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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Here in Shropshire is a farm frozen in time,
lost in Victorian rural England.
Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn
have returned to Acton Scott estate to celebrate a Victorian Christmas on a grand scale.
I would like you to recreate a Victorian Christmas at Acton Scott.
-What, for the whole estate?
-Oh, my giddy aunt!
So far, they've brought in the hay crop to feed the livestock through the winter
and begun the festive preparations.
This should make wonderful mince pies for Christmas.
Now as Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to presents...
treats and staving off the cold.
But work on the farm never stops.
They need to make 10,000 bricks by hand.
It's tough. It is so tough.
And the blacksmith's forge must be restored and ready for business in time for Christmas.
So here's to hardworking Victorian farmers.
-Hardworking Victorian farmers!
Peter and Alex are about to get their first taste of the donkey work involved
in preparing for a Victorian Christmas.
We use shire horses for most of the big jobs on the farm,
and they are the equivalent of a modern-day tractor.
When you've got two of them out in the fields ploughing, that's your tractor.
Just one on its own is more like a sort of four-wheel drive, a Land Rover-type thing, OK?
But every farmer needs a nice little run-around on a farm, a quad bike,
and what we have is Dusty, the donkey.
No Victorian farm would be without its donkey.
The thing we've got to get to grips with
is just how to tack him up. Right.
-Just like a normal horse - ever so small!
-Everything's in miniature.
You know, I've never seen an animal that looks quite so miserable all of the time.
-Here's the cart saddle.
There we are. That's on there.
Yeah. That's tight enough. So we got everything we need.
Let's go, then. Try and get him in the cart and see how he fares.
The boys are in search of a centrepiece for their Victorian Christmas celebration -
the yule log.
I think it's over just past that oak.
Lovely big oak tree, though, isn't it, that?
Well, there's something over there that's fallen down.
What about the beauty over there?
That looks nice, doesn't it?
That is a tasty bit of wood.
Traditionally, the yule log would have been large enough to burn for several days throughout Christmas.
-You won't be able to get up and put some more logs on the fire.
Hopefully, I'll be drinking all 12 days of Christmas!
But we need a bit of wood that's going to burn in the hearth.
-OK. You can pull.
-I'm pulling? I'm pulling.
To cut the log, they're using a genuine Victorian cross-cut saw
borrowed from Mr Acton.
This won't be ready in 12 years, let alone 12 days!
You're a man that hates Christmas.
I'm hating it even more, Peter.
Oh, my word!
Actually, it is normally me that breaks everything,
so it's nice to see someone else on the Victorian farm breaking something.
Oh, dear. It's typical, absolutely typical.
At the cottage, Ruth's growing food for the winter.
I'm starting off our mushroom bed. It's such a Victorian thing to do.
Almost all the books you read have instructions on how to grow mushrooms,
and it does make a really good crop that you can be harvesting right through the winter.
So the first thing you have to do is to make a really deep bed of well-rotted horse manure.
Trample it down!
By having a big, deep, fat layer
it will sort of warm from underneath, and hopefully
they should fruit and fruit and fruit and fruit!
I've got spores to go in here - sort of the fungi equivalent of seeds.
So I'm just going to sprinkle me spores on.
# La, la, la la, la, la, la. #
And lightly fork it.
Mushrooms like to grow somewhere damp and dark,
so leaving the heap just exposed to the air, the top would dry out, and they wouldn't like that at all.
So this is to keep the damp in and to keep the worst of the sunlight off it.
It would be rather nice at Christmas dinner to be able to offer mushrooms home-grown with everything else.
The saw breaking turns out to be a blessing in disguise.
You bungled, didn't you?
Well no, actually, you didn't see the good favour of breaking the saw just before we cut through THIS log here,
which in fact has a conservation order on it,
and it would have meant that this yule log would have cost us an absolute fortune.
-Thousands of pounds.
-They have conservation orders because
they are allowed - they're left here to rot in the field, and all of the insects that then take to the tree -
and you can see all the little worm holes here then encourage all sorts of different wildlife.
In particular, woodpeckers would be bouncing up and down this log
seeking out lovely little tasty grubs,
so it's really, really good for the environment to have logs like this lying around
and not burning in the hearth at the hall as a yule log.
However, thankfully, we have got a piece of ash that fell down in this field
that's been down for about three years. It's well seasoned. We've chopped off the end.
It's going to make a lovely yule log.
Ooh! Your end on.
Oh! Perfect fit.
-Down there, Dusty - to the hall.
-To the hall!
Get this bark stripped off it, a few more months' seasoning,
-and this will be absolutely perfect, wouldn't it?
This should burn really well.
Need to put a bit of oil on these wheels, don't we?
With Christmas approaching, Ruth's come to the nearby Blists Hill Victorian village in Shropshire
to buy some material for making presents.
-Ah, good afternoon.
-Can I help you?
Well, I was thinking of some flannel, actually.
-I've got some very good Welsh flannel. Would that be interesting?
Welsh flannel is a really nice warm fabric, not fancy, but really quite hard-wearing,
and very insulative, really good against the cold.
Such woollen fabrics were believed to help wick all the sweat and things away from the body
to leave you with a really healthy skin. Right.
-What did you want to make?
-I want to make two pairs of gentlemen's drawers and two gentlemen's vests.
It's for a Christmas present.
-Right. There we are. Thank you very much.
Back at Acton Scott, Alex and Peter have an appointment
with their land agent, Rupert Acton in a neglected corner of the estate.
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.
-Let's give it our best shot. It's a bit overgrown here.
-It certainly is.
This tumble-down cottage was once a blacksmith's forge, the industrial heart of Acton Scott.
-How long has it been derelict?
-This has been unused for about 40 years.
-It would have been in its heyday in the Victorian period.
-It certainly would.
I mean, this forge is actually geographically at the centre of the parish,
-it's equidistant for all the people within that parish, very important.
-Dead centre in the village?
And it would have been a hive of activity and a hive of gossip.
Come on in, then.
The forge was especially important during winter.
So this is the old forge.
This is when maintenance jobs on the estate were done.
All manner of iron work was needed as well as the more day-to-day tasks, like shoeing horses.
-What do you think?
This is just...
They're not horseshoes, are they, where they have been put up hot?
They look like they have been put up there hot, don't they? You can see the scorch marks on the rafters.
-And it looks like that the anvil has been placed here on this ring of stone.
-Round stone there.
-This is where the fire would have been in the hearth behind you.
-What are you looking at up there, then, Peter?
-Well, I'm trying to find the chimney.
There seems to be a distinct lack of one.
Yeah, I'm afraid that the chimney's been blocked up, so that's going to be one of the many tasks.
To help get the forge up and running before Christmas,
the team have called in stonemason, Paul Arrowsmith.
Paul, on this, we'd be very grateful.
-This is our forge.
The first job is to assess the chimney.
Blimey. It's higher than it looks.
The question is, where's the blockage?
-I found the bottom of the blockage.
-OK. So you want to pull it up and measure it.
One, two, three...
-..four, five yards.
Five to the end of the stone, so five yards down is where exactly?
-Five yards would be roughly the top of the lintel in the bedroom.
So we've got quite a lot of work on our hands here trying to unblock this.
-I love my job. I think I've just about gone through now.
-All the way through?
So what's the next stage, then, now we've got this chimney cleared?
The next step is re-establish the masonry back into here
to form a hood to take the smoke up into the chimney.
What sort of materials are we going to need to build this?
-Well, brick would be good.
Contemporary with the time.
So we're going to need quite a few bricks for this?
We will, yes. We'll need quite a few bricks to rebuild this up again.
OK. Your favourite job - sewing.
I know you love it so much.
So much fun(!)
For the Victorian farmer, staving off the cold of winter was a major challenge,
so Ruth and her daughter, Eve, are making useful Christmas presents for Alex and Peter - warm underwear.
So ordinary working people were still making their own flannel underwear at home
and really quite simple shapes.
Everything I read said that in this Victorian period,
men wore full-length drawers right down to the ankle.
So the best thing I thought was really what we want is a really simple trouser pattern, isn't it?
Rural poverty in the 19th century made sewing and mending an essential skill.
Girls would start as young as five-years-old.
It was one of the most important parts of any young woman's education, sewing.
I mean, where compulsory education comes in, they're all taught at school.
So that is his back waist, and then that's his front waist.
See? That was only that much - halfway around,
doubled - that's a waist that big. That's not particularly big. Then that's going to be pleated slightly.
Now it looks like he's got a REALLY small waist and a really big bum!
I mean, I really like sort of real clothing - ordinary people's clothing.
If you go in most museums, what you see is the really posh stuff, isn't it?
You see all the really beautiful - it's all beautifully displayed.
You see ball gowns and the - you know - what you don't see is the ordinary work-a-day stuff.
Because they trashed it. OK.
That's one pair of trousers.
The cold of winter made it a prime time for jobs that could be done regardless of the elements.
Tasked with restoring the forge before Christmas,
Peter's come to the estate's brick maker, Colin Richards.
..compressed, and the air go into it. It will take a few minutes to go through.
The clay has been mined locally.
It will be processed using a pug mill, powered by the estate's shire horse, Clumper.
Well, the pug mill is like a food mixer almost to actually get air into the clay.
It makes it into a material which is pliable.
You can make the bricks more easy.
Constant restoration work is needed on the 1,200-acre estate,
so Colin's making 10,000 bricks
identical to those used to build the distinctive red brick Acton Scott Hall.
Well, we got to get Colin in because I think it's getting a little bit too much for Clumper,
and he's doing a sterling job there.
-Do you want some more water in there?
-Yeah, just a bit.
It's getting a bit sticky.
Got Alistair outside pushing the gin,
and I've resorted to using my hand because it's so hard to shovel the clay.
It's all going wrong...
Ooh, it is just teetering on the edge.
It's tantalisingly close.
It is. And there it goes.
We now have milled clay.
Once the clay's processed, it's ready to mould the bricks with help from expert, Alistair Compton.
Basically, a two-part mould.
We get some kiln-dried sharp sand.
We use this as a releasing agent because it's easy getting the clay into the mould, but...
-Not so easy getting it out.
-Sometimes it can be problematic.
All right? Forming a clod, straight into the mould.
Then you get the bow, just take the top off.
That stops it sticking to the board.
Bring her out.
This is where you need long thumbs.
And that there is a brick.
-That is a brick.
From here, it's got to be dried.
About two weeks later, we'll be able to put it into the kiln, go through the firing process,
and you'll get your quality bricks coming out.
-So we've only got another 999,999 to do.
Probably nowhere near as speedy as a professional brick maker by any stretch of the imagination!
I missed - again.
In Victorian times, a group of eight to ten people
could produce around about ten to 12,000 a day, so basically, I mean,
you've got enough bricks there for a large cottage.
-But all I can tell you - it's hard work.
Yeah, it... And, I suppose, quite monotonous as well, quite repetitive.
Well... Therapeutic to a degree.
That's what my psychiatrist keeps telling me.
Ruth and Eve are using the nights to work on the Christmas presents.
Winter evenings are so long, what are you going to do?
You can't be gardening or doing very much with the animals.
You can't be doing very much outside at all once it's dark.
It's useful to catch up on these sorts of jobs,
which at other times of the year there is no time for, no time whatsoever.
The onset of winter means shortening days and falling temperatures on the Victorian farm.
Ruth's finishing off Peter and Alex's warm underwear.
They've come out quite nice.
They certainly look warm.
And 10,000 bricks have been moulded to restore the blacksmith's forge before Christmas.
Two weeks have passed, and the bricks have dried out.
Now they must be baked to make them rock hard using a kiln.
So how many bricks does this kiln hold?
Well, about 7,000, depending on what size bricks we make.
Crikey! That's a lot of bricks.
Yeah, that's enough to make a small cottage.
-So every time we fire it, you could effectively build a house.
I've got some of the bricks I've inscribed. I got one for Alex.
Right. Where do you want that one?
-Probably at the bottom.
-Near the fire or it's going to break! One for Ruth. One for me.
The kiln must be sealed, and Colin has a tried and tested method.
A piece of clay - right!
-It's a very effective way of sealing it all up.
-It's the most fun way of doing it as well!
And with it being soft, it gets in all those little crevices and makes quite a strong wall, really.
It's really good fun, actually!
Thanks. So far, Colin has resisted the urge to throw the clay at me.
It's only matter of time!
These eight kiln fires need tending around the clock for five days.
Are you quietly confident this is going to go well?
Well, whenever we light a kiln, it's an unknown quantity, really, and it is a bit nerve-racking.
Once you've started, that's it now.
The kiln fires 7,000 bricks, but Colin needs 10,000.
So he's also attempting a more primitive, old-fashioned method of firing bricks using a clamp.
Here, bricks are simply stacked on a slow-burning fire.
-They were used for cities, weren't they?
This was a way of bringing the firing process right to the site where the houses were being built.
Often, you use the clay that was dug from the foundations and cellars to make the bricks to build the house.
Stacks were so long that as the fire moved through the stack,
they would actually be unloading at one end, while fire was moving through,
so it was a continual process, and, you know, they were sometimes 40 feet high.
So I'm glad we're not going up 40 feet!
But it gives you an insight as to the amount of work involved in making a clamp -
very labour intensive.
With a clamp, you don't know what's happening inside.
It's very much when you open this, you know, there's an element of surprise.
You hope it's going to work, but until you crack it open, you just don't know.
Ruth's discovered a novel Victorian way to keep warm in winter.
I came across quite an interesting thing in this lovely little book called Common-Sense Clothing.
It was written in 1869. And it's got this piece - and it absolutely intrigued me when I read this.
"The Charletine blankets, now so much used are made of paper with cotton cool between."
Well, I'd never heard of such a thing - a Charletine blanket.
I suppose being made out of paper and cotton waste,
they haven't survived - they are the sort of thing that would last a couple of years,
get in a state, you put it in the fire and burn.
And like many things, those at the sort of cheap working end don't get recorded in the same way,
so I thought it would be really good to have a go at making a paper blanket - "cheap and warm", it says.
I haven't really got a clue.
I'm having to sort of make it up because nobody's ever heard of a Charletine blanket.
That's me pieces of paper.
Now I want my cotton wool, and I'm going to have to sort of just loosely glue it to the surface.
I think I'll start in one corner and move me way down.
Cotton wool has been around in Britain for over 400 years.
The next layer of paper.
Not quite sure how this is going to work.
We'll find out.
The only thing Common-Sense Clothing says about paper being a problem on the bed
is it doesn't breathe,
and the Victorians are very worried about
not allowing the body to breathe.
There had been new work done on the pores of the skin.
And they also worried about putting something on the bed that didn't breathe.
And it is surprisingly hard to get the needle through.
It's been three days and nights since the kiln was lit.
Peter and the brick team have been continually stoking the fires.
Alex is joining them for the final night of the kiln vigil.
-OK. Grub's up, guys.
-Hi, Alex. What do you mean "Grub's up"? They're raw potatoes.
They are indeed, mate. But you're the one with the oven.
-Shall I take that cider?
-Yeah, take that cider. That's the most important thing!
What's the idea with the potatoes?
-Slam it in.
-See, this is the sort of thing that over 150 years ago
Victorian brick makers would have done.
Oh, that's right, because this is a big oven, really. You've got your fire.
You've got your shovels, and you've got all your embers, so you use that to cook your meal.
-So that's your brick.
-I'm liking it.
Just stick it in, and I just fold it over.
-Wow! It's like a potato-brick pasty!
-The thickness of a brick is just perfect.
It leaves the skins intact and a lovely tasting potato.
There we go.
Stoking the fires day in, day out
has raised the temperature of the kiln to around 1,000 degrees.
-That's very hot - like you wouldn't believe, really.
-It is incredibly hot, isn't it?
Blimey. That is just crazy.
That just demonstrates how hot this thing is.
It also emphasises that we're not playing at this. These are real forces that we're dealing with -
with the fire and the earth and the clay, and we have to be mindful of what's happening all around us.
-Yeah, that's the last one in.
I'm knackered. And I've only put eight potatoes in there.
-But what do you reckon, an hour, then?
-An hour, almost to the minute.
I'll have to lose this jacket.
-Until you walk away from the kiln and then you are freezing.
Having prepared for the cold of winter,
Ruth turns her attention to the long, dark nights leading up to Christmas.
Now that the nights have really begun drawing in,
this has become a weekly task - cleaning, maintaining all the oil lamps,
and the candles too, all the artificial light.
The glass on the mantles gets really, really dirty, and of course,
if I don't clean it, then obviously the light can't come out, and we get dimmer and dimmer and dingier
dingier and dingier. I always find a little bit of vinegar on the cloth helps when I'm doing this.
You also have to trim the wicks.
If you don't get off all the sort of old wick,
it doesn't burn very bright, so I use my lovely little trimmers here
and just take off anything that's a bit old and burnt.
This was the way most rural homes were it will until the 1930s when the creation of the National Grid
brought electricity to most corners of Britain.
The managing of light - such a central thing.
Oil lamps are a good deal brighter than a candle lamp, and it doesn't blow out.
So you find that there are quite a lot of things that you can get on with,
nothing that needs really close looking at, but you can read by oil lamp.
You can sew by oil lamp, but not maybe the finest of stuff.
For fine sewing and lace work, the Victorians had an ingenious solution,
a blown glass bowl filled with water acted as a lens to focus the candlelight on the work.
Ooh, ooh! I can see up my arm!
It's a bit like playing with mirrors when you're a child and flashing the light around the room.
Huh! How many more hours is it going to take?
While the potatoes cook in the kiln, Alex and Peter check on the brick clamp.
This has to be one of the most bizarre sights I have seen.
It's just like one enormous brick on fire.
We say "enormous" - this is small.
With this clamp, whilst it's maybe cheaper to set up,
-it's not something you can tend.
-You've got no control over this.
That is really gone up the back of my throat now.
-Imagine being in London in the 1850s, 1860s.
The only way that Britain was going to build these vast expanding industrial centres
is if it could find a cheap and economic way to build the homes for all the labourers and the workers.
-Imagine a lifetime of this.
-It would have been pretty short.
-You wouldn't have lasted very long, would you?
Life expectancy in Britain's cities was just 40 years.
The whole of the city would constantly be covered in this smog.
You get that real sort of, you know, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper-y type of feel from this, don't you?
-You could imagine these kilns burning on the suburbs and outskirts of these growing industrial cities.
Smoke pouring down the streets and...
This is tiny compared to what they were building.
When theirs were half a mile long, 40 feet high, they must have produced some smoke!
-They must have done.
-Why are we whispering?
Wouldn't want to wake Mr Acton up!
-Let's have these potatoes out, then.
An hour has passed since the potatoes went in the kiln.
-Looking good! There we go.
-That's red hot.
It's red hot I feel like a surgeon.
Oh, oh, oh, you beauty!
Look at that. Ready to receive the butter.
-Butter made on the farm, no less, Peter?
-Yes, butter made on the farm.
It doesn't get better than this, chaps, does it?
Colin, this one yours?
Got your name on it.
There's your fork.
-How does that taste, then?
-It's great, yeah.
The... I think the clay around the edge sort of adds something to it, really. It's really nice!
That's a stone!
So it's got a nice texture, then, has it?
Tell you what, Alex - this will taste a darn sight better once you've done some work.
I'm looking forward to it. But you should have some of that.
But how are the bricks doing?
If we look in the fire hole, you can see they're sort of going from sort of yellow to white.
Yeah, I'm with you. Those ones right in the middle.
And that's where we want to be at this stage.
It's taken us four days and four nights to get to this point.
But we've got to hold that temperature for about 12 hours
to ensure that it soaks through the kiln.
To miss this stage of it would mean that all that work and effort has gone to waste.
The team work to maintain the intense temperature of the brick kiln until dawn.
If they fail, their plans to have the forge in use by Christmas will be scuppered.
Away from the kiln, temperatures are dropping.
Ruth heads off to bed.
It's such a cheap solution to keeping warm, this.
It's quite a surprising thing once made up. It feels, um,
well, it feels like one of those padded envelopes that you send through the post,
and actually, thinking about it, some of the older ones are actually full of cotton, aren't they?
Mind you, I bet the bubble wrap ones would be warm. too.
I'm sleeping in an envelope!
Oh, I certainly feel nice and warm at the moment.
I hope it stays like that all night.
For the last few nights, Peter's had nothing but the brick kiln and cider to keep him warm.
Now it's over.
We've done it. We've done the kiln.
Four nights, five days, all over.
Too little sleep, too much heat, too much work.
This is the closest I'll ever get to working as a Victorian,
and it's tough. It is so tough!
The team must wait a week for the kiln to cool before opening it.
Only then will they know if their efforts have been successful.
Working outside all hours in all weathers took a toll on the Victorian farmer.
Pneumonia, rheumatism and asthma were all exacerbated by the cold,
and in the countryside, although better off than in the cities,
you couldn't expect to live much beyond 50.
But the Victorians had concoctions to combat common winter ailments.
This one's a gargle for a sore throat, and you start with sage.
Sage is an important medicinal herb.
Its Latin name, Salvia, means "to heal".
It's great stuff, sage. It turns up in loads of different remedies, things like rubbing
on the joints for arthritis to try to take down the swelling, lots of cough
and cold things, anything to do with, well, anything to do with something that's swollen and sore.
So the recipe says a pint of boiling water, but I haven't got very much
sage here, so I'm just going to do about a cup, I think.
Homemade remedies were sort of, for many Victorians,
pretty much the only way they could get hold of medicine,
although there were an increasing range of medicines available to buy.
That's the point. They were "to buy".
But for the ordinary little lumps and bumps of life,
it made a great deal more sense to make your own home remedies, if you possibly could.
Right. Now, that's supposed to stand for half an hour,
and you can see already that the water is slightly coloured by the sage.
Once that has cooled down, then the only thing that's got to go in it
is vinegar, not too much, just a tiny bit.
And I suppose the warmth of the water helps it to sort of evaporate.
And then the other thing supposed to be in is honey, and the recipe just says, "to taste",
so it's to make it palatable.
But it's also supposed to help soothe the insides of the throat lining.
You're supposed to gargle with it.
Let's just try a little bit.
Excuse me if I'm disgusting and gargle and spit it out.
Ooh, that's quite nice, actually.
After a good night's sleep, the boys catch up with stonemason Paul Arrowsmith at the forge.
This is the lintel that would've carried the masonry above. That would not work as a flue.
They've unblocked the chimney, but they still have to wait for the bricks to cool before rebuilding it.
The floor will also need relaying.
And Paul's spotted another vital component that's missing.
So you'd have bellows...
on the outside of this wall.
-That's another sore point, actually, for us.
To work iron, they'll need bellows to blow air through the fire,
raising the temperature to over 1,500 degrees.
If they're to complete the forge before celebrating Christmas, there isn't a second to lose.
I don't think I've ever had so much fun, it has to be said.
But there's no telling how deep these holes are.
Have we taken on too much?
-Still, we can't let the Actons down.
The search for bellows takes them to the far reaches of the Acton Scott estate.
-I can't feel below my navel.
-It's not like the old Vorsprung Durch Technik, is it? Go on, giddy-up.
Not what we need.
This is what we're looking for. Let's get that under there.
Without this kit, our forge is - well, it's not a forge, is it?
Well, it's a fire, basically.
Think you can move that on your own?
-My back is paining me.
It always is, Alex.
One, two, three.
OK. I'm up. I'm up.
You see, in the modern age, you wouldn't have been allowed to lift
these sorts of weights, but because we're in Victoriana, obviously, we'd be expected to do it.
Good boy, Dusty.
Working in exposed areas at the mercy of the elements gave rise
to another common winter ailment for the Victorian farmer, chilblains -
painful, itchy, sores on fingers and toes.
Ruth's found a recipe that should prevent them.
Chilblains are something that farmers were particularly prone to because you're out and about in all weathers
and in and out of cold water all the time. So that's my egg...
broken up, and that's going to be whisked and beaten really strongly
with a mixture of oil, and I'm going to whisk it up into a...
a bit like an emulsion. It's almost like making mayonnaise, this bit.
It has to be really quite thoroughly mixed.
Not as thoroughly as mayonnaise, but nonetheless, somewhere along those lines.
And now I can start dripping in my other ingredients.
This is the turpentine.
So just a tiny spot to start,
and then some vinegar.
The next thing is spirits of wine.
That's just distilled wine, otherwise known as brandy.
And then, finally, perhaps the oddest ingredient, camphor.
Well, I wasn't going to go to the shop and buy camphor especially,
so I'm going to use small mothballs. Whoops!
As well as repelling moths, camphor has a cooling and anesthetising effect on the skin.
Now, once I've mixed this, I'm supposed to put it into a little air-tight bottle
and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake and shake
and shake and shake and shake and shake.
So inside the bottle, hopefully, it's turning into
something that's going to be a little bit closer in texture to mayonnaise,
and that's good because it makes it easy to rub on your
chilblains, or the areas where you might get chilblains.
I feel a bit like I'm shaking a cocktail, frankly.
Not so glamorous, though, is it - chilblain preventative?
That's it. Give it a smell.
Make sure it's the right one.
Ruth's found a guinea pig for her latest concoction.
That's mothballs, maybe, with a touch of brandy.
It has got mothballs in it.
It looks a bit like silver polish.
But probably not as much as me.
With the preparations for winter nearly complete, the countdown to Christmas can begin in earnest.
Alex is trying his hand at decorating wrapping paper using a favourite technique of the era.
Often, Victorian books were bound with marbled end papers, and he's attempting to reproduce the effect.
OK. So I've prepared now the solution within which we're going to drop in our inks.
This is carrageen moss, OK?
So it's like a seaweed, and what this helps to do is just to sort of thicken up the water.
So now for the pigments. These are made up with pigment powders
and linseed oil, and it's critical to have an oil-based paint
because the oil will sit on top of the water.
When we apply the paper, that oil-based paint is going to stick to it.
I'm just trying to get a nice even distribution of each colour.
This has really sort of demonstrated for me
what the Victorian Christmas was all about.
This sort of level of preparation,
because the Victorians really threw everything into Christmas. They really did.
And on that goes.
On that goes. We can see...
Tap that down a bit.
Tap that down a bit.
I can use these first dummy ones to wrap Peter's present in.
While Alex's wrapping paper dries,
Ruth calls on food historian Ivan Day to make a special treat for the Christmas banquet.
So, sweeties. What sort of sweeties are we making?
We're going to actually make some lozenges out of sugar paste,
which is flavoured with things like ginger and peppermint oil and rose water.
So you get a variety of flavours and colourings.
-And we've got powdered sugar.
-Powdered sugar, yup.
And we're going to put into it about half an ounce of what is called gum dragon.
Gum dragon, derived from prickly Middle Eastern shrubs,
swells in water, forming a stiff gel.
-Yeah. Once the gum starts to sort of dissolve into the sugar,
it should turn into something that looks a bit like chewing gum.
What we have got, which is really great, are these.
You rotate it and cut,
rotate it and cut...
-And you can make a stack all at once!
-And it's so brilliantly designed...
Yeah, because it's a cone, they're not going to stick.
You'll get your little...
Isn't that clever?
But as ever, when it came to Christmas, the Victorians added a fun-loving twist.
We're going to actually make some motto sweeties with these wonderful little mid-19th century prints.
You've got questions like, "Can you like me?"
-And on there it might say...
-"I do not."
"I do not." And I'm not quite sure how it was used.
-But the are precursors are those little Love Heart sweets.
-Oh, yeah, I know.
So what we're actually making are Victorian Love Hearts, if you like.
And then it's a case, really, of...
Just press in.
Peel them off...
and you've got your perfect little Victorian Love Hearts.
These would be perfect for Christmas crackers
because they're part of that fortune cookie type of tradition.
-It's fun and games, really.
At last, the brick maker's moment of truth has arrived.
After a gruelling firing,
we've left this for a week to cool down because the bricks inside will have been red hot,
and now it's time to crack open our brick kiln and see how we've done.
So as a veteran of these kilns, how are you feeling about this one?
Well, each firing is different, and it depends on the conditions, the temperature, you know,
around when we actually fired it, and at the beginning of the firing, we had some pretty bad weather.
We had a lot of wind, a lot of rain. Until we open the door, we just don't know.
Despite the bad weather, the majority of the kiln bricks seem to have fired well.
That's a nice brick.
Uh, that's the one we wanted to work, "Peter".
-You all right, Alex?
-Yeah. How are these bricks looking, then?
-Really, really good.
There's nothing like a good hand made brick, is there?
And it'll give our forge as well some proper Victorian character.
Next, the clamp.
Here, the bricks were simply stacked on coal and left to burn.
But how do they compare to the kiln bricks?
They're pretty hot, these ones.
They sound good. That means they're cooked.
My gloves must be thicker than yours.
They are very hot.
One of the things that makes handmade bricks and hand-fired bricks so interesting
is the variety of colours you get depending on where they are in the clamp.
That's slightly more irregular, and you get the risk of having
a lot more that are perhaps over-fired and nearer the fuel source.
What would I do with an over-fired brick in the building process?
They'd be seconds, and so, if you were building a sort of prestigious house,
you know, you'd perhaps use those in partitions or where they wouldn't be seen.
But if it was a humble cottage and you'd be buying them cheaply from the brick maker, you'd use them.
It's clear there are far fewer properly fired bricks produced by a clamp than a kiln.
-They'll come apart.
-But this is offset by a huge advantage.
It's far for economical because, as you saw, we only had
a bed of coal four inches deep to fire all of these bricks.
The clamp uses less than a 10th of the fuel of the kiln per brick.
So how are you feeling about this clamp?
I'm really pleased, yeah.
It's now at the end of the firing, to actually get bricks out which you can use
straightaway and a nice colour and a nice shape and they're very durable. I'm dead chuffed.
I think you should be very proud, although we're dirty again.
Thank you. Yeah.
By the end of the Victorian age, the simple clamp had gone out of favour,
replaced by the less fuel-efficient, but more reliable brick kiln.
Finally, the team have the bricks they need to rebuild the forge chimney.
Ruth's continuing her Christmas preparations.
The sweets have hardened, and historian Peter Kimpton
is going to help her ensure the festivities go with a bang.
Hello! Oh, hello! You must be Peter, the Christmas cracker chap.
-Yes, hello. Pleased to meet you.
-Hello. Well, come on in.
-Thanks very much.
Shall I move some of these lovely, sweeties out of the way?
So we've got these pieces of crepe paper here. You need to put the longer piece on the inside.
Why do I need two bits?
-That's the way the Victorians used to do it.
-It's always two layers?
Yes, and the inner layer they tended to call the petticoat,
just as a lady's petticoat goes under her dress.
Crackers were dreamt up in 1847 by an entrepreneurial confectioner called Tom Smith.
Taking the shape of a French bon-bon, he placed sweets inside
cardboard tubes and wrapped them as a festive surprise.
-Okey-doke. Now is it rolling-up time?
But his first designs failed to make an impression.
What he needed was a spark of inspiration.
The traditional story is he was sitting in front of the fire one day
and one of the logs gave off a pop,
and it was the eureka moment. He thought, "Ah, if I could have a pop in my crackers..."
-Everybody would buy them!
And there are a number of people along the way who claimed to have invented what we call "the snap".
These snaps were actually known about, believe it or not, in 1813.
Adding the snap perfected the Christmas cracker.
In about 1861, he launched it on the market and he called it Bangs Of Expectation.
Bangs Of Expectation!
I mean, if you look in his 1891 catalogue...
Look at that giant cracker there. "An immense cracker, two feet, three inches long."
-It's a very, very commercial thing, this, isn't it?
Bought decorations, bought sweets, bought crackers.
They were very good at responding to what was going on at a given time.
I tell you what was a good one they used to do. They used to do crackers for spinsters,
crackers for bachelors and crackers for married couples.
And in the spinsters', they used to have things like faded flowers...
-Oh, that's really mean.
-A wedding ring.
-Oh, how horrid.
That's really mean, that is.
That's horrid, horrid, horrid, horrid.
The Christmas celebrations are fast approaching, and time's running out to complete the forge.
So armed with their Victorian bricks the team crack on with the chimney.
-Do you want to lay the first brick?
-Into this corner here?
-Yeah, and square with the board.
-First brick laid.
-Second brick laid.
They're going up quickly.
Yes, a lot quicker than they did, than it was to make them.
This takes me back to my childhood, this does.
-Was your father a blacksmith?
-No, no. I used to play with Lego.
It was lots of bricks.
I was good.
-Yeah, do you want to come in?
-Yeah, let's have a look.
-Four days later, the chimney's complete.
It's such a simple building material.
-I didn't realise how much effort went into making bricks.
-It's really lovely and smooth.
It really is.
That's a cracking job.
Hopefully, this will just draw all the smoke up and...and, um,
yeah, we'll have a working forge.
Yeah, I'm really impressed, mate.
-They've got a fireplace, but to work iron, they'll need the bellows.
-What do you think, Peter?
Spin it here.
Pop it down.
Right. There we are. That's good.
-Shall we give it the candle test?
-Yeah, give it the candle test.
-Let's see if it blows it out.
-Have a pump.
Look at that!
Time to add the finishing touches.
Blacksmiths' forges had solid clay rather than stone floors.
Clay deadened the sound of beating metal and it wouldn't be damaged by dropped tools.
-A bucket of lime next, a bucket of lime.
Gravel and lime added to the clay's resilience,
and the Victorians congealed it with a special ingredient -
It just mixes nicely.
Probably the same way they crush grapes for bull's blood wine or...
Taurus Diablo or something.
-What are you going on about?
-I have no idea.
Just make sure I don't fall over.
That wouldn't be nice.
All right, Peter? How's it going?
It's going well, but it's hard work.
Looks like a mug's game to me.
-I think we should show him how it's done.
-I think so. I think we have a cunning plan here.
They involve clogs,
-dancing and some ale.
-Get your clogs on, then, Peter.
Clog dancing was a common Victorian method to beat down clay floors.
Wooden-soled clogs were the steel toe-capped boots of the age.
Mill workers would stamp their clogs to the rhythm of the weaving machines to keep warm.
Clog dancing was born.
Stomp it down!
Phil Howard is an expert in the history of clog dancing.
So have you ever come across clogs being used to stamp down a floor?
Oh, it's a variation on a theme because every single
canal around the country was done with tamped clay.
They used to sort of walk up and down and stamp it down and use a spade and such like.
And then Capability Brown actually used a herd of cows,
which is pretty much similar, and, of course, this is too small.
So I think this is pretty similar to a herd of cows...
I think some of our dancing is a bit like a herd of cows.
Come on! Hurry up, Peter!
-Into the middle in fours!
-Oh, can we...? Would anybody like a drink, something to eat?
-ALL: Yes, please! Yes, please!
I've got some bread, cheese and butter.
-There's your name up there, and yours.
-Isn't that nice!
-I'm glad you put my name first.
Well, here's a toast to the forge and all who helped build it.
-Thank you very much.
After six weeks of back-breaking work,
the forge is restored to its Victorian glory.
Next time on Victorian Farm,
it's Christmas with gifts,
trees, Christmas cards and last-minute shopping.
This is real nose-pressed-against-the-glass thing.
But first, they must learn the skills of the blacksmith...
Slaving over a very, very hot fire.
..before putting on a feast for the entire estate.
Inject some Victorian magic into your Christmas
as Alex, Peter and Ruth show you how to make gifts, food, decorations
and more. Go to -
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
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.