Episode 1

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Tudor Monastery Farm, Series 1 Episode 1 of 6

Duration: 1 hour

Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold turn the clock back over 500 years to run a farm at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex exactly as it would have been in 1500, during the reign of the first Tudor King, Henry VII.

The first episode finds the farm team arriving at Weald & Downland in West Sussex. There are domestic tasks to tackle, from lighting fires with flint, making meals with depleted crops during the Hunger Gap and using a tread wheel to fetch water from the well. Peter and Tom's first job is to move the sheep to fresh grass. Wool at this time was known as 'the jewel in the realm', because it generated much of the nation's wealth.

Ruth makes a tallow light out of rushes and sheep fat - it will provide the only source of light outside of daylight hours. And to equip the kitchen, she visits Robin Wood, one of the few men in Britain who can transform a log into a wooden bowl. She tackles making the favourite Tudor dish of Pottage and performs the ritual of laying the table, an act full of Christian symbolism.

Tudor pig breeds were large, wild and often dangerous animals and monasteries forbade pigs to run free, so Peter and Tom set about building a pig house, without nails! Peter and Tom must also master a new skill; ploughing with Oxen. These creatures, neutered cattle, had traditionally been preferred to horses. Today, there are no working Oxen left in Britain, so Peter and Tom hope to do the job by breaking in a pair of cows!

The team follow a key custom of the time in setting up a Religious guild, dedicated to the patron saint of farming, St Benedict. In an age before science, a guild was seen as a key means of ensuring favourable conditions for success for farming communities (and a safe passage to heaven!). The team also celebrate one of the most important religious events of the year: Palm Sunday - which signalled the coming of Easter - a time of much merry-making, where foliage was blessed by a priest and hung over doors to ward off evil spirits and misfortune. It also requires Peter to dress up and play the role of a prophet.

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Ruth Goodman
Peter Ginn
Tom Pinfold
Robin Wood
Mark Goodman
Stuart Elliott
Executive Producer
David Upshal


'None of us liked the geese'

Tom and Peter

'The animals were definitely the stars of the show.'



Meet the experts slogging it in the fields of the Tudor Monastery Farm.

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