Edwardian farm crafts

It has been a pleasure to watch Edwardian Farm. HCA Patron Alex Langlands has been trying out more crafts this time joining Nigel Legge lobsterpot maker, artist, fisherman. He seemed like a lovely bloke with a fine accent. He also seems to have a perfect lifestyle with a mix of making lobster pots, painting and taking holiday makers on boat trips. Next time I am down that way I shall definitely look him up. Alex said “Nigel was a top chap – really understated his skills – a great painter too. It was one of those magical days spent down there in Cornwall.


The pots worked too.

 I was envious of Peter Gynn too visiting the wonderful J &FJ Baker oak bark Tannery. Here is owner Andrew Parr the tannery has been in the family since 1864 and is one of the last tanneries in the UK still using oak bark, I loved the water powered bark grinder. My friend Owen Jones the swill basket maker who was featured in Victorian farm supplies them with some of their oak bark.

It was a very photogenic place, first the hide was soaked in lime, then the hair scraped away. Then it was immersed in vats with oak bark for a year.

Finally it was oiled, dried and finished with dubin.

Whilst I am posting I’ll include a couple of links from episode 2 which I missed at the time. Peter went to St Fagans in Cardiff to meet a cooper. Shame they didn’t know about Alistair Simms the last master cooper of Wadworth’s at Devises.

 I was pleased to see Alex with his Sussex Trug, it seemed appropriate since he has light Sussex chickens and trugs were mass produced and sold around the country.

The fencing on the right is also a Sussex specialty but one which has only recently traveled further afield as horsey folk can afford to have the heavy sweet chestnut rails transported. It still looks better than the tanalised softwood fence on the left though. I find it interesting that fencing is seemingly invisible to people. Few folk would notice this modern fence and I wonder if the production company decided to let it go whilst going to great lengths elsewhere to keep as much as possible true to the Edwardian time frame.

3 Responses to Edwardian farm crafts

  1. Brian December 3, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    The oak bark tanning reminded me of one of my favorite books, Tim Severin's "The Brendan Voyage." A trip across the Atlantic in a reconstruction of Brendan the Navigator's curragh, a skin-on-frame boat covered in oak bark tanned leather, but from Croggons in Cornwall, which was in business into the 90s I see.

  2. alex December 30, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi Robin – I congratulate you on your Sussex-connections-observations on Edwardian Farm. It's no fluke. I grew up between two beautiful farms in Sussex on the heavy wealden clay on the fringes of Pevensey marsh. The trug, therefore, has been my loyal servant since I bought it from an antique shop in Bexhill (for a tenner!) some fifteen years ago (riddled with wood-worm so god-knows how old it is). And if any Sussex boy was asked which breed of chicken he'd opt for, there's only one answer . . . It's funny what you say about how we, as a production team, let the chesnut fencing go. Having spent over three years making these kinds of programmes I trip over myself with excitement when I see so much as a wooden fence!! We have to 'frame out' some of the ugliest and most brutal pig-wiring/barbed wiring/galvinised rubbish that a good old Sussex post-and-rail has me salivating – despite it's Devonshire location I'm always keen to get it in shot!!! Some while back, they set out numerous plantations of chestnut at Morwelham Quay and it's now ready to harvest for more fencing. I only hope the new owners of the site realise the veritable gold-mine of timber that they are sitting on (they’ve just got to invest in the skills to use it to the best of its ability!!!). A month ago I returned to the place of my childhood years in Sussex and was waxing lyrical to my partner about the chestnut post-and-rail fence that, nearly thirty years ago, was installed around a coppice at the end of the garden. A few rails have been replaced but it is still going strong. So here’s to Sussex. I heard a rumour that at the Wealden and Downland Museum they are ‘breaking in’ (horrible phrase) a pair of Sussex Red oxen? (Perhaps your readers could confirm?). I’d certainly give my right-arm to spend a season working with them and an old Sussex Turn-wrest plough. . . . .

  3. Robin Wood December 30, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Alex,The folk at Morwelham were foresighted in planting chestnut, most folk in the 60s were recommending larch for farm plantations but it only really made a decent fencepost with long drying followed by creosote. Chestnut makes superb gateposts with a minimum of work, hardly any sapwood on it. I worked in chestnut coppice in Kent 20 years ago. I recently revisited a post and rail fence we made back then and it is still strong and stockproof, pics here. http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2009/09/20-year-old-chestnut-fence.htmlI have really enjoyed the series.