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The full 6 part BBC series in which Fred Dibnah uncovers the craft and engineering skills that went into the building of Britain over the centuries. He reveals the genius, the vision and the sheer bloody graft that went into creating some of Britainâ€™s greatest national monuments.
Fred Dibnah explores the early techniques used to build mighty Norman Cathedrals and 13th century Castles. The skills of carpenters and stone masons to create grand country houses and at the backbreaking work of the navvies who created vast labyrinths of canal networks. Finally he looks at some of the decorative work produced in his favourite period â€“ the Victorian age.
Fred Dibnah shows us some of Englandâ€™s finest surviving Norman Cathedrals. He visits Ely and Peterborough Cathedral looking at the ingenious way in which they were built by the workmen of the day. Fred goes up to the heights to see an authentic piece of medieval machinery that helped with some of the heavier work and gives numerous practical examples in his back yard of how things would have been done. He also visits the Keep at Rochester and tells the story of how King John's men attacked the castle by undermining one of the corners.
The Art of Castle Building
Fred Dibnah visits Wales to look at the great Castles of Edward I and his French architect Master James of St. George. He visits Caernarfon Castle, (the administrative centre) Harlech Castle, (built on a cliff face directly from solid rock) and Beaumaris Castle, (the great unfinished masterpiece) to show how these mighty fortresses were built and to explain how revolutionary defensive features helped James I subdue the Welsh. He also visits the Public Record Office to look at in depth records of the costs of building the castles from work patterns to pay rolls.
The Age of the Carpenter
Fred Dibnah reaches the middle ages, where the skills of the carpenter helped turn castles into fine country houses. He visits the oldest moated and fortified house in Britain - Stokesay Castle, where he gets out his ladders to investigate the jettying out technique and explains how the Great Hall would have been made using a cruck beam roof.
McCurdy & Co specialise in timber frame construction so Fred goes to take a look. Next he visits Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, one of the countryâ€™s finest surviving timber framed structures from the 15th and 16th century. He explains how it was built and why it has the higgledy piggledy appearance it does today.
Finally he goes to Harvington Hall where timber frames were still in place but bricks substituted wattle and daub for a warmer environment. Harvington Hall also boasts some of the finest priest holes in the country, designed and built by Nicholas Owen during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Fred Dibnah goes north to Scotland. He tells the story of how Scottish baronial style of the sixteenth and seventeenth century was changed into the distinctive Adam style of a more elegant nature. He begins by looking at Glamis castle and what happened to make it look like the fairy tale castle it is today. Scaling the heights of a turret he explains how they would have been constructed.
Fred visits House of Dun and Culzean Castle introducing the styles, both interior and exterior, of the father and son architects and designers William and Robert Adam. He also tries his hand at some Adam style ornamental plastering at a traditional plastererâ€™s workshop.
Building the Canals
Fred Dibnah's search to discover how the work of the builders and engineers of the past helped to shape Britain brings him close to his home Bolton where the mid 18th century saw the building of the first canals. He goes down the road to Worsley in Lancashire to see the Bridgewater Canal and he discovers the entrance to a labyrinth of 52 miles of underground waterways that carried coal from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines to the canal.
Back in his garden he shows us how the early canal engineers actually went about digging the cut for a canal and making it watertight. He takes a boat on the 127 mile long Leeds-Liverpool Canal and demonstrates how they built the tunnel that takes it under the highest point on his route and explains how locks work.
In the final programme of the series Fred Dibnah is investigating some of the building achievements from his favourite period in history - The Victorian Era. Fred goes to the Eastnor Castle, the Herefordshire country house to see the work of the young up and coming architect Robert Smirke, who was commissioned to build it in the early 19th century.
He visits St. Giles Church in Cheadle, Staffordshire - one of the greatest most decorative achievements of Augustus Welby Pugin. Tiles are a main feature of the decorative work so Fred visits a traditional tile works to have a go at making one. He finally stops at Pugin's most commonly known work - The Houses of Parliament. Together with Sir Charles Barry they designed Parliament to match the medieval splendour of Westminster Abbey just next door. Fred investigates how parliament was built and climbs to the heights of Big Ben to marvel at the bell itself.