Cat no. 620

Built in Britain: A Stone's Throw From The Beach

Running time25:54 Colour Sound 1983 Norfolk, Norfolk

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A film highlighting the importance of flint in the building styles of North Norfolk

The opening scenes of this film shows crab boats on the beach at Sheringham. This introduces the use of flint as a building material. Pebbles from the beach were used as a building material. Bennie West, a fisherman, shows the exterior and interior of his cottage. This is a traditional fisherman's cottage, built by his great grand father 150 years previously. The film shows the flagged passage between the cottages, built to allow the fishermen to carry in their nets and crab pots, and the loft built for storage. Mr. West is filmed in his fishing loft, mending his nets. He talks about his life as a fisherman and how he believes fishing will become a part time job in about fifteen years time.The film moves inland, showing a round towered church and a square towered church. These demonstrate how building styles develop according to the materials available. The rounded flints were not conducive to building with corners. The film shows Valley Farm, Gunthorpe, as an example of a flint farmhouse. There are also shots of flint cottages. The commentary describes 'stone picking'. This used to by done by women in the fields, following the plough. This is no longer practical on the fields and not possible on the beach. Returning to Sheringham, Bennie West explains the vital part the beach flint pebbles play in sea defence. Bulldozers are seen piling up the stones. Flints are bought now from sand and gravel pits.Flints are used in the restoration of Churches and the tower of St. Mary's Church, Gunthorpe is undergoing restoration. Reg Brunton is interviewed about the issues involved in using flint as a building material. He explains that you can only do so much work on a single occasion; do too much and the edifice will collapse under its own weight. You have to watch the variation of the stones which need a back wall for support. Another problem with using flint is that it is not taught at technical college and builders need to learn the techniques 'on the job'.The film touches briefly on the use of flint in new buildings before showing builder Tony Saunders discussing the restoration of Wiveton Hall, built in 1652, with the owner. There is a close up shot of the knapped flint fronting Wiveton Hall. At Thornage Tony Saunders displays his own cottage, which he has renovated as near to its original condition as possible. He has used Norfolk reeds to return the cottage to thatch. He explains how he approached the job, including his use of Tudor bricks. He also discusses the time needed to complete the project. He discusses how he scours the countryside looking for materials and is seen negotiating with a farm manager for brick from a barn, about to be demolished.The next sequence concentrates on the production of reeds used in thatching. There is a shot of reeds being cut by mower at Salthouse. Geoff Crowe, a reed cutter, discusses the increase in the use of reeds. Most of those he cuts are sent to the Cambridge area. There is a shot of pantiles, brought from Holland during the 18th century. At Cley there is a shot of Charlie Cook mending his roof. He describes the techniques used. There are shots over the roof tops of Cley.Geoff Crowe describes his working year, revealing a lifestyle that the commentary claims is fast disappearing. From January to mid-April he cuts reeds. He then goes long lining fishing until mid-may and then joins a trawler. He may turn to building work until mid-September and then goes digging for worms until its time to return to reed cutting. Charlie Cook is filmed digging for lug worms on Blakeney Point.The film discusses the problems of 'incomers.' There are shots of Blakeney quay and the streets. Geoff Crowe describes how people moving into the area and buying holiday cottages is pushing out local people. The film looks at the work of the Blakeney Housing Trust (Blakeney Neighbourhood Housing Society) and interviews Malcolm Preston. He explains that the trust has bought 22 houses which are let to local families at reasonable rents, allowing them to stay in Blakeney. There is a shot of Malcolm Preston carrying out building work on a row of cottages. In the interior of his home, Charlie Cook talks about these issues and the effect of local authority development. There are shots of an estate, c. 1960 and another c. 1980 that is seeking to use local materials. Charlie Cook is adamant that this doesn't work. There is a shot of the exterior of Mere Place, Gunthorpe and Amstey King talks about how he built the house as an experiment, using not merely old materials but traditional building methods. There are interior shots of his home before he and his wife are seen at Hayden Hall at Saxlingham. This is a total ruin and its restoration is Amstey King's next project. There are further shots of Cley and in his own cottage Bennie West talks of attempts to preserve Sheringham's last boat shed.


See: Essex, 1983, We Can Say We Left Something Good.

Featured People:

Reg Brunton, builder Mrs. King; Charlie Cook Tony Saunders, builder; Geoff Crowe, reed cutter Bennie West, fisherman; Amstey King; A Stones Throw From The Beach.

Featured Organisations:

Blakeney Housing Trust / Blakeney Neighbourhood Housing Society

Featured Buildings:

St. Mary's Church, Gunthorpe Hayden Hall, Saxlingham; Mere Place, Gunthorpe Wiveton Hall; Valley Farm, Gunthorpe

Channel 4

Artifax Productions

Chris Goddard

Peter Middleton

Gillian Darley

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