traditional crafts on BBC Edwardian Farm

The BBCs Victorian Farm program was described as a “surprise hit” and the team are back now for Edwardian farm. We will be updating information about the crafts and craftspeople shown in the program and of course we are delighted that Alex Langlands one of the shows presenters is a patron of the Heritage Crafts Association. Alex will be speaking about Edwardian Farm at the HCA spring conference at the V&A in March.

So in the first installment we visited stonemason Ian Piper on the edge of Dartmoor where he works the local granite.


Ian showed Peter Ginn how to split the granite using plugs and feathers.

It was a joy to see such simple technology work so well. in the hands of skilled craftsmen.

We also met the only operational Tamar barge the Shamrock. 
and met her skipper and restorer Peter Allington who says of sailing her “I hate to shatter people’s illusions, but to be honest she’s actually abysmal to sail. I can only describe it as being like trying to push a large and loaded shopping trolley across a slope”

Built in 1899 by Frederick Hawke of Plymouth for Tom Williams, SHAMROCK is a sailing ketch built for cargo work on the River Tamar and estuary in South West England. Her construction was of pitch pine and oak.

From 1899 to 1962 she worked as a barge plying her trade though with several changes of ownership. In the late 1930s she moved from Plymouth to the Truro River where she operated in several Cornish ports. In 1962 she was sold as a diving support vessel and later became a salvage vessel between 1966 and 1970 when she fell into disrepair.

The National Trust acquired her in 1974 and she was towed up the River Tamar to Cotehele Quay for restoration. This was a major joint project between the National Trust and the National Maritime Museum. SHAMROCK is the centrepiece of a display at Cotehele from where she makes occasional voyages on the River Tamar.

I am always interested in old wooden boats and how each region had their own design to suit the local conditions and uses. Boats like this are recognised as part of our national heritage but the skills to build them are not. I suspect it is many years since the last Tamar barge was built and probably no one remembers the subtleties of how it was done. In Japan and France there are schemes to make sure the skills to build new boats as well as repair old ones are passed on so every 20 years or so a new boat will be commissioned built from scratch allowing the older generation to pass the skills on.

On the domestic side of things Ruth made a rag rug and as a more industrial craft we had a really good demonstration of lime burning. This was a real eye opener for me as I know many derelict lime kilns locally and my workshop along with most of the old stone buildings around here is built using lime mortar made in exactly this way.

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5 Responses to traditional crafts on BBC Edwardian Farm

  1. Brian November 13, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Actually wooden and historic boat building is thriving in the UK. It is true that in France they are commissioning a few new builds of local types here and there, but that is more because the old boats were left to rot to nothing, while in Britain many were saved and still exist.

  2. Robin Wood November 13, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Hi Brian,That is interesting I would be interested if you wanted to email with more details I would be happy to help publicise any good news boat building stories. I am aware that restoration work on old boats is healthy and also that one or two regional boats continue to be built new, many Cornish Gigs in particular due to the popularity of gig racing.What I would like to see and others including Gail McGarva http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2010/07/lyme-lerret.htmlis a scheme where we would build new boats of our regional types. Gail built the first Lyme Lerret to be built for over 50 years. When was the last Whitby Coble, Norfolk Whery, Thames barge or Flatner built? New build and conservation are very different skills.This is what the French scheme does it is supported by local commerce and the boats then used as part of the local tourism package.

  3. Skog November 13, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Hello!Like to share this link with you, its a huge, marvelous project in wood!!http://www.vikingkings.com/From your great fan in Norway Trond Skog

  4. Brian November 15, 2010 at 12:07 am #

    Hi RobinHave a look at:http://intheboatshed.net/First up a new build of a traditional clinker Dorset crab and lobster boat. Second, a 160-year-old Itchen Ferry sailing in the Swale. I love these old boats, have myself built a couple of wooden boats, though on a much smaller scale, and would also be really happy to see more new builds of the local types. I live in France, my wife and kids are French, and I follow the traditional boat news through chasse-maree, the French traditional boat magazine and based on that, don't think the France is handling its maritime heritage better than the UK though. I would also argue that unless you are talking about just replacing a plank here and there though that there is an enormous amount of overlap between new builds and restorations on wooden boats in terms of the skills. You see this in many yards – one seasonal maintenance, one rebuild and one new boat all in the same shed sometimes. If there aren't so many new builds it is because there are so many surviving old boats still going strong. A couple of dozen Thames barges, a handful of Norfolk wherries. I wasn't familiar with the cobble, but there was one for sale a year or two back.

  5. Robin Wood November 15, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    Nice link and info thanks Brian, The Lyme school looks great, I really enjoyed following Gail's Lerret build and the crab boat looks another nice project.

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