0:33:480:33:51

Four nights, five days, all over.

0:33:520:33:55

Too little sleep, too much heat, too much work.

0:33:570:34:01

This is the closest I'll ever get to working as a Victorian,

0:34:010:34:07

and it's tough. It is so tough!

0:34:070:34:10

Whoa!

0:34:120:34:14

The team must wait a week for the kiln to cool before opening it.

0:34:140:34:19

Only then will they know if their efforts have been successful.

0:34:190:34:25

Working outside all hours in all weathers took a toll on the Victorian farmer.

0:34:260:34:34

Pneumonia, rheumatism and asthma were all exacerbated by the cold,

0:34:340:34:39

and in the countryside, although better off than in the cities,

0:34:390:34:43

you couldn't expect to live much beyond 50.

0:34:430:34:46

But the Victorians had concoctions to combat common winter ailments.

0:34:460:34:52

This one's a gargle for a sore throat, and you start with sage.

0:34:520:34:57

Sage is an important medicinal herb.

0:34:570:35:00

Its Latin name, Salvia, means "to heal".

0:35:000:35:04

It's great stuff, sage. It turns up in loads of different remedies, things like rubbing

0:35:050:35:10

on the joints for arthritis to try to take down the swelling, lots of cough

0:35:100:35:14

and cold things, anything to do with, well, anything to do with something that's swollen and sore.

0:35:140:35:20

So the recipe says a pint of boiling water, but I haven't got very much

0:35:220:35:26

sage here, so I'm just going to do about a cup, I think.

0:35:260:35:30

Homemade remedies were sort of, for many Victorians,

0:35:300:35:32

pretty much the only way they could get hold of medicine,

0:35:320:35:35

although there were an increasing range of medicines available to buy.

0:35:350:35:39

That's the point. They were "to buy".

0:35:390:35:41

But for the ordinary little lumps and bumps of life,

0:35:410:35:45

it made a great deal more sense to make your own home remedies, if you possibly could.

0:35:460:35:51

Right. Now, that's supposed to stand for half an hour,

0:35:510:35:54

and you can see already that the water is slightly coloured by the sage.

0:35:540:35:58

Once that has cooled down, then the only thing that's got to go in it

0:36:000:36:05

is vinegar, not too much, just a tiny bit.

0:36:050:36:09

And I suppose the warmth of the water helps it to sort of evaporate.

0:36:090:36:14

And then the other thing supposed to be in is honey, and the recipe just says, "to taste",

0:36:140:36:20

so it's to make it palatable.

0:36:200:36:22

But it's also supposed to help soothe the insides of the throat lining.

0:36:240:36:29

You're supposed to gargle with it.

0:36:300:36:32

Let's just try a little bit.

0:36:320:36:34

Excuse me if I'm disgusting and gargle and spit it out.

0:36:340:36:37

Ooh, that's quite nice, actually.

0:36:490:36:51

After a good night's sleep, the boys catch up with stonemason Paul Arrowsmith at the forge.

0:36:540:36:59

This is the lintel that would've carried the masonry above. That would not work as a flue.

0:36:590:37:04

They've unblocked the chimney, but they still have to wait for the bricks to cool before rebuilding it.

0:37:040:37:10

The floor will also need relaying.

0:37:110:37:15

And Paul's spotted another vital component that's missing.

0:37:150:37:18

So you'd have bellows...

0:37:180:37:21

on the outside of this wall.

0:37:210:37:24

-That's another sore point, actually, for us.

-Bellows?

-Yeah.

0:37:240:37:28

To work iron, they'll need bellows to blow air through the fire,

0:37:280:37:32

raising the temperature to over 1,500 degrees.

0:37:320:37:36

If they're to complete the forge before celebrating Christmas, there isn't a second to lose.

0:37:380:37:43

I don't think I've ever had so much fun, it has to be said.

0:37:460:37:50

But there's no telling how deep these holes are.

0:37:500:37:53

Have we taken on too much?

0:37:540:37:57

-Still, we can't let the Actons down.

-No.

0:37:570:37:59

The search for bellows takes them to the far reaches of the Acton Scott estate.

0:37:590:38:04

-I can't feel below my navel.

-It's not like the old Vorsprung Durch Technik, is it? Go on, giddy-up.

0:38:040:38:11

Not what we need.

0:38:180:38:20

This is what we're looking for. Let's get that under there.

0:38:200:38:23

Without this kit, our forge is - well, it's not a forge, is it?

0:38:230:38:27

Well, it's a fire, basically.

0:38:270:38:29

Think you can move that on your own?

0:38:290:38:31

-Probably.

-My back is paining me.

0:38:310:38:34

It always is, Alex.

0:38:340:38:35

One, two, three.

0:38:350:38:38

OK. I'm up. I'm up.

0:38:380:38:41

You see, in the modern age, you wouldn't have been allowed to lift

0:38:410:38:43

these sorts of weights, but because we're in Victoriana, obviously, we'd be expected to do it.

0:38:430:38:49

Perfect. Right.

0:38:560:38:57

Good boy, Dusty.

0:39:100:39:11

Come on.

0:39:110:39:14

Working in exposed areas at the mercy of the elements gave rise

0:39:140:39:18

to another common winter ailment for the Victorian farmer, chilblains -

0:39:180:39:23

painful, itchy, sores on fingers and toes.

0:39:230:39:28

Ruth's found a recipe that should prevent them.

0:39:300:39:34

Chilblains are something that farmers were particularly prone to because you're out and about in all weathers

0:39:340:39:41

and in and out of cold water all the time. So that's my egg...

0:39:410:39:45

broken up, and that's going to be whisked and beaten really strongly

0:39:450:39:50

with a mixture of oil, and I'm going to whisk it up into a...

0:39:500:39:55

a bit like an emulsion. It's almost like making mayonnaise, this bit.

0:39:550:40:01

It has to be really quite thoroughly mixed.

0:40:010:40:03

Not as thoroughly as mayonnaise, but nonetheless, somewhere along those lines.

0:40:030:40:07

And now I can start dripping in my other ingredients.

0:40:070:40:11

This is the turpentine.

0:40:110:40:13

So just a tiny spot to start,

0:40:130:40:17

and then some vinegar.

0:40:170:40:20

The next thing is spirits of wine.

0:40:200:40:23

That's just distilled wine, otherwise known as brandy.

0:40:230:40:28

And then, finally, perhaps the oddest ingredient, camphor.

0:40:290:40:34

Well, I wasn't going to go to the shop and buy camphor especially,

0:40:340:40:37

so I'm going to use small mothballs. Whoops!

0:40:370:40:40

As well as repelling moths, camphor has a cooling and anesthetising effect on the skin.

0:40:400:40:47

Now, once I've mixed this, I'm supposed to put it into a little air-tight bottle

0:40:490:40:57

and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake

0:40:570:41:01

and shake and shake and shake and shake.

0:41:010:41:03

So inside the bottle, hopefully, it's turning into

0:41:030:41:06

something that's going to be a little bit closer in texture to mayonnaise,

0:41:060:41:11

and that's good because it makes it easy to rub on your

0:41:110:41:15

chilblains, or the areas where you might get chilblains.

0:41:150:41:18

I feel a bit like I'm shaking a cocktail, frankly.

0:41:180:41:21

Not so glamorous, though, is it - chilblain preventative?

0:41:240:41:28

This thing?

0:41:290:41:30

That's it. Give it a smell.

0:41:300:41:32

Make sure it's the right one.

0:41:320:41:33

Ruth's found a guinea pig for her latest concoction.

0:41:330:41:37

That's mothballs, maybe, with a touch of brandy.

0:41:370:41:41

It has got mothballs in it.

0:41:410:41:43

It looks a bit like silver polish.

0:41:430:41:46

It stinks.

0:41:460:41:48

But probably not as much as me.

0:41:480:41:50

With the preparations for winter nearly complete, the countdown to Christmas can begin in earnest.

0:41:570:42:02

Alex is trying his hand at decorating wrapping paper using a favourite technique of the era.

0:42:020:42:10

Often, Victorian books were bound with marbled end papers, and he's attempting to reproduce the effect.

0:42:110:42:18

OK. So I've prepared now the solution within which we're going to drop in our inks.

0:42:210:42:28

This is carrageen moss, OK?

0:42:280:42:30

So it's like a seaweed, and what this helps to do is just to sort of thicken up the water.

0:42:300:42:36

So now for the pigments. These are made up with pigment powders

0:42:360:42:39

and linseed oil, and it's critical to have an oil-based paint

0:42:390:42:43

because the oil will sit on top of the water.

0:42:430:42:46

When we apply the paper, that oil-based paint is going to stick to it.

0:42:460:42:51

I'm just trying to get a nice even distribution of each colour.

0:42:520:42:56

This has really sort of demonstrated for me

0:42:560:42:59

what the Victorian Christmas was all about.

0:42:590:43:01

This sort of level of preparation,

0:43:010:43:03

because the Victorians really threw everything into Christmas. They really did.

0:43:030:43:08

And on that goes.

0:43:100:43:12

On that goes. We can see...

0:43:120:43:14

Tap that down a bit.

0:43:140:43:16

Tap that down a bit.

0:43:160:43:18

I can use these first dummy ones to wrap Peter's present in.

0:43:180:43:21

While Alex's wrapping paper dries,

0:43:240:43:27

Ruth calls on food historian Ivan Day to make a special treat for the Christmas banquet.

0:43:270:43:33

So, sweeties. What sort of sweeties are we making?

0:43:350:43:38

We're going to actually make some lozenges out of sugar paste,

0:43:380:43:41

which is flavoured with things like ginger and peppermint oil and rose water.

0:43:410:43:46

So you get a variety of flavours and colourings.

0:43:460:43:50

-And we've got powdered sugar.

-Powdered sugar, yup.

0:43:500:43:53

And we're going to put into it about half an ounce of what is called gum dragon.

0:43:530:43:58

Gum dragon, derived from prickly Middle Eastern shrubs,

0:43:580:44:03

swells in water, forming a stiff gel.

0:44:030:44:06

-Lovely!

-Yeah. Once the gum starts to sort of dissolve into the sugar,

0:44:080:44:13

it should turn into something that looks a bit like chewing gum.

0:44:130:44:16

What we have got, which is really great, are these.

0:44:180:44:22

You rotate it and cut,

0:44:220:44:26

rotate it and cut...

0:44:260:44:28

-And you can make a stack all at once!

-And it's so brilliantly designed...

0:44:280:44:32

Yeah, because it's a cone, they're not going to stick.

0:44:320:44:35

You'll get your little...

0:44:350:44:37

Isn't that clever?

0:44:370:44:38

But as ever, when it came to Christmas, the Victorians added a fun-loving twist.

0:44:410:44:46

We're going to actually make some motto sweeties with these wonderful little mid-19th century prints.

0:44:490:44:54

You've got questions like, "Can you like me?"

0:44:540:44:59

-And on there it might say...

-"I do not."

0:44:590:45:02

"I do not." And I'm not quite sure how it was used.

0:45:020:45:05

-"I do."

-But the are precursors are those little Love Heart sweets.

-Oh, yeah, I know.

0:45:050:45:11

So what we're actually making are Victorian Love Hearts, if you like.

0:45:110:45:15

And then it's a case, really, of...

0:45:150:45:18

Just press in.

0:45:180:45:20

Peel them off...

0:45:200:45:22

and you've got your perfect little Victorian Love Hearts.

0:45:220:45:27

These would be perfect for Christmas crackers

0:45:270:45:30

because they're part of that fortune cookie type of tradition.

0:45:300:45:35

-It's fun and games, really.

-Yes, absolutely.

0:45:350:45:39

At last, the brick maker's moment of truth has arrived.

0:45:480:45:53

After a gruelling firing,

0:46:000:46:03

we've left this for a week to cool down because the bricks inside will have been red hot,

0:46:030:46:08

and now it's time to crack open our brick kiln and see how we've done.

0:46:080:46:13

So as a veteran of these kilns, how are you feeling about this one?

0:46:130:46:18

Well, each firing is different, and it depends on the conditions, the temperature, you know,

0:46:180:46:25

around when we actually fired it, and at the beginning of the firing, we had some pretty bad weather.

0:46:250:46:30

We had a lot of wind, a lot of rain. Until we open the door, we just don't know.

0:46:300:46:35

Despite the bad weather, the majority of the kiln bricks seem to have fired well.

0:46:380:46:43

That's a nice brick.

0:46:470:46:50

Uh, that's the one we wanted to work, "Peter".

0:46:540:46:59

-Whoa!

-You all right, Alex?

-Yeah. How are these bricks looking, then?

-Really, really good.

0:47:070:47:11

There's nothing like a good hand made brick, is there?

0:47:130:47:17

And it'll give our forge as well some proper Victorian character.

0:47:170:47:21

Next, the clamp.

0:47:210:47:24

Here, the bricks were simply stacked on coal and left to burn.

0:47:250:47:29

But how do they compare to the kiln bricks?

0:47:290:47:32

They're pretty hot, these ones.

0:47:330:47:36

They sound good. That means they're cooked.

0:47:380:47:41

My gloves must be thicker than yours.

0:47:410:47:45

They are very hot.

0:47:450:47:47

One of the things that makes handmade bricks and hand-fired bricks so interesting

0:47:470:47:53

is the variety of colours you get depending on where they are in the clamp.

0:47:530:47:57

That's slightly more irregular, and you get the risk of having

0:47:570:48:01

a lot more that are perhaps over-fired and nearer the fuel source.

0:48:010:48:05

What would I do with an over-fired brick in the building process?

0:48:050:48:08

They'd be seconds, and so, if you were building a sort of prestigious house,

0:48:080:48:13

you know, you'd perhaps use those in partitions or where they wouldn't be seen.

0:48:130:48:17

But if it was a humble cottage and you'd be buying them cheaply from the brick maker, you'd use them.

0:48:170:48:22

It's clear there are far fewer properly fired bricks produced by a clamp than a kiln.

0:48:220:48:29

-They'll come apart.

-But this is offset by a huge advantage.

0:48:290:48:33

It's far for economical because, as you saw, we only had

0:48:330:48:38

a bed of coal four inches deep to fire all of these bricks.

0:48:380:48:42

The clamp uses less than a 10th of the fuel of the kiln per brick.

0:48:420:48:48

So how are you feeling about this clamp?

0:48:480:48:50

I'm really pleased, yeah.

0:48:500:48:52

It's now at the end of the firing, to actually get bricks out which you can use

0:48:520:48:58

straightaway and a nice colour and a nice shape and they're very durable. I'm dead chuffed.

0:48:580:49:03

I think you should be very proud, although we're dirty again.

0:49:030:49:07

Thank you. Yeah.

0:49:070:49:09

By the end of the Victorian age, the simple clamp had gone out of favour,

0:49:090:49:14

replaced by the less fuel-efficient, but more reliable brick kiln.

0:49:140:49:19

Finally, the team have the bricks they need to rebuild the forge chimney.

0:49:230:49:28

Ruth's continuing her Christmas preparations.

0:49:320:49:35

The sweets have hardened, and historian Peter Kimpton

0:49:370:49:40

is going to help her ensure the festivities go with a bang.

0:49:400:49:44

Hello! Oh, hello! You must be Peter, the Christmas cracker chap.

0:49:480:49:51

-Yes, hello. Pleased to meet you.

-Hello. Well, come on in.

-Thanks very much.

0:49:510:49:55

Shall I move some of these lovely, sweeties out of the way?

0:49:550:49:58

So we've got these pieces of crepe paper here. You need to put the longer piece on the inside.

0:49:580:50:04

Why do I need two bits?

0:50:040:50:06

-That's the way the Victorians used to do it.

-It's always two layers?

0:50:060:50:09

Yes, and the inner layer they tended to call the petticoat,

0:50:090:50:13

just as a lady's petticoat goes under her dress.

0:50:130:50:17

Crackers were dreamt up in 1847 by an entrepreneurial confectioner called Tom Smith.

0:50:170:50:24

Taking the shape of a French bon-bon, he placed sweets inside

0:50:260:50:29

cardboard tubes and wrapped them as a festive surprise.

0:50:290:50:34

-Okey-doke. Now is it rolling-up time?

-Right.

0:50:340:50:38

But his first designs failed to make an impression.

0:50:380:50:43

What he needed was a spark of inspiration.

0:50:430:50:47

The traditional story is he was sitting in front of the fire one day

0:50:470:50:52

and one of the logs gave off a pop,

0:50:520:50:56

and it was the eureka moment. He thought, "Ah, if I could have a pop in my crackers..."

0:50:560:51:02

-Everybody would buy them!

-Exactly.

0:51:020:51:03

And there are a number of people along the way who claimed to have invented what we call "the snap".

0:51:030:51:10

These snaps were actually known about, believe it or not, in 1813.

0:51:100:51:15

Adding the snap perfected the Christmas cracker.

0:51:150:51:20

In about 1861, he launched it on the market and he called it Bangs Of Expectation.

0:51:200:51:27

Bangs Of Expectation!

0:51:270:51:29

I mean, if you look in his 1891 catalogue...

0:51:310:51:34

Look at that giant cracker there. "An immense cracker, two feet, three inches long."

0:51:340:51:40

-It's a very, very commercial thing, this, isn't it?

-Yes.

0:51:400:51:43

Bought decorations, bought sweets, bought crackers.

0:51:430:51:47

They were very good at responding to what was going on at a given time.

0:51:470:51:54

I tell you what was a good one they used to do. They used to do crackers for spinsters,

0:51:540:51:58

crackers for bachelors and crackers for married couples.

0:51:580:52:03

And in the spinsters', they used to have things like faded flowers...

0:52:030:52:07

Oh, no!

0:52:070:52:09

-False teeth.

-Oh, that's really mean.

0:52:090:52:12

-A wedding ring.

-Oh, how horrid.

0:52:120:52:16

That's really mean, that is.

0:52:160:52:18

That's horrid, horrid, horrid, horrid.

0:52:180:52:21

The Christmas celebrations are fast approaching, and time's running out to complete the forge.

0:52:220:52:29

So armed with their Victorian bricks the team crack on with the chimney.

0:52:300:52:36

-Do you want to lay the first brick?

-Into this corner here?

0:52:380:52:42

-Yeah, and square with the board.

-First brick laid.

-Second brick laid.

0:52:420:52:48

They're going up quickly.

0:52:480:52:49

Yes, a lot quicker than they did, than it was to make them.

0:52:490:52:55

This takes me back to my childhood, this does.

0:52:570:53:00

-Was your father a blacksmith?

-No, no. I used to play with Lego.

0:53:000:53:03

It was lots of bricks.

0:53:030:53:06

I was good.

0:53:060:53:07

-Oh, fantastic.

-Yeah, do you want to come in?

0:53:110:53:13

-Yeah, let's have a look.

-Four days later, the chimney's complete.

0:53:130:53:18

It's such a simple building material.

0:53:180:53:20

-I didn't realise how much effort went into making bricks.

-It's really lovely and smooth.

0:53:200:53:25

It really is.

0:53:250:53:27

That's a cracking job.

0:53:270:53:29

Hopefully, this will just draw all the smoke up and...and, um,

0:53:290:53:34

yeah, we'll have a working forge.

0:53:340:53:36

Yeah, I'm really impressed, mate.

0:53:360:53:38

-They've got a fireplace, but to work iron, they'll need the bellows.

-What do you think, Peter?

0:53:380:53:44

Spin it here.

0:53:440:53:47

Pop it down.

0:53:470:53:48

Right. There we are. That's good.

0:53:480:53:51

-Shall we give it the candle test?

-Yeah, give it the candle test.

0:53:570:54:00

-Let's see if it blows it out.

-Have a pump.

0:54:000:54:04

Look at that!

0:54:050:54:07

Time to add the finishing touches.

0:54:070:54:11

Blacksmiths' forges had solid clay rather than stone floors.

0:54:140:54:20

Clay deadened the sound of beating metal and it wouldn't be damaged by dropped tools.

0:54:200:54:25

-Brilliant.

-A bucket of lime next, a bucket of lime.

0:54:250:54:30

Gravel and lime added to the clay's resilience,

0:54:300:54:36

and the Victorians congealed it with a special ingredient -

0:54:360:54:40

bull's blood.

0:54:400:54:42

It just mixes nicely.

0:54:490:54:53

Probably the same way they crush grapes for bull's blood wine or...

0:54:530:54:56

Taurus Diablo or something.

0:54:580:55:02

-What are you going on about?

-I have no idea.

0:55:020:55:04

Just make sure I don't fall over.

0:55:100:55:12

That wouldn't be nice.

0:55:120:55:14

All right, Peter? How's it going?

0:55:220:55:24

It's going well, but it's hard work.

0:55:240:55:27

Looks like a mug's game to me.

0:55:270:55:29

-I think we should show him how it's done.

-I think so. I think we have a cunning plan here.

0:55:290:55:34

They involve clogs,

0:55:340:55:36

-dancing and some ale.

-Yeah.

-Get your clogs on, then, Peter.

0:55:360:55:41

Clog dancing was a common Victorian method to beat down clay floors.

0:55:410:55:47

Wooden-soled clogs were the steel toe-capped boots of the age.

0:55:480:55:53

Mill workers would stamp their clogs to the rhythm of the weaving machines to keep warm.

0:55:530:55:59

Clog dancing was born.

0:55:590:56:01

Stomp it down!

0:56:030:56:04

Phil Howard is an expert in the history of clog dancing.

0:56:100:56:14

So have you ever come across clogs being used to stamp down a floor?

0:56:140:56:18

Oh, it's a variation on a theme because every single

0:56:180:56:21

canal around the country was done with tamped clay.

0:56:210:56:25

They used to sort of walk up and down and stamp it down and use a spade and such like.

0:56:250:56:31

And then Capability Brown actually used a herd of cows,

0:56:310:56:34

which is pretty much similar, and, of course, this is too small.

0:56:340:56:38

So I think this is pretty similar to a herd of cows...

0:56:380:56:41

I think some of our dancing is a bit like a herd of cows.

0:56:410:56:43

Come on! Hurry up, Peter!

0:56:460:56:47

-Into the middle in fours!

-Oh!

0:56:470:56:50

-Oh, can we...? Would anybody like a drink, something to eat?

-ALL: Yes, please! Yes, please!

0:57:060:57:11

I've got some bread, cheese and butter.

0:57:110:57:14

-There's your name up there, and yours.

-Oh, Peter!

-Isn't that nice!

0:57:140:57:20

-I'm glad you put my name first.

-Well...

0:57:200:57:25

Well, here's a toast to the forge and all who helped build it.

0:57:250:57:29

-Thank you very much.

-ALL: Cheers!

0:57:290:57:32

After six weeks of back-breaking work,

0:57:320:57:36

the forge is restored to its Victorian glory.

0:57:360:57:40

Next time on Victorian Farm,

0:57:420:57:45

it's Christmas with gifts,

0:57:450:57:48

trees, Christmas cards and last-minute shopping.

0:57:480:57:54

This is real nose-pressed-against-the-glass thing.

0:57:540:57:57

But first, they must learn the skills of the blacksmith...

0:57:570:58:00

Slaving over a very, very hot fire.

0:58:000:58:03

..before putting on a feast for the entire estate.

0:58:030:58:08

Inject some Victorian magic into your Christmas

0:58:130:58:17

as Alex, Peter and Ruth show you how to make gifts, food, decorations

0:58:170:58:21

and more. Go to -

0:58:210:58:25

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:400:58:44

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:440:58:48

The Victorian farm team tackle their biggest project yet: restoring the village blacksmith's forge. First they must make bricks to restore the chimney - a full five day and night process in which the farmer gets no sleep.

As winter marches on and Christmas nears, they must source a yule log: firewood to burn for the Twelve Days of Christmas. At the cottage, Ruth winter-proofs the house, making a paper blanket and remedies for chilblains, rheumatism, coughs and colds.

It is also a chance to begin preparations for the Christmas banquet in earnest - in particular, a very Victorian invention, Christmas crackers. Ruth enlists the help of Christmas cracker historian Peter Kimpton.


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