Friday, 26 November 2010

Edwardian Farm episode 3

This blog by HCA supporter and guest blogger Nigel Townsend

It was interesting to see on Edwardian farm, episode three,  how human and horse power was being replaced by the internal combustion engine.  Below are my highlights, but it is definitely worth watching the whole thing. A programme that covers ploughing, steam powered saw mills, forging using water power and includes the sight of a man carrying a bowl of freshly squeezed trout eggs through a wood to his home built hatchery can’t be bad.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, farms increasingly had to become profit making rather than just being self sufficient.  In addition cheaper imports from abroad meant that British farmers and land owners had to get one step ahead of the game to keep up with these new markets. Jobs had to be completed quicker and more efficiently, this meant taking advantage of new technology and mechanisation. A theme that runs through this episode of Edwardian Farm.

For centuries, ploughing  was done by a team of men and shire horses:

As Peter Ginn said, “[ploughing is] an art, a skill, a science, in a word a way of life.”  Ploughing was skilled work and when done properly, every furrow would be cleanly cut and  be like turning a page in a book.  It was a real contrast then to watch the Ivel tractor use brute power to relentlessly push through the soil. Gone was the skilled work of the ploughman, who used his brain and brawn to overcome inconsistencies in the land, instead it had been replaced by the noisy, heavy, internal combustion engine, which meant that twice as much work could be done in half the time.

In Edwardian times there were a million shire horses working in the UK, just fifty years later shire horses were nearly extinct in Britain.

This you tube clip looks a project which celebrates traditional farming methods:

Hedges are an important part of stock management and land enclosure. The use of hedges meant that stock could be confined to one area and rotated onto fresh pasture, enabling a constant source of feed throughout the year. A vital part of ensuring that your hedges remained effective barriers to wandering sheep, was hedge laying the best source of info is the National Hedge Laying Society

In order to do the hedge laying HCA patron Alex Langlands required a bill hook and headed to Finches Forge a national trust property in Devon. Here Alex watched Simon Summers work a tilt hammer to forge a traditional Devon billhook. Billhook patterns were often shaped differently in different parts of the country and there are around eleven main bill hook patterns of which in turn there are many variations . 

Forging using water power was common place in the 18th and 19th century – and was still in use during the first half of the 20th century This film (filmed in colour in 1941), shows Clay Wheel forge in Sheffield :
  you can see just how powerful the large tilt hammer was, and while I didn’t count, it certainly looks like the hammer falls at least at the rate of 240 beats per minute!

If you are in Northern Ireland you can visit Paterson’s Spade Mill, now a national trust property  and watch red hoot steel be turned into spades by the power of water, in fact Robin visited Patterson’s last year:

So what were your favourite bits? I'm always keen to see  films of traditional crafts being done well, so if you know of any post here or add a link to our facebook page

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