Tudor Monastery Farm: The animals were the stars

Wednesday 13 November 2013, 14:01

Tom Pinfold Tom Pinfold Presenter

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I have been friends with my Tudor Monastery Farm co-presenter Peter Ginn since university.

Afterwards we worked together as archaeologists in Hampshire and this friendship laid the foundations, no pun intended, for building the pigsty for the BBC documentary series Victorian Farm.

Little did I know that six years later I would again be responsible for further porcine housing at the monastery farm in West Sussex.

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A new class of business savvy farmer was thriving in the Tudor era

Along with the historian Ruth Goodman, Peter and I took on the work of tenant farmers during the reign of Henry VII, the first Tudor King, using only the tools and resources the farm workers had back in 1500.

As I think back to November in 2007 in Shropshire where the ground was frozen most mornings and it got dark around 4.30pm, it is hard to compare the Victorian Farm experience to the incredible summer we’ve just had this year down in Sussex.

However, as before, the animals were so central to our time on the farm, bringing a range of personalities to complement Peter and myself. And I like to think that our favourite animals reflected who we are.

In Peter’s case he loved the cows (they are docile, sometimes bolshie and like their food) and I on the other hand, was a fan of the horse (Peter thought he was a show-boater), the dog (limited attention span and on occasion hard to control) and the small pigs (ever curious with a tendency to roll around in mud).

The animals were definitely the stars of the show with an instinctive feeling for camera angles and slapstick comedy.

Our cows Gwen and Graceful were given to diva moments whenever they decided they were hungry or bored.

Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold Ruth Goodman drives the plough while Tom Pinfold and Peter Ginn motivate and guide the cows

One memorable moment saw them stop in the middle of the museum market place after we had just carried out a difficult turning manoeuvre surrounded by members of the public.

I am not sure whether they were waiting for applause from the aforementioned public but much like a car that has overheated, they refused to move, and Peter and I could do little but stand there for five minutes making small talk until decided they would proceed slowly (but only to stop us looking stupid, not because they wanted to).

Sparky the horse was always well-behaved until there was a photo opportunity and then you better believe he would be vying for centre stage, on one occasion almost knocking me out in his desperation for a headshot alongside myself, Peter and Ruth.

Peter, Ruth, Sparky and Tom Centre of attention: Peter, Ruth and Tom pose for a photo with Sparky

He also had a tendency to lick my face just before the two of us had a photo together. As I turned to look at him in disgust he would face the camera and there would be a click sound.

Once again, Sparky had cemented his place as the star while I was the bloke facing the wrong way with horse dribble running down the side of his face.

However, I think I can safely say none of us liked the geese.

Least of all Giulia Clark, one of our directors who, while giving us some much needed guidance stepped too close to a goose Peter was holding and was bitten on the arm in a particularly aggressive manner leaving a bruise that lasted several days.

They were cantankerous, camera-shy and above all disinterested in any plans we had for them.

Tom and Peter holding geese No love lost: Tom and Peter with the grouchy geese, whose feathers were used to make quill pens

Maybe the most pertinent point about keeping animals in Tudor times is that animals were not pets, they were part of the farm team.

You could develop affection for them but in Tudor times if you had a dog you would have to feed it meat - meat you would have to take off the plates of your family.

If the dog did not earn its keep, it was worthless. I have grown up with dogs and I love them, so it is hard to think of them in such clinical, unforgiving terms.

I can truly say every day on Tudor Monastery Farm was different and challenging, the days were long and busy.

Working with a wide range of contributors added real flavour to our experience.

There were those who were gentle guiding lights, and then there were those who, when given the brief that Peter or I were akin to apprentices, were happy to play up to the role of master.

Consequently, Peter and I, two men in our thirties, could find ourselves getting told off!!

Luckily broad shoulders and a sense of humour can get one through most trials... all in all it was a fantastic time.

Tom Pinfold is an archaeologist and presenter on Tudor Monastery Farm.

Tudor Monastery Farm is on Wednesday, 13 November at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC Two HD. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More on Tudor Monastery Farm
BBC Breakfast: Turning back to Tudor times: Interview with Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold
The Telegraph: Behind the scenes on BBC Two's Tudor Monastery Farm
University of Exeter: Exeter academic guides BBC2's new living history series Tudor Monastery Farm

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC. 

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    "He also had a tendency to lick my face just before the two of us had a photo together" - for a second I thought you were talking about me Tom! I was going to say I really don't remember doing that! But it was such a wonderful and busy year I can't remember everything we did together. All I know for certain was it was fun and a pleasure to be on a tudor adventure with you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Why no Alex Langlands involved - a huge missing presence on these series.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Great programme again, but could someone please remind Peter to remove his hat when entering the monestry or church please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Wonderful start to a lovely series. On Bayleaf, how much of the interior layout and equipment was based on the work of Victor Chinnery? I understand that he did a lot of work on this some years back. Also, I noted that later in the program, Ruth Goodman was not preparing and cooking food in the main house. Was she using the building recently identified as a specific medieval kitchen and built separate from the main house? I believe that this structure, already on site, was so designated by David Martin. It would seem important to explain this latter common usage of buildings in the filming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Massive fan of the farm series - have all on DVD and the books - very excited to see a new series! So glad Ruth and Peter back and Tom seems cool but where is Alex? Too busy filming Time Team? Ha ha ha - looking forward to the remaining episodes - keep up the good work & ps Peter - that cod piece is very flattering!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    We really enjoy your live history, wish it had been available when we was at school, would have been much more fun. Looking forward to next weeks episode.
    ps... I agree about the cod piece. ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Fantastic first episode. The presenters are great - Tom I thought was a fantastic addition and hope he will be appearing alongside Peter and Alex in any future series. The Weald & Downland Museum was presented beautifully too - lovely to see a place I know and love on TV. Alex, at the Chalke Valley History Festival, said he was completing his PHD which is why he wasn't involved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I remember in 1940 following a farmer using a seed lip to sow turnips that he threw the seed out on the right foot but threw from right to left which if you think about it gives much better control. Also the hand almost makes a circular motion. All in all I think the program is going to be great.
    old John

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The Weald and Downland Museum at Singleton where it is filmed is well worth a visit!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Great start to the series. Weren't you lucky with the weather! It's a good thing you weren't filming last year during the 12 month winter. Lovely to see the Weald & Downland museum being given such a prominent spot on the TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I just read somewhere, that you didn't really get on with the geese? This is so funny because when we went there, the geese were so scary when they started flapping at us! You never seen us run so fast when we thought they were coming at us!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    A great big cheers to the two fellow pig boys, Tom and Pete! Great show!
    I had a great summer and really enjoyed the time with the Tudor Farm guys.
    Hope to see you all soon for a Hog roast with a difference soon.
    Love Neal

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I noticed that there seemed to be no rushes on the floor of Bayleaf although most authorities that I have read seem to insist on their presence in medieval halls. I have always wondered whether these same writers have ever attempted to walk on them, or, that they might be a fire risk given that they would surround an open hearth. In my limited experience medieval halls were floored with beaten clay, or flagstones, the problem being that few survive to be examined. I stand to be corrected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    This is one of the most interesting progs I have seen in a long time. Really enjoyed seeing how they lived and provided for themselves. Must have been very hard. We take so much for granted today. It is hard growing your own food. I Managed a few tomatoes this year and that was a lot of work! I dont expect a few bits of veg were much to fill them up ! Also enjoyed seeing how they built fences and the pig sty. Looked quite rewarding!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    An echo to tenorissimo's sentiments. Why, why no Alex Langlands? He was a perfect balance to Peter and Ruth with a charismatic screen presence. Loss of such an intelligent presenter in this series is a great shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    LOVED your previous endeavors and have purchased what I could since I live in the USA. When can we expect the dvd in the States? Right now I am just consoling myself with the book :-( BTW...anytime you want to get married Peter let me know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Tom Pinfold is certainly an excellent new member of this fine Team. We have keenly followed all of their work, from 'Tales from the Green Valley' to now. It is of very particular interest to us because we live in just such an ancient house as Bayleaf. We have piles of books and have commissioned two research projects with very good results. This has afforded us much insight into just how difficult it is to find out what life was really like at such a remote time. To see these distant eras recreated on TV is wonderful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    great as expected, are the opening shots of Gloucester cathederal

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Enjoyed the show but could somebody tell Ruth Goodman that in Tudor times Britain and terms like British did not exist so please stop using them whilst re-enacting Tudor times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Briton, Britannic and Brittannia were terms that did exist by the late c16th. See William Camden's monumental history, initially published in latin, and then in English,(1610). The earliest usage that I know of dates from the Roman Period.


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