Cat no. 566

Built in Britain: We Can Say We Left Something Good

Black & White Silent 1983 Essex

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The preservation of building styles and skills



This film opens by 'setting the scene' with long shots of a tractor in a field with a church in the background. There is a montage showing the variety of building in the area; thatch, weather board, plaster and brick. Shots of Finchingfield in Essex, showing the buildings there, are followed by scenes of Bridge Street, Saffron Walden. Here, David Lewis, a pargetter, demonstrates his skill and talks about the history, technique and tools used. Mr. Lewis has made his own moulds in traditional wood, sometimes taking the pattern from medieval and Tudor buildings.The next sequence shows timber framed buildings. Diagrams showing the development of the wooden structure are illustrated by Falconers' Hall in Good Easter, built c. 1090. This building, originally the Manor House, has been used as a barn for generations. Its owner, Richard Matthews, talks about the history of the structure.Moated farmhouses were a feature of the area, not as a defence but as a defined area in which to keep livestock. At Greenstead Green, Basil May talks about his moated farmhouse and the traditional timber farm building on his farm. He talks about the practical and aesthetic advantages of the moat and there are shots showing his mixed farm, including cattle, chickens and ducks, which shelter from the sun under a cart.At St. Mary's Church, Erwarton in Suffolk, architect Gordon Watts talks about the problems of restoring the medieval church. He explains that the Parish Council were given a grant by the Department of the Environment on the condition that they used the original stone. The problem, Mr. Watts explains, was that no-one knew what the original stone was. It was discovered to be septaria and this was found along the Stour Estuary. Bill Sykes, a bricklayer working for Saddlers And Sons of Ipswich, explains how he learnt medieval methods of bricklaying to bond the stone.The next sequence of the film looks at the use of bricks in the area. During the 17th century, many bricks were imported from Holland. At Bulmer, Peter Minter, owner of a yard that still makes bricks by hand, explains and demonstrates the process. The bricks are stacked in the kiln and an employee explains the firing process. Peter Minter demonstrates the work he has undertaken to make a pattern for a Tudor style brick to be used in restoration. He also explains the bond of the bricks that was used to create Tudor brick patterns. Some of these patterns are shown on chimney stacks of Tudor buildings.The final sequence looks at Pakenham Windmill and interviews its owner, Michael Bryant. He describes the construction of the mill that uses elm boards and oak beams. The drives are made of wood and the cogs are made of applewood. There are shots of the exterior and the interior of the mill as it is working.

Background Information:

Septaria is a conglomerate stone that is young and has scarcely solidified. It is found along the coast and the estuaries of North Essex and South Suffolk. Falconer's Hall dates from c.1090. Carbon dating had revealed some timber beams in Essex Churches to be 11th century also. Pargetting was traditionally pressed into lime plaster with a wooden stamp. This gave it a softer outline than that dome in modern cement plaster. It was traditionally lime washed. Black and white beamed houses are a result of modern Tudorisation. Traditionally the beams would have been lime washed as protection against the elements.

Featured People:

Michael Bryant, mill owner; David Lewis, pargetter; Richard Matthews, farmer; Basil May, farmer; Peter Minter, brickmaker; Bill Sykes, bricklayer; Gordon Watts, Architect

Featured Organisations:

Department of the Environment.

Featured Buildings:

St. Mary's Church, Erwarton; Falconer's Hall, Good Easter, c. 1090; The Farmhouse, Greenstead Green; Pakenham Windmill

Channel 4

Artifax Productions

Andrew Snell

Andrew Snell

Peter Middleton; Nick Gifford; Chris O'Dell

Martin Cook

Eddie Tise; John Hayes

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