Historical reality show. Christmas is coming to Acton Scott, but first there's preparation to do. Ruth Goodman and Ivan Day try their hand at making a Christmas pudding.
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It's nearly Christmas on the Victorian farm.
-Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn...
..and Alex Langlands are putting on a banquet for the entire estate.
There's a huge amount of preparation to do, but work on the farm doesn't stop just because it's Christmas.
-There are Victorian favourites to rediscover...
This is exactly the method Bob Cratchit's wife would have used to cook her Christmas puddings.
Yeah, it's mentioned, isn't it, in A Christmas Carol?
..last minute shopping to do...
This is real nose pressed against the glass thing.
..and gifts to make.
That's it now. Hit it. Oh!
If all goes to plan...
..they can enjoy the Christmas feast with their landlord, Mr Acton,
and the people of the Acton Scott estate.
Here's to hard-working Victorian farmers.
-Wherever they may be.
ALL: Queen Victoria!
In just three days, the team will celebrate Christmas on the Victorian farm.
And at the heart of the Victorian Christmas was charity.
In the church, their landlord's son, Rupert Acton,
shows Alex an example of this seasonal generosity.
The charity that we had in Acton Scott is this one.
Before the advent of the welfare state, private individuals would give money to charities
and there would be a sum of money paid out to the poorest people in the village.
So, this is a common way, then, of just making sure that everyone knows that the poor have got a stock
-and they've got some charity being given to them every year.
So what can we do, then, to recreate something of this sort of Victorian charity?
Well, the records show that they were holding a party for the tenants and the servants.
That's something that would, I'm sure, go down very well with the people in the parish.
-So you're happy to stump up the cash for the location...
-..and some of the food?
-If I go out and get a Christmas tree.
-You're welcome to do that.
In Victorian times, landlords would host a Christmas feast,
but it was down to the tenants to do the hard work of preparing it.
Time's short, so Ruth's drafted in food historian Ivan Day to help.
First, the Christmas pudding, boiled in the washroom's copper.
This is exactly the method Bob Cratchit's wife would have used to cook her Christmas pudding.
Yeah, it's mentioned, isn't it, in A Christmas Carol?
While the water boils, Ruth and Ivan make the pudding.
But if we're going to make a real traditional Victorian Christmas pudding,
what everybody thinks about are those cannonballs you get on Christmas cards.
Yeah, absolutely. Really round one. My one last year did not.
-I got it out the cloth and it just went...
-Pfft. Right, yeah.
The one we're going to make is a slightly more old-fashioned recipe.
-It's from the same author, Eliza Acton, from the 1840s.
-I like her food.
And what we'll do is we'll make two puddings. We'll make one in a cloth,
and we'll also make a very fancy one,
which is the sort of thing they probably would have had at the big house.
-Oh, that's pretty.
-This is a cake mould.
-Isn't that pretty?
-..19th-century cake mould.
-You can use it. You can put your mixture in there.
When you see pictures of Victorian posh dinner parties,
they're full of things like that on the plate, aren't they?
They really liked those sorts of very elaborate standy-uppy shapes.
Like modern Christmas puddings, the Victorian version
was packed with expensive ingredients, like dried fruit and candied peel,
mixed with flour and suet.
But it had an unlikely origin.
The earliest Christmas pudding, I think, that was eaten,
which we have records of in this country,
is something that was called hakin or a hack pudding,
and it had to be ready for Christmas morning breakfast.
And what it was - it was like a Christmas pudding mixture,
but it was actually boiled in a sheep's stomach.
And everyone, when they hear that, think of the haggis, really,
and this is really in the haggis family. A Christmas pudding is a sweet haggis, basically.
Well, they're often called puddings, aren't they? You think of black pudding, you think of white puddings.
Anything that's boiled in a casing is called a pudding, isn't it?
Yeah, but the thing is, cleaning out pigs' intestines for white puddings,
-or a sheep's stomach...
-Is a messy job.
-..is a horrible job.
So some wag decided to boil it in a bag, but...
the haggis really is the forerunner of the Christmas pudding.
So, we've got to put in some liquid ingredients,
and, of course, the really important one is the brandy wine, or brandy.
-And this is quite interesting,
because a lot of modern cooks reading this Victorian recipe
would see that you have to put four glasses -
and it says wine glasses - of brandy.
And of course a Victorian wine glass...
-Is that big.
-Is that big.
And then we'll put the spice in.
Nutmeg and cinnamon are added to the mixture.
That's the smell of Christmas Eve.
Drop that in, like that, and just give it a gentle push,
-so that the air comes out.
-Oh, look at that.
-Perfect quantity and everything.
-We're not just a pretty face.
-Not just a pretty face.
And then for everybody else...
You're actually going to form it into a ball shape anyway.
Right, before it goes into the basin.
Yeah. Now, of course, the pudding cloth is a much better thing
than...your sheep's stomach.
We're going to now tie that, and we'll tie that tightly. OK?
Whoa! IVAN CHUCKLES
-Oh, we're definitely boiling.
The pudding cooks in the copper.
-Whoa! Look at that boiling.
-There you go. That is...
There's enough room in there for six of them, but we'll pop that in.
Now, that is going to have to stay in there for six hours, believe it or not.
Who said the Victorians didn't have saunas, eh? Isn't this nice?
So if we have our anvil there.
-Anvil down here, yeah?
-I think so.
-Can we get that next?
Work on the farm doesn't stop for Christmas.
-On the floor here?
For the last few weeks, the team's been busy restoring the estate's blacksmith's forge.
This was where the estate's ironwork was done,
from tools to hinges to horseshoes.
Oh, look at that. Like a glove.
The success of the forge relies on creating a fire hot enough to soften iron,
and that means temperatures of 1,500 degrees Celsius.
So Peter rebuilt the chimney,
while Alex fitted bellows to blow air through the fire.
Blacksmith John Herbertson has come to help the boys light the restored forge
for the first time in half a century.
-Hello, how are you doing?
OK, yeah. The bellows are in. That looks like it's working.
Peter's just filling up the cooling system.
Blacksmiths use a special type of coal - coke.
You can fill it right up because your coke is your fire.
It's also your source of fuel and it's your working surface.
-Right, OK. How's that?
-Here we go. This is the first time this fire hole is going to have seen fire...
In a long time.
-That's it, Alex.
-Get it in there.
Myself and Alex, we've been working really hard to get this place ready.
And, er...it's great to see it finally being used.
Very gently. That's... OK. Just nurse it.
Noisy old bellows, aren't they?
Sounds a bit like you snoring, Peter.
Ah, look at that. That's the fire. That's going.
Just don't choke it off, Alex.
-OK, we'll get the coke on the fire now.
Just try and leave at least one hole for a tongue of flame to come out.
So that's banked up there, John, and I can actually hear there's a different sound now.
That's fine, but you can give it a bit more welly on the bellows now.
-Bit of elbow grease there.
-Yes, keep it going.
-They're quite slow filling up.
-Never mind the filling up.
Pump it and keep that top one high up, almost touching the bar.
That's looking pretty healthy now, so you can just keep pumping, Peter.
Shove some more coke on it, Alex. And that's it, you're away.
How you feeling, Peter?
Good. Really good.
Now the moment of truth.
Just how good are the bellows and the chimney?
Will the fire get hot enough to soften iron?
Most forging, the hotter the better.
So we're looking for at least yellow,
and, frankly, sometimes you want it almost white hot.
Don't pussy foot.
You won't hurt anything. That's it.
-I'm always very tentative around fires, but you can actually be quite robust.
-Gosh, yes. You've got to be.
-Could it get too hot?
-Yeah, it can burn, which we're about to do just to show...
There you are, you're burning. Wonderful.
Well, that really proves the fire is good.
But that burning is basically saying that we're getting the heat we need.
-You've got all the heat you can get out of that fire.
-So we've got a working forge now.
-We just need to pick up the skills.
After half a century,
the forge is up and running and open for business.
The Christmas pudding's been boiling for six hours.
It's really like some infernal cauldron.
So we'll just put it into there and we'll leave it, OK?
-Right. Let that settle.
-And let it just firm up a bit,
before we actually put it onto a plate.
-Let's get the fancy moulded one out first.
-OK. You should do that one.
I don't think I'm...
-Well, it's the most nerve-racking...business.
Just turn it upside down and hope.
So let's just see what happens.
SHE IMITATES A DRUM ROLL
They don't just drop out, usually.
-You have to shake.
-They take a bit of persuading.
Ooh! SHE GASPS
-And there's a perfect Victorian moulded Christmas pudding.
-That is spectacular!
That hasn't been done for a long time.
Next, the cannonball.
-Can you smell that? Wonderful, isn't it?
-I can. It smells great.
-Fantastic. So what we're going to do...
is we're going to put the plate on,
and do a sort of Tommy Cooper-type thing,
but we'll have to do it very gently.
OK. And then, if I can just lift that off...
Now, what we've got to do is just tease off the cloth,
very...gently, like that.
And there's your perfect Victorian cannonball.
As illustrated in all of the...
-All of the books.
-..Christmas cards and all the books.
-Little sprig of holly.
-Don't they look great?
-At the forge, the first customer has arrived.
The estate's shire horse, Clumper.
Right. We're ready to go. I'll get him tethered up.
Clumper needs re-shoeing -
a job for a farrier.
Tom Williamson is a farrier with over 40 years' experience.
His first job is to remove Clumper's old shoes.
You know, this building really was, if you like, the beating heart of the village.
You know, so much would be going on here.
In themselves, the crafts were so important to the village,
but at the same time, because everyone was coming here, it was quite a gossipy place as well.
So, it really is a kind of essential place in any Victorian village.
Horses' hooves are like fingernails, growing up to an inch a month,
and this new growth must be removed before fitting new shoes.
So, Tom, to shoe or not to shoe? That is the question.
Why do you have to shoe horses?
The wagon that he pulls - the four-wheel wagon -
weighs a ton before they put anything in it.
The pressure and the friction on his feet would be tremendous,
and he would soon wear them down and he would soon become lame.
So to protect the foot from excessive wear, we put a shoe on.
If they're not doing that much work they really do not require shoeing.
-How's it looking?
Heavy horses like Clumper must be re-shod every six weeks,
with brand new custom-made shoes.
Into the first bend.
Goes cold quite quick.
Hurts like the devil when it catches you in the eye.
And I notice you're doing all these holes by eye.
-Is that something you just get from experience?
Hopefully! HE CHUCKLES
Just making it... Taking the sharp edges off. Making it look right.
-So this is the other side of the shoe.
Now it's beginning to look like a shoe.
Farriers are their own worst enemy.
We make the job look very rough and ready,
but it's got to be absolutely spot on.
The Victorian farrier served a four-year apprenticeship to learn these skills.
He required not only the craft of the blacksmith, but also knowledge of horse anatomy.
-A lot of people get me mixed up with the blacksmith.
-Is that sacrilege, is it?
-It is to me, yeah. I'm a farrier, not a blacksmith.
The blacksmith does only metal work,
metal fittings for the wagons and the wheels - or always did -
and the farrier, he shoes horses.
The blacksmiths are older and uglier than what we are. They've been going for about 4,000 years.
-Farriers have only been going for 2,000 years,
so this system of shoeing horses hasn't altered in 2,000 years.
What do you think of our forge? How's it going so far? All right?
It's great, yeah. It's going well.
Ruth and Ivan are busy preparing for the estate's Christmas banquet.
Next, the main dish.
Christmas pie, packed with four birds -
duck, chicken, partridge and pigeon.
These were actually made on a huge scale,
even being served in Windsor in 1857.
A giant one, carried by four footmen
on a stretcher, has been taken to Her Majesty's dining room.
Really, in a household like this, of course,
game is something that would not have been experienced very often,
unless it was a gift of the landlord.
OK. We've got a hell of a lot of meat to get into this.
The four birds go into a pie mould lined with pastry and stuffing.
OK. So what we've got here is one hen.
So if we drop this guy in like that...
..and just let him overhang...
Next, the de-boned goose.
So we've got two little breasts of pigeon.
And let's go for a couple of little...
breasts of partridge.
-So, that's the partridge.
OK. So there you've got... We've got four birds,
all inside each other.
We've basically got the traditional Christmas pie.
Like that, OK?
So when you slice the pie, you're going to get rings, aren't you?
We'll finish off with a little bit of bacon as a finishing flourish.
Then the pie is decorated.
We're going to use this lovely...
It's called a pie board, and it's for making little decorative leaves.
OK. And then...
kind of final decoration is this sprig mould,
which is in the form of a flower.
Just push it in really hard like that, and then...
It should, in a perfect world, just pop out.
-There it is.
-And it did.
-Oh, it's really pretty.
Pop it on the top.
So that's basically the Christmas pie.
The pie is eaten cold, so once cooked it'll be kept on the pantry's cold stone until Christmas.
How's it looking, then?
-I think that's about it.
-Ready to go?
Clumper's new shoes are ready to be fitted.
OK, we've got it just about ready.
Not too hot.
They'll burn on too much and scald the foot,
so I've got to be a bit careful.
-So you're burning on?
-What does that mean?
Well, when I go outside, you'll see exactly what we're doing.
You're going to put it on hot. OK.
Good lad. Up, up.
The hot shoe burns an impression onto the horn of the hoof,
showing Tom how well it's fitting.
And this doesn't hurt him?
Not as long as we don't do it too much.
-He's too tight at the heels.
-He's not too bad at the toe.
So we need to open him up at the heels there and there.
-OK? So we're just going to adjust that a little bit more.
-Just a little bit more.
-You've got to work quick, cos all the while it's cooling.
So you can't afford to be casual?
The shoe has got to be absolutely level.
So working this quickly then, how many horses would a Victorian farrier shoe in a day?
I should think he probably did at least eight horses a day.
-Eight horses a day?
-Yeah. But they did it more of a production line.
After final adjustments, the shoe's ready to be nailed to Clumper's foot.
-Come on, Clumps.
-So you're going to put that into that horse's foot, are you?
There's a right way and a wrong way to put them in. If you go in the wrong way you'll know about it.
You go towards the bone.
Ho, ho, steady.
When done by a skilled farrier, the horse feels nothing.
But there's little margin for error.
-Clumper! You stand there.
Driving in a nail at the wrong angle can make a horse lame for life.
As the nail comes through the foot, you have to rip it off pretty quick.
That's a long piece of nail.
Hammer goes on. Bring it off.
Not a small man's game, this, then?
Well, a small man, normally they're very good at this actually.
-They don't get so much back trouble in a small man.
Stand there, Clumper.
And now we can see the amount of growth we've had from one set of shoeing to another.
So you can see where the old nail holes are in comparison to the new ones.
So that's roughly sort of six weeks' growth, then, there?
OK, so we'd better finish him off.
-So you just run your hand across...
..make sure it's all nice and smooth,
and drop it.
Drop him down.
Well, there we go, fella.
-How many did you say they did a day?
-Eight a day?
-They'd probably do a few before breakfast, so...
It's now just two days before the Christmas feast.
Oh, that smells absolutely delicious.
Ruth and Ivan have already done some food preparation,
but there's still plenty more cooking to do, as well as the hall to decorate.
Alex is scouring the estate to find a Christmas tree.
This is the full complement of the woodman's tools, short of a billhook.
I've brought them all because it's going to be pretty difficult to get this tree out of here.
And I've had my eye on this one here, so...
I'm hoping it's going to come out easily.
It was actually Prince Albert,
the consort of Queen Victoria herself,
who was responsible... for introducing...
the...Christmas tree... to these shores.
He imported, in the 1840s, trees from Coburg, his...native country.
It's a part of Germany.
And in fact, Dickens even refers... to Christmas trees
as being a German toy that the upper classes were indulging themselves with.
There he is.
Beauty. And there we have our Victorian Christmas tree.
As well as the Christmas tree,
the Victorian age saw the birth of another institution -
Collector Jackie Brown has brought a very special Christmas card from 1843 to show Ruth.
..Sir Henry Cole, as he became known as.
You've got THE first Christmas card, haven't you?
-I have, Ruth.
Here it is.
-That's the real thing?
-This is, yes.
-The very first Christmas card.
That's quite impressive, isn't it?
Well, it was sparked by an idea by Henry Cole, who became Sir Henry Cole,
and he was one of the leading entrepreneurs of the Victorian age.
And finding himself a bit pushed for time
to do his normal habit of writing letters to all his friends and family at Christmas time,
he called in an artist friend of his, John Horsley,
and said, "Could you come up with a good image that we could use?"
Er, which is...which is this.
It's really interesting. There's no religious imagery at all.
It's all about, like, there's the ivy decorating the whole area.
People sitting down to a big Christmas dinner. Drinking loads, eating loads.
There's a Christmas pud and lots of wine. And what are these images?
It's feeding and clothing the poor and needy.
Right, so charity, family, feasting, decking the halls.
Not a lot of God.
No, and it caused real problems with the puritans of the age,
because they took exception to this imbibing of alcohol.
And actually, for that reason,
there are, in fact, only ten left in the world.
The puritans went around destroying them,
saying that they were bringing down society.
"Not the true spirit of Christmas," as people would still say.
Despite the protests, the Christmas card industry boomed.
By 1877, in Britain,
4.5 million were sent every year.
Christmas shopping also boomed in the Victorian age.
Rather than being for necessity, it became a leisure activity.
Ooh, look at these pans!
Peter and Ruth have come to Blists Hill Victorian Town in Coalbrookdale,
for some last minute presents.
This is the age of the beginning of the department store.
Some of them that started in the Victorian period are still with us.
Things like Liberty, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer.
This is when they begin with this great explosion of commercial goods.
A speaking picture book.
These sorts of really, really beautiful Victorian toys were...
popping up all over the place at this time in history.
There was a great explosion in the amount of toys commercially available to the Victorian purchaser.
But only the Victorian purchaser with money.
Quite a bit of money. These sorts of things were really quite expensive. Upper middle-class toys.
Nobody working on a farm could possibly afford to buy these for their children.
This is real nose pressed against the glass thing.
While Ruth window shops, Peter heads to the town's foundry to buy more fuel for the forge.
Here, three centuries ago,
the extraction of iron from its ore using coke rather than charcoal was perfected.
This new efficient method meant iron could be produced cheaply on a huge scale.
Cast iron was the plastic of the age,
kick-starting the industrial revolution.
John Challon runs the Blists Hill furnace, that still operates today.
-What can I do for you?
-Er, I'm looking for coke, actually.
-You're looking at what I've got, aren't you?
-Excuse my ignorance - what exactly is coke?
It's basically roasted coal.
So you get your coal,
and what you're doing is driving off all the unpleasant bits -
all the oily stuff and the tars and everything -
and you're left with almost what is pure carbon.
Coke had the advantage of burning hotter than normal coal.
Quite boring-looking stuff but it hasn't half had an impact.
This is almost the start of our carbon footprint as we...
-It's the birth of the Industrial Revolution, and of the problems we have now.
It's one of them paradoxes cos if you hadn't have done it,
there wouldn't be the volumes of iron around to build your railways,
bring the world closer together. You know, ocean going ships.
All that sort of thing, all needed vast quantities of iron,
which you wouldn't have got by literally growing your fuel on trees.
The iron of the Industrial Revolution connected Britain's towns with railways,
giving us a far-reaching postal system.
I'd like to send some Christmas cards, please.
-I wondered what sort of stamps I'll need.
-Well, the Christmas card rate will be a ha'penny per card.
-Oh, that's not too bad, is it?
-How many have you got?
Dave Gavall of the Blists Hill Post Office
believes this is the reason why Christmas card sales soared in the Victorian age.
-It's really quite cheap, isn't it?
-..three, four, five.
Yes, it is cheap because in 1870 the new postal rate was introduced,
which meant you could send Christmas cards for the price of a postcard, which was a ha'penny.
Prior to that, it would have been costing you a penny.
-Absolute boom in the amount of Christmas cards.
-And at this rate,
it really is something that every working class person was in a position to afford, isn't it?
Makes being able to communicate over long distances, really in the reach of everybody.
And when you think of the world being made smaller by mass communications,
this is where it starts, isn't it? With the Post Office.
-This is the first great leap of making the world all interconnected.
-Oh, yes, it was so very important.
-Well, thanks ever so much.
-Thank you for your business, madam.
-Thank you. Merry Christmas.
-Merry Christmas to you, too.
Take me home, Ruth.
How's it going?
Very well, Peter. Very well.
It's getting complicated. More coke.
-Excellent, we'll need that.
-Got a quarter ton.
Shop-bought presents were too expensive for Victorian farm workers
to afford, so Alex and Peter have had an idea.
We've constructed this forge and we want to do something with it, so we thought
what would be better than giving the Actons a Christmas present from our
very forge, so we're going to make them a door knocker.
OK. And go!
You just have the nice gentle relaxing strokes of the bellows,
and the sound of the fire, and it comes out and it's like furious.
Hammer and tongs, and then in it goes again and you can just relax for a little bit.
That's the origin of the expression, going at it hammer and tongs.
Yes. Yes. Bang, bang, bang.
-OK, quick, quick.
-So, I suppose it's quite easy to
think of a blacksmith as a guy who just smacks metal,
but it's quite hard to really picture the real versatile kind of,
range of jobs he would have done.
Blacksmithing was the king of all crafts.
Once the village had its blacksmith, then the carpenters could have
metal tools to cut the wood with, there could be implements for the fires, implements for the houses,
everything made, and the blacksmith was the man who did it.
So he really was the leader of the pack.
I think somebody mentioned pulling out teeth.
Well, he was the man that would have the tongs.
I don't think I'd like this blacksmith going at my teeth.
-How's it looking, Peter?
-Looking good. Are we ready?
Next, the critical moment - joining together the two main parts.
Peter's got just one chance to get it right.
-In like that?
-Get it in. Shove it in.
OK, start snapping it. Bending it.
Keep it in, keep it in.
Don't let it pop out. That's it.
Now, hit it. Oh! Right, wait, wait.
Have you got it?
-Just drop it in.
Drama in the forge.
For centuries, homes at Christmas were decorated simply with greenery like holly and ivy.
The Victorians changed all that with brightly coloured decorations.
Debbie Banford's come to show Ruth how the Victorians created brilliant colours.
Not from chemicals, but from nature.
So we're going to start off doing the yellow,
which is this plant here.
-Nice weld plant.
Now this plant has actually been used for putting yellow colour into
textiles for at least 3,000 years.
Oh, good grief! So it's quite well tried and tested then?
-Yes, we think it'll work.
-So what do I do with it, just chop it up?
You just literally use stem, flowers, leaves, the whole lot.
Except the roots.
OK, so we've got loads of weld.
Tie it up in a bag.
So what we need to do with this bag now is put it into some hot water.
-OK, so bag just goes in there.
-Bag just goes in there.
Now we have a crucial element that really needs to go in with the weld.
And that's this one here.
Hold your nose.
-This is...stale urine.
So are you ready to hold your nose?
Urine is essential to fix the colour to the fabric.
Oh, blinking heck!
-Straight at the back of the throat.
-That really is.
Time for the ribbons to go into dye.
One of those and one of those and then, yeah, put another couple in.
-It needs to be on the heat now for a good three quarters of an hour and then we can do another colour.
For the red, there's something more exotic from South America.
-So these are...
-They're the cochineal beetles.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You can see they're little tiny insects.
Mini little woodlicey things.
Well, effectively that's what they are. They just kind of live on the trees, on the cactus.
And that's what cochineal is?
It's the female beetle.
Beat your beetles to a paste.
The dead beetles must be ground up to release their colour.
-Cochineal is what's used for the British Army redcoats.
-Oh, is it?
Yes, that's how we get our nice, shiny red.
The thin red line is all about dead beetles.
It's all about dead beetles.
Oh, it's quite red already, look.
-So just in there?
-Yeah, just tip it in there.
-Right, you can put some ribbons in.
-I like this bit.
It's from an Indian plant called Indigofera.
And it comes in in lump form and we crush it up
and mix it with stale urine, and let it ferment nicely for a while.
Everything is with stale urine.
It's a crucial commodity.
Leave it out in the air and see it turn blue.
-This is going to change colour?
-It will change colour.
If you keep watching it, can you see? You keep watching.
Oh, oh yes, it is!
It's more turquoise now. It was definitely green before. You had me worried.
-We just leave it out.
-And then that's it. We leave it out in the air. Yep.
So just drop it over me clothes airer.
Compressing a four-year blacksmith apprenticeship into an afternoon
is proving a challenge for Alex and Peter.
It's not going brilliantly. It is slaving over a very, very hot fire.
You do get burnt on a regular basis. My hand wasn't used to a hammer,
so I've managed to give myself two giant blisters on my hand.
Peter must bend the rod of iron into a perfect circle to form a knocker.
A bit more bend there.
It's a pretty misshapen old bit of kit there. Get it really hot.
In theory, you get it so hot
you can almost do it with your bare hands.
There is a good reason for not doing it with your bare hands.
-Use a hammer instead.
-But virtually the sort of consistency of Plasticine.
-It would almost be soft enough, yes. Don't spoil it!
Now the moment of truth. Time to assemble the knocker.
Now this is going to be the real test now, this one.
This is the difficult bit, that's why I'm not doing it.
I have full trust in our man.
-Baptism of fire. Why not.
-Just whip that out.
There we are. OK.
That's it. That's it. That's it. OK, let's turn it up now,
onto that side and start encouraging that thing to go through.
Is that going through? Yes.
Tense moments here.
It has a certain charming asymmetry,
which I can't quite put my finger on.
Short of taking it apart, there is very little we can do about it.
It is a Christmas present. They'll probably have had sherry.
I reckon that'll look pretty straight to them on the day.
The yellow and red ribbons have been boiling in the dye for an hour.
It's not too hot? You all right?
It's time to see if the process has worked.
-Oh, that is yellow, isn't it?
And think that comes out of a plant, just pure and straight.
I know, and a plant that's actually a weed.
We just chop it down and throw it away normally.
I think the cochineal actually smells more.
That looks strong.
Oh, good grief!
Oh, good grief.
That's quite a colour, isn't it?
That's the colour of Christmas, that is.
It's the day before the feast.
The farmers are busy with last minute preparations.
The presents are wrapped using Ruth's coloured ribbons.
And the cooking is well in hand.
There we go.
So we'll just slam these in here for about half an hour.
Tomorrow's feast will take place here in the village hall.
The Victorians would put their decorations up
as late as Christmas Eve, not weeks in advance like today.
Alex's Christmas tree is in place and Peter's decorating it with sweets and candles.
Big tree. Big decorations.
I think we're going to struggle to get a star on top of this, although Alex has volunteered.
So all of these Christmas decorations that we've been making, of the way to
make them, the instructions have all come out of magazines of the period.
Christmas issues usually.
Which give advice on how to make your home beautiful at this time of year.
I'm melting a load of sealing wax,
because we're going to make our own holly berries.
If we haven't got quite enough, this is recommended
in Castle's Household Guide as how to make your own artificial holly berries.
You melt a load of nice bright red sealing wax.
And then you...
cover peas in them.
Come on, get covered,
my little holly berries.
This is really quite a towny thing to do.
I mean out here in the countryside
it's relatively easy to get fresh holly berries,
but if you lived in the town, full of coal smoke,
it was pretty hard to get greenery and seasonal colour to decorate
the house, so people made artificial ones.
I'm going to stick a wire in, so that we can attach them
to whatever it is we want our holly berries on.
One little teeny holly berry.
I've chosen to do a Christmas motto and essentially it's a kind of
friendly Christmas greeting for when people enter the hall.
It's got to be in a prominent position
and I've meticulously cut all this out and using the good old
flour and water to make myself a paste to stick on the letters.
Now, all I now have to do is to make sure they're nice and straight.
The recommendation for this motto is to decorate each individual letter
with pieces of rice, so that the letters are entirely covered by rice.
But anyone who has got that much time on their hands
clearly isn't a farmer.
I'm following another Victorian trick for decorating
and that's, I suppose it's a bit like glitter.
I'm gluing ground or...
crushed glass on the edges of my leaves and things to imitate snow.
Look at that. All glittery.
I think this one is the prettiest though. I like this one.
It is isn't it? It looks like something you'd get out of a modern retail shop wouldn't it?
In a special tacky sort of way.
Yes, and of course we have the Victorians to blame for tackiness.
Not being renowned for their taste.
And there we are. "A Christmas welcome to you."
-Oh, no, I've glued it to the table.
-You've glued it!
The big day has finally arrived. But even at Christmas,
the Victorian farmer was up at the crack of dawn to tend to his animals.
To feed Clumper, they're using the hay harvested back in July.
Right. Shall we get all that hay down?
Yes, let's get some of that well-earned hay down.
It fills me with great pride to be able to feed him
some of our very own hay.
It's one of those sort special moments on the farm really.
-Is that enough then, Peter?
-That's plenty, Alex.
That's definitely a double ration for Christmas.
Yes. Merry Christmas, Clumper. You've certainly earned it.
Merry Christmas. Get out the way. Right.
Get stuck in. There is a Christmas tradition that you always give
a double ration on Christmas Day and this isn't
really down to generosity at all.
It's just so that when it comes to Christmas evening
and you've had too much to drink, you don't have to worry about going out and feeding the animals.
So that's their Christmas ration for the day.
Come on then.
Chick, chick, chick, chick, chick.
Spread some grain out on the floor so that they're going to spend their day
This is traditionally a day as well
in which perhaps even if you only do it the one day of the year you actually feed the wild birds, too.
People just felt it was the time for goodwill to all Gods' creatures.
So sparrows and blackbirds were fed when perhaps the rest of the year
the only time they'd be fed was if you were trying to catch them to eat them.
One of Britain's leading experts in folklore, Professor Ronald Hotton,
has come to the farm to celebrate Christmas.
# Here's to health and to snowdrop And to her great horn... #
He's joining the people of Acton Scott in the stables
for an ancient tradition.
All over Europe from the beginning of time, people have blessed their
homes and their farms at midwinter to bring them luck for the coming year.
# Drink unto thee, drink unto thee
# With a waltz and a bowl We'll drink unto thee... #
And the southern English way of doing this is called wassailing.
And it simply means singing to and drinking to your farm produce.
So if you're a fruit grower, you sing to your apple trees.
If you're a cereal farmer, you sing to your cornfields
and if you raise livestock, you sing to them.
# Drink unto thee, drink unto thee With a waltz and bowl
# We'll drink unto thee Drink unto thee, drink unto thee
# With a waltz and a bowl We'll drink unto thee. #
Before the Christmas feast,
Alex, Peter and Ruth have been invited to Acton Scott Hall
for drinks with the Acton family as thanks for their work on the estate.
Let's hope they've got a fire going in there.
Come on in and welcome.
-Hello, Mr Acton.
-Hello, Mr Acton.
-Merry Christmas to you.
-Merry Christmas, Mr Acton.
-Merry Christmas, Mr Acton.
Hello, how are you?
It's a rare opportunity for the Victorian farmers to see the inside of the big house.
Here the Acton children are playing with the very finest toys of the age.
This ingenious book of animal noises dates from the 1850s.
Right, this is how this book works.
"In order to produce the sound gently pull out the cord."
Pretty lifelike, I think.
But these sort of elaborate gifts were only for the privileged few.
For most ordinary Victorian children, of course, it was whatever your mum and dad could make for
you out of scraps of nothing in any spare moment they had.
So, you know, for most children they were, as they had been for centuries,
toys were just whatever you could find at hand
and whatever you could make.
As the Victorian age progressed, presents went from being just
for children to being for the whole family.
Well, first and foremost...
we have a big thank you present to the Actons,
and whilst Ruth can lay claim to the ribbon,
and myself to the wrapping paper, it's Peter's handiwork. So...
It was our handiwork until it started going slightly wrong and now it's my handiwork.
I've firmly shifted the blame on Peter.
-Mr Acton, if I could pass that to you.
-Thank you very much.
What can it be?
It's very heavy.
That I think is a doorknocker, am I right?
-The fact that you have to guess...
-Thank you very much.
Yes, I think it'll be quite appropriately decorative.
Happy Christmas, Mr Acton.
So it's...it's obviously not a book this year, then?
The farmers exchange their own home-made presents.
Something metal. Something long.
Oh, it's a fire poker.
Hey, that's really handy. SHE LAUGHS
Outwitted by a piece of paper.
-Wow! Cricket whites.
It's a set of woolly underwear, boys.
-Shall we try them on?
I think later, Peter.
-It's just a little token.
-Oh, thank you.
And this ribbon, gosh, what a colour!
That's weld. We did a bit of dyeing and that just made the most amazingly zingy colours.
You don't want to hear this. It's made with stale urine.
-I did rinse it. I promise. I washed it out properly.
-Thank you. Is it safe to touch?
-Oh, how lovely.
-Little lavender bag, yes.
Gorgeous, thank you. Do you want to smell that?
Thank you very much.
Well, this is one of Christmas' more ancient traditions, this is
the Yule log and the idea is to get a log big enough,
so that it will burn for the full 12 days of Christmas.
Then, at the end of the 12 days, you take a small part of that wood,
you keep it back and reuse it for next year,
so that you get good luck throughout the year.
I thought you might like to hear a little piano music.
As I can't play the piano very well, I've got an invention here
made in America, in the second half of the 19th century,
which will play the piano for me.
Providing I work hard on a pair of pedals.
MUSIC: "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" by Tchaikovsky
I've got a small present for you all.
My great-grandmother wrote in her diary in 1883 that she
took all the children oranges, so I've got some oranges for you here now.
Sophie, would you like one?
-Yes, and providing some well-earned vitamin C, I think...
-Thank you very much.
-..for the farm labourers.
I suppose it would have been quite an exotic fruit.
It's hard to think of it as a special thing these days.
We're all so used to oranges,
but I expect many Victorian people saw one a year.
Mine's wrapped in wee-wee ribbon.
Yes, you appear to have drawn the short straw there, Peter.
Next, they head to the estate's church.
Here they're joined by the people of Acton Scott for a carol service...
with a difference.
John Kirkpatrick and his band
are performing carols with familiar words but unfamiliar tunes.
In a poorer parish, you'd just have the village band who'd play for the village dance on Saturday night,
and then they'd come to church Sunday morning and play for the hymns and psalms, and anthems.
Often very much the worse for wear from Saturday night.
And they got slung out because they were too unruly and drunken.
The church took action and banished these unruly bands,
replacing them with organs playing the standardised music we know today.
A different repertoire was introduced that the organist would play
in a very well behaved way, and some of these old carols
with the old band arrangements were lost, so it's nice to renew these with this ensemble today.
This is the first time these old tunes have been played here for over 150 years.
THEY ALL SING
Finally, after weeks of preparation, it's time for the feast.
At the village hall, Mr Acton and his sons, Francis and Rupert, greet their tenants.
What you're seeing here is the Victorian version of something thousands of years old.
The lord of the manor, the owner of the land, feasting his tenants at Christmas.
The ancient Romans did this.
It happened all through the Middle Ages and this is the very last generation which its going to happen.
And what's more, the charity goes beyond this table because
the really poor people get presents in their houses of food or money at
this time, but only the respectable actually get to eat with the lord.
Welcome friends and neighbours, to this Christmas dinner.
It's actually quite, "Do you like me?"
Now think before you answer.
They've come out quite nice, haven't they, these crackers? I think they're quite fun.
The culmination of weeks of work
finally arrives with the serving of the food.
That is beautifully decorated. It really is.
The centrepiece is the Christmas pie.
There's like a chicken and a duck and the breasts of a partridge
and the breasts of a pigeon all forced in really, really tight.
So it's solid meat in there.
Let's get stuck in.
That's way too posh pie for the likes of you.
It looks very good, Ruth.
-It is wonderful.
The Christmas turkey and all its trimmings
also originated in the Victorian era, replacing goose.
-Yes, very well cooked, too.
If anybody worries about eating and drinking too much at Christmas,
it's THE essential Christmas experience.
Religions and customs may come and go,
but THE midwinter tradition is a party involving food and drink.
It's the great way since pre-history to avoid dying of depression at midwinter.
One time of the year where you could be sure of
being given the means of staying alive by those around you.
Bring in the pudding.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The leaning pudding.
I'm really pleased. They turned out so nice.
They look really good on the table, don't they?
-They do. Ooh, look how moist.
-Well done, Ruth.
I hope it tastes all right.
Friends, can I ask you to stand up for a toast to our Queen?
-ALL: Queen Victoria!
So, another chance to be Victorian farmers.
Another chance to be Victorian farmers and what fun we've had this time around.
-We have. Yes.
-So here's to hard-working Victorian farmers.
-Hard-working Victorian farmers. Absolutely.
Wherever they may be.
Dear friends, another toast.
There's a toast to them as we love.
And a toast to them as loves us.
And here's to them who loves them, who loves those, who loves those, who loves them that loves us.
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]
Christmas is coming to Acton Scott, but first there's a huge amount of preparation to do. Ruth Goodman and food historian Ivan Day try their hand at making a Christmas pudding using the same methods as Bob Cratchit's wife in A Christmas Carol.
Meanwhile, Alex and Peter light the forge for the first time to re-shoe the farm workhorse Clumper - the first time a horse has been shod at this forge in over five decades.
Alex goes in search of a Christmas tree for the banquet, while Ruth and Peter head for the Victorian town of Blists Hill for Christmas shopping. At the cottage, Ruth meets Debbie Bamford to dye an array of colourful Christmas ribbons to decorate the tree and the presents that sit beneath it.
Finally it's time for the Christmas meal in the estate's School Hall. With a rapturous toast to Queen Victoria and a quick trip to the cattle shed to wassail the animals, day turns into night and the drunken Victorian parlour games commence. The next morning it'll be time for the team to bid a fond farewell to Mr Acton as they depart Acton Scott for good.