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Two Penn’orth


Ruth, Peter and Tom have travelled to Saint-Fargeau in France to spend six months working on the world’s largest archaeological experiment. Constructing a medieval castle from 30,000 tons of stone.

The castle is being built by traditional means using traditional materials and methods. This means that most of the resources needed are sourced locally and the work is done by artisans living in and around the castle site.

Guedelon is based on a typical 13th Century castle design, examples of which can be seen across the UK.

The First task the boys turn their hands to is, logically enough, cutting stones from the quarry.  The stone is graded according to hardness for different uses.

Meanwhile Ruth looks at the domestic arrangements, setting up home in the woods.

Home is a one room hovel with a fire in the middle

Of the floor and rushes spread around the rest of the floor for comfort and warmth. And one key piece of furniture - a grain ark in which to store grain safe from marauding rodents.

Next the boys will be mixing mortar. This requires a lot of water from the bottom of a ten foot well so first they must find a bucket, rope and pulley.

Building work is currently focused on the great tower. The stones they will be building with are lifted using a treadmill powered winch.

Ruth continues her UK shopping trip sourcing a cooking pot from Nottinghamshire potter Jim Newbold.

The following morning we are treated to a recount of what people wore. The evidence is, of course, somewhat limited. Old clothes weren’t kept as a matter of course… except for the clothing of saints. So it is on these specimens that their attire is based.

Today the boys are introduced to limestone which is used for the finer stonework because it is easier to carve. These blocks of stone are worked in the mason’s lodge on a sloped platform called a banker.

Next we have a demonstration of how plans and shapes were mapped out. This is mostly about geometry - using compasses to mark and disect circles. Finally, they mark out a plan for a single stair in a spiral staircase. This is used to make a template from which each of the individual stairs is made using a hammer and chisel.

The chisel blunts quickly and must be resharpened on a daily basis by the blacksmith.

Back at the hovel, Ruth washes the dishes using wood ash.

Secrets of the Castle

Episode 1

The Master Mason - Florian Renucci

After taking degrees in Philosophy, History of Art and Archaeology, Florian Renucci spent six years restoring historic buildings before joining the Guedelon project to construct one. He joined the team in 1998 and was appointe site manager in 2000. He has responsibility for overseeing the conversion of the plans into a real building. He likens himself to a musical conductor, keeping all the different workers going at the same pace.

The Mason - Clement Guerard

The boys are taught how to cut stone blocks by Clement Guerard who has worked on the project as a mason for the past 16 years as a banker mason.

The Carpenter - Simon Dunn

Although the castle is being built in France, the carpenter is from Melksham in England. Seemingly in a couple of minutes he converts rough logs into a very nice wooden chest with almost no recourse to metal tools. Clearly this must have been a much longer process which would have been interesting to see.

The Ropemaker - Yvon Herouart

The project needs a lot of rope and retains an on-site rope maker. It looks easy given the right equipment. But what we are shown is just the end of a longer process that begins with collecting suitable fibres. One of M Herouart’s best memories of working on the project was learning from the previous incumbent knowledge both of rope making techniques and of plants.

If you like Tudor Monastery Farm, the previous farm series from the same team are all available on DVD.

The Wood Turner - Gary Baker

Gary Baker has been with the Guedelon project for four years.  Here he demonstrates traditional methods of wood turning on a pole lathe to make a pulley for the well.

Building the Tower - Philippe Delage

A builder all his adult life, Philippe Delage joined the Guedelon project 12 years ago. A high point for him was his work building the Guedelon water mill.

The Potter - Jim Newbold

Like Simon Dunne, Jim Newbold does not appear to be a regular at Guedelon but is an historic potter based in Nottinghamshire, England.

The Blacksmith - Martin Claudel

An essential support function. Without a blacksmith to keep the chisels sharp, work on the site would stop within two days. Martin Claudel spent four years as the on-site blacksmith, but has now left to start his own business making traditional tools.

Next Time

In episode two we can expect to see some of the machinery of the medieval castle in action - including the trbuchet.

It airs on Tuesday 25th November 2014 on BBC2 at 9:00pm/