Secrets of the Castle (2014): Season 1, Episode 1 - Episode #1.1 - full transcript

Castles dominated the medieval landscape...

and Britain has some of
the finest in the world.

Today most are decaying relics,

many of their secrets buried in time.

- Now, historian Ruth Goodman...
- Whoo!

And archaeologists Tom
Pinfold and Peter Ginn

are turning the clock back

to relearn the secrets of
the medieval castle builders.

This is the ultimate in
medieval technology.

The origin of our castles
is distinctly French -

introduced to Britain at the time
of the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Trois, deux, un... tirez!

Here in the Burgundy region of
France is Guédelon Castle,

the worlds biggest
archaeological experiment...

a 25-year project to build
a castle from scratch,

using the same tools, techniques and
materials available in the 13th century.

Its a lot of hard work at the
coalface because this is industry.

For the next six months,
Ruth, Peter and Tom

will experience the daily rigours
of medieval construction...

Drop down. Yeah, there.

And everyday life. - Looking really good.

How workers dressed...


And ate...
- You can really smell your food, Ruth.

And the art of combat.


This is the story of how
to build a medieval castle.

Its March.

Tom, Ruth and Peter have
travelled to Saint Fargeau,

100 miles south of Paris,

where Guédelon Castle is being built.

They're now 17 years
into a 25-year project,

and over the next few months
its most defining features

the towers - will take shape.

That is just something else.

- Look at those things up there.
- Oh, my goodness.

Makes you dizzy.

The team are meeting members
of Guédelons workforce -

master mason Florian Renucci,

and site administrator, Sarah Preston.

This is amazing!

Thank you so much for coming so far
to see our castle in the making.

Id like to introduce you
first of all to Florian.

Florian is our master mason, so hell be
guiding you throughout your stay here.

You oversee this entire project.
That is amazing. That really is.

Well, its really simple.

I just have to know very well the castle.

You're almost like the puppet master.

You have the people working
in the quarry, the

people working as masons, the carpenters.

You've got to control everyone.

Well, I prefer the image of
a musical er... conductor.

We have to be in the same time working.

This is very important.

The rhythm. - Find a rhythm.

Yeah, the rhythm. So its like music.

Well, if you're the conductor and
you've got the strings over there,

and the percussion over there,
and the tympani over there,

I can play a triangle.

Building Guédelon is an
enormous undertaking.

It will require some 30,000 tons of stone

that must be quarried, shaped and lifted
into position without modern machinery.

There are also teams of
woodcutters and carpenters

constructing scaffolding,
roofing and doors...

blacksmiths making ironwork and tools...

as well as tile-makers...

and carters.

In the13th century,

English workers crossed the Channel
to hone their skills in France.

France is where architecture is
happening - castles, churches.

Were looking at their built
environment and thinking,

"Wow, they're really good at that,"

and were importing all
those ideas into Britain.

As a military historian,
you're used to reading

the theories behind how castles are made,

but hopefully, as an
experimental archaeologist,

we can actually test some of those
theories, put them into practice.

13th-century life, theres a lot
of questions surrounding it.

There aren't that many records.

So by the actual act of
building this castle,

its almost like creating a window
through which we can observe

what 13th-century life
might have been like.

Building a medieval castle
began with a wooden model.

So what is this model used for?

In medieval times, they
don't have a paper plan.

- Right.
- So they used to have a wood model.

And I guess this is a
way of the lord saying,

"This is what I want my
castle to look like."

Yes, and the lord, he can
change things with a model.

Its very easy for him.

So I suppose on medieval building
sites like you have here,

you can easily have over a hundred masons,

they all can look at this and know
the angles they need to be doing

and the... and the wall
that they're working on.

Guédelons design is typical
of the 13th century.

Many British castles, such as Harlech,

Conwy and Caernarfon,
have a similar layout.

Castles were not only for defence.

They were a show of strength,

a lord putting his stamp on the landscape.

Inside the walls there were grand houses

with great halls, kitchens
and even chapels.

A thick wall surrounded by a dry moat
protects an inner courtyard...

which itself is protected by six towers.

Wow! This is the Great Tower.

This is what Florian wants us to work on.

When completed, the Great Tower
will be almost 30 metres high,

providing a lookout for
approaching enemies.

And, with walls four metres thick,
its the castles ultimate stronghold.

So if we were the wall...

Ill stand here. Im inside.

You're inside.

- That's four.
- I mean, that's massive.

It just brings home how many tens
of thousands of tons of stone

will be in this castle when its finished.

Back then the only way
of transporting stone

over land was using horse-drawn carts.

Minimising the distance it had
to be moved was paramount.

So, like many castles of the time,
Guédelon is actually built in a quarry.

In the quarry we have the sandstone,
the primary building fabric.

We also have the sand and the water.
That can be used to make the mortar.

We have ochre, which again can
be used for making pigments.

Were on a clay lens here,
and the clay can be used

for firing tiles - roof tiles, floor tiles.

And were surrounded by forests,
which is a source of timber.

Its a source of fuel, so it can
keep the blacksmiths going.

Almost everything we need to build a
castle is just a stones throw away.

The boys are put to work
extracting blocks of sandstone

under the watchful eye of a stonemason whos

worked here for 16 years, Clément Guérard.

The first job. - Hm.


"Make the small stone."

That's very good. You're learning.

Cléments teaching the boys how
to cut huge stones from the quarry

into usable building blocks...

using just a hammer, a chisel and a wedge.

I don't think Ive got
the skills to do this.

Ill give it a go.

The pressures on. Im
glad its you and not me.

Im making this hole to
fit the wedge snugly.

But obviously Clément, with his
years and years of experience,

knows exactly how to orientate this

so the wedge goes into this one hole,

you hit it and that's
gonna cause a fracture

in the already pre-existing sediment lines

and it'll split in half.

Clément, looking good? - Oui.

Bonne musique.

Good music. - Good music.

And now a sledgehammer.

Wow, you can just see the
fracture starting to appear.

This is not about brute force.
This is about listening.

Its about looking. Precision engineering.

Listen. Good.


This is a good omen, Tommo.

The hardness of the sandstone
varies considerably...

depending on its iron content.

The more iron, the harder the stone.

So the medieval mason had
a system of grading it.

You got three categories of stone here
the piff, the paff and the puff.

You got the piff, this sort of
black, high-iron content sandstone,

and that's used for the major
load-bearing parts of the castle.

The paff, this more reddish sandstone,

and the soft one, the puff, sort
of very yellowy crumbly sandstone.

Its almost like were shopping for stone.

Were coming out here, were
looking at the colours,

and we can actually get what we want for
the particular task were about to do.

These stones will form the main
building blocks of the castle.

Just as important as the stone...
were the workers.

In the woods surrounding the
castle, Ruths setting up home.

Building a castle involves such a lot of

people and they've all
got to live somewhere.

So you get a sort of temporary community

setting up at the edge
of the building site,

as all these different people come
and go with their various skills.

And, naturally, over time
that begins to become

a bit more permanent, a
village in the making.

Indeed, many villages right across
Europe, in Britain as well as in France,

can actually trace their origin to being
camps for workers on a building site.

This small hovel is typical of a workers
home on a medieval building site.

The workers cottages, somewhere like this,

were always gonna be thrown up in
a hurry and fairly sort of basic.

But then so were those of
most 13th-century people.

And this is our everything.
This is all there is.

Here is our kitchen, our living
room, our sleeping quarters -

just this one single space.

Oh, look. Marvellous.

Offcut limestone. This will do perfect.

The centrepiece of every medieval
home was the fireplace.

The fire was not just used for cooking.

It also provided heat and light.

In grand houses, obviously, they sort
of, like, cobbled this whole area.


But... we know from lots of archaeological
digs that ordinary houses...

its just a patch on the ground.

And also I use a couple of bigger stones...

to balance pots on a bit.

The cottage needs somewhere to store
the staple foods of wheat and barley.

- Hi, Simon.
- Hello, Ruth. How you doing?

- Hello. Im good.
- Nice to see you.

I was thinking about the grain ark...

So Ruth is calling on English carpenter,
Simon Dunn, to make a grain ark.

Im guessing that making
furniture in the 13th century

was rather different from what a
modern cabinetmaker would do?

Oh, certainly very different
from what anybody would do now

or even in the last
couple of hundred years.

You're limited by the materials
and the tools available.

In the 13th century, saws were expensive.

So carpenters used them only
when absolutely necessary.

Instead, wood was split
using wooden wedges.

Whoa. Wow! Look at that, split all
the way around down to there.

Yeah, and then turn it over.

And work a bit further down.

Gosh, this is faster than sawing, isnt it?

Oh, absolutely.

There we go. So that's in two.

Simon splits the wood
again to produce planks.

So, you know, I mean,
that piece particularly

is a really good piece of plank.

Yeah. Its pretty flat.
You can work with it.

And that's a couple of minutes.

I mean, I hate to think how long
that would take to have sawn.

The rough planks must now be smoothed off.

This is a side axe.

Erm, its just ground on one
edge, so its flat on the other.

So you can just...

Trim up the surface a bit.

You can more or less use
an axe like a plane.

Once all the planks are made, the ark
is assembled... without nails or glue.

Pegs, your basic thing for
joining furniture together.

- So instead of nails.
- Use pegs instead of nails, yes.

So there are some things
you do need a saw for.

So well just cut the pegs off to size.


Theres no glue or anything in here.

So its just the wood
holding the wood together.

- Yeah.
- Its not going anywhere.

- So you happy with that?
- Im happy.

- Is that gonna do the job?
- It will.

- Home isnt home without a grain ark.
- Absolutely not.

Water was another vital resource
for the building of a castle,

and hundreds of gallons would have been
used every day to make mortar alone.

So castles were always built
near a plentiful supply.

Tom and Peter have been sent
to repair the castles well.

To hoist the bucket, it
needs a new rope and pulley.

How deep do you reckon that
is, if were gonna make rope?

I reckon its ten metres
down, give or take a metre.

But I suspect they sunk this to a depth
where they're never gonna run out of water.

Exactly. Its crucial to defence.

Its crucial for life inside the
castle once the castles operational.

You need to have that constant supply,
and we need it now for our building.

You're on rope, Im on pulley.

Peters commissioning a pulley
from wood turner Gary Baker.

Well, the first stage is to select a log.

Yeah. And the pulleys gonna
be in this direction. OK?

So you couldn't just cut a nice section
through a log and just do that as a pulley?

- That would never work.
- Really?

The problem with the end grain,
it shrinks at different levels

- and its just gonna split apart.
- Right.

So were gonna follow the grain this way.

Were just gonna rough chop it.

- What's the wood that you're using?
- This is ash.

Ash is very... a very dry wood

and therefore, when it dries,
it doesn't move that much.

Its not gonna warp and crack.

A mandrel is hammered into the
centre of the roughly-shaped wood

so it can be turned on a pole lathe.

Pole lathes like this have been
used both in England and France

since before the 10th century.

So that's just a pedal pulling the
string around the mandrel... onto...

On a flexible pole.

The pole, basically, all it
does is lift the pedal back up.

The roughly-shaped ash is
turned to make a cylinder.

I have to say, watching you...
that is really, really hypnotic.

It looks knackering.

It is. It is er...

Its like a gymnasium, medieval
gymnasium, but you do get fit.

As well as a pulley, theyll
need a rope for the well.

Rope is essential on a
medieval building site -

to lift loads and bind scaffolding.

Toms commissioning a rope for the well from

the castles rope maker, Yvon Herouart.

First he lays hemp yarns
along the rope walk

to form four strands, each with 14 yarns.

I can definitely see why
this is called a rope walk.

All we seem to do is walk up and down.

For this 50-metre rope, he's actually
walked half a mile, which is extraordinary.

The four strands are now complete.

Next, they must be twisted together.

First stage of the twisting
will actually reduce

the length of these strands by about 10%.

That's about 1.5 metres. So Im
estimating that's about there.

When the traveller hits this mark,

Yvon knows the rope has been twisted
the optimum number of times.

Very slowly the traveller is moving in,

but with each turn that Yvon does,

we get something that I see as being rope.

Garys turning the cylinder into a
pulley by cutting a groove in its rim.

Just take it off.

There we go.

So smooth and so fast.


The yarns have been
twisted to form strands.

Then the strands are
twisted in the opposite

direction to form the finished rope.

To make the strands, you twist
the yarns in one direction.

To make the rope, you twist the
strands against each other.

That way, you create that tension and that
torsion and it stops them unravelling.

Merci beaucoup. Cest parfait.

You're going up, yeah.

Ill thread this through
before you haul it up.

Now Ruth and Peter can fit the pulley and

rope to the well in the castles courtyard.

You know, traditionally,
this is where people

gossip, don't you, standing round the well?

Well, it still is, standing
round the water cooler.

Drop it down. - Yeah.

A long way down.


On a medieval construction site,

the majority of the water
is used to make mortar

to fix the quarried sandstone in place.

The production of the daily batch
is supervised by Fabrice Maingot.

Right, Tom, we need 25
baskets of this sand.

25. - And 50 of this one.

Mortar makers had a vital role to
play in the building of a castle...

as the strength of the entire
construction rested on their mixture.

Formulas were closely guarded secrets and

passed down from master to apprentice.

Due to the huge amounts of sand
required to build this castle,

we try and source as much as
possible from the local area,

and, luckily, having the quarry right there

means you've got a huge
amount of sand on tap.

Lime is the key ingredient that
adheres the stones to one another.

Its made by heating
limestone to 900 degrees

and then mixing it with water
to create slaked lime.

- Pretty good.
- That looks very nice, Peter.

Right now, I think the experience
is showing for the French guys.

They're really putting me to shame.

Its enjoyable work, though.

I actually do feel like Im now a
bit more connected to the castle.

You like everything clean, don't you?

To be honest, some of us
just get on and work,

unlike you who seems to roll around in
every bit of building material you can.

Suits you, though.

That's just a natural magnetism.

You're pretending all that grey
hair is actually lime water.

Oh, dear. - Oh!

It is actually just stress
from working with you.

Todays batch of mortar and sandstone
are destined for the Great Tower.

So far its reached a height of 18 metres,

but when complete it
will be 30 metres high.

The materials are hoisted to the
top using a treadmill winch.

The forerunner of the modern crane,

it takes two people to power it
and can lift over half a ton.

I mean, these things are an
absolute godsend, aren't they?

They are the machine of the
medieval building site,

bringing up all the stone for the walls.

Well, you think, you've got 500kg
of weight were pulling up,

yet we manoeuvre it so
easily, the two of us.

My strength, your ballast.

Look. There it is. This is the
ultimate in medieval technology.

To lower the cargo onto the tower, the
boys simply walk in the other direction.

OK. Walk.

Slowly, slowly.


So this is our stone, the
sandstone from the quarry,

and it'll be graded into three lots
the piff, the paff and the puff.

- That's piff, isnt it? That's quite hard.
- Yeah.

- That's paff.
- That's the medium.

And there'll be a puff in there somewhere.

That looks like puff.

Get some of these.

The piff-that very, very hard sandstone -

that is used for facing, for the
structure, for the external walls.

Whereas the paff and the
puff are actually used

to infill the walls and
tie it all together.

Philippe Delage began his career
as a builder over 40 years ago.

For the last ten years
he's worked at Guédelon,

where he's perfected his
skills as a stonemason.

You are going to lay the mortar, but
don't crush the edge, just like this.

If you were bricklaying, do you do
that cos its got a flat surface,

but the stone has to go in and the
mortar has to go up into the stone?

- Yeah.
- So, don't flatten it. OK.

One of the biggest challenges is ensuring

the walls are absolutely straight -

the integrity of the entire
tower depends on it.

The solution is simplicity itself-

a lead weight on the end of a
string, known as a plumb line.

On the scaffolding here, you'll
notice theres a two-inch gap,

so you can get your plumb
line down there and

make sure the wall is absolutely straight,

cos if its not, the tower
starts going like that...

it'll start going like that.

Most of these medieval tools and techniques

have been around for millennia,

and are still used on building sites today.

Like that? - Yeah. Like that.

Just doing the rubble infill to the wall.

So we've got the facing stone
the piff, the hard stone

and that is laid horizontally, so the
grain runs as it is in the ground.

Actually, if you imagine a book,
if you lay a book horizontally,

you stand on it, it'll support your weight.

Whereas if you lay a book vertically
and you stand on it, it will collapse.

However, the infill, that
actually gets laid vertically

so the grain is going in
the opposite direction.

And that's because they're all
stacked against each other

and they push against each
other around the tower,

making this absolutely solid.

All the tricks of the trade.

Wheres that mortar, Peter?

Already in the wall, Tom. Already.


Now these, Im hoping, are
the secret ingredient

to transform what is, frankly, a muddy
hole into somewhere comfy to live.

Medieval sources tell us cottage
floors were strewn with rushes,

but just how they were laid
is a bit of a mystery.

What I think might be the answer
is to keep it in bundles...

and lay them in a sort of herringbone
fashion across the whole floor.

Look at that. And the temperature
difference between putting your hand there

and putting your hand there
is quite astonishing.

That is cold and wet and nasty.

That is warm and dry and comfy.

Every few weeks, Ruth will lay
down new bundles of rushes.

I think that when I get
the fresh ones on top,

what will happen is that the damp earth
underneath will, as these crush down,

will gradually compost,

leaving you on top of new, fresh reeds,

well away from that, all
dry and clean and warm.

That's the theory.

Nobody really knows quite how this works.

Well see.

Back at the castle, slowly and surely
the Great Tower is taking shape.

But before they can build
up the walls any further,

a doorway into its third-floor
room must be installed.

Got some limestone that's been shaped.

Its gonna go to the Great Tower for
the doorway into that top room.

Erm, were just using this
crane, as directed by Philippe.

Using this simple lever system, one
man can lift four times his own weight.


Yeah, its OK.

Its then raised up the tower
using the treadwheel crane.

I can see it coming up. Here it comes.

Howd you find it, Peter?

Im as dizzy as you like.

Gets the heart rate up.
A bit of a sweat going.

Mind you, this was the
thing that built castles

and this was the thing
that made men feel quite

seasick whilst on dry land, like myself.

Before the stones are fitted,

a pintle is set into the stone,
from which the door will be hung.

Its held firmly in place using molten lead.

So what they've done is built
this reservoir out of clay,

and that way you can pour the
lead in, its not gonna drain off

and you don't waste a valuable resource.

The masons have just one
chance to get this right...

as the lead sets almost instantly
once it hits the cold stone.

Getting it wrong might mean the
whole stone having to be replaced.

Oh, that looks brand-new.
That looks fantastic.

Its amazing to think, in a building of this

size, how little metal is actually used.

But where it is used, it is essential.

Now the stones can be set in
place, on a layer of mortar.

Its essential that they're
perfectly aligned.

So the forerunner of the spirit level
the masons level is used.

Roman Britain, medieval France, or
even a modern-day building site,

these are tools and techniques that every
builder would have been familiar with.

These have been honed
over centuries of use.

It is timeless. It really is.

It looks good now. Yeah.

Our medieval square here says its all good.

Its ready to... for the next stone.

Now the stone lintel that will
top the doorway can be fitted.

This is very, very delicate work.

This is an extremely heavy stone,

possibly the heaviest
stone we've moved so far.

That is a serious bit of kit and it
struggles to lift this, its so heavy.

I think were right on the weight limit.

Manoeuvring this heavy stone
with the simple crane is tricky.

Good. - Yeah, got it, Peter.

One slip and serious damage could be done

to both the lintel and the
surrounding stonework.

You got that, Tommo?

To your left, to your left.


Yes. Well done.

Oh! I felt quite vulnerable
then, Ive gotta be honest.

Its almost perfect.

Stonemasonry, like so many
medieval jobs, was heavy work.

So a well-fed workforce was essential.

To prepare food in the cottage,
Ruth needs cooking vessels.

Today, pots and pans are metal,

but in the Middle Ages
they were often clay.

Ruth is calling on the services
of English potter Jim Newbolt.

What would people think
about cooking with pottery?

I mean, I think people are scared
of it, the idea of it now.

But it used to be the way of cooking.

I mean, it is the oldest form
of cooking utensil of any sort.

That's it, even your iron ones are
called cooking pots. Theres the clue.

First, Jim makes the basic
cooking pot on the wheel.

He then fits handles so it can
be lifted on and off the fire.

And what Im doing is extruding the clay...

Stretching it out.

So it means that as you pull the handle
it creates the grain... like wood.

So its gonna be stronger
than if it was just...

Squashed together... squished together.

Clay is heavy and difficult to transport,

so potters sourced it from
as near to home as possible.

Where do you get your clay from?

From as close to the side of
the road as you possibly can.

That's a pothole.

One where you could lose
a wagon and team...

into it. - That's fabulous.

Its a hole where you've dug clay for pots.
Its a pothole.

You pull over to let another wagon pass,
and glance past..."Wheres he gone?"

Next, Jim reshapes the base of the pot.

So what shape is best, then, for fire?

For cook pots on the
fire, big round bottoms.

Right. You want a... no sharp corners.

No, no, it means that the heat moves
around the outside of the pot.

And then with a sharp-bladed knife,
you start taking off the edge there.

So long as the pots are made evenly,
it'll work better on the fire.

Right, so if theres a
big, thick lump somewhere,

you're gonna have problems around that.

Im flaring it out.

The round bottom means it
won't sit on a flat surface.

So the medieval pot often had legs.

And theres the... the cook pot.

The hovel is now fully equipped
and ready to sustain the workers.

This is perhaps the most
important thing in it.

This is our larder, our fridge, our
pantry - our food supply, the grain ark.

Lovely, isnt it?

There it is.

This is the mainstay of our diet.
This is our main food.

Its the starch, the bulk...

and its also the source of
any beer or ale we might drink.

And the lid is not attached because...

it goes that way up and it becomes my
dough trough when I need to make bread.

Its really clever, isnt it?


And Ive got all sorts of
food supplies hanging about -

and "hanging" is the operative word -

because I don't want anything on the
floor where mice and rats can get it.

So hanging it either from the walls
like the vegetables in nets

or from the underside of the roof,

keeps them safe, away from
all the crawling vermin.

And the smoke, as it percolates
its way out, keeps away flies.

You can think of this space not just as
a living space but as a storage space.

After a days work,

the boys have returned to put Ruths
experimental rush floor to the test.

You've spent all day working on the
castle, you're tired, just come back,

I mean, this is insulating,
its cushioning...

- Its quite comfy.
- Its not as bad as you'd think.

Its not as bad as you think.

I mean, when they say they haven't
got a bed, and that's it -

you just get a blanket and
this is what you sleep on -

it sounds a bit horrendous, but its not.
Its all right.

It is a tiny space, though,
to live a complete

life, just one little space
like this, isnt it?

- Yeah, but...
- As a whole family.

Well, you say its a tiny space
to live your entire life.

Id rather be in a small space
like this and get the heat...

- Its an easier space to heat.
- Yeah, good point.

And how much time are you
gonna spend in here?

These days you think, I need a
sitting room and a TV and a big sofa

cos you're gonna relax in there.

Well be working most of the time and
you've got all your jobs and tasks to do.

So that, sort of, like, rest and
relaxation isnt as important.

- Theres less time for it.
- Speak for yourself.


Cheers. Salut.

They don't clink, do they?

That's about the only thing Ive got
against drinking bowls - they don't clink.

Its morning, and the team
are getting ready for work.

Knowing what ordinary medieval
people wore is a challenge,

but fortunately a few items
of clothing have survived.

The most useful garments will survive

because they were actively kept because
they were the clothes of saints.

They have been preserved in
churches right across Europe.

So this yellow dress that Im wearing,

this is something that has been derived
from two early-to-mid-13th-century saints -

Saint Elizabeth, from Germany,

and Saint Clare, from Assisi, in Italy.

So, its loose, but can you see... Look,
there is quite a lot of shaping to it.

You can see all these seams.

Its made very particularly to
make the cloth hang nicely,

no matter what position your body is in.

I do have a belt.

However, its not to give you a waist,

but its all about...

creating an attractive drape of cloth.

Its the most comfy thing Ive ever worn.

It is faintly ridiculous, I think,

that medieval underwear is as big as this.

I think, obviously, for Tommo,
that's probably an appropriate size,

but both myself and Ruth
could fit into these.

Oh! They feel a bit like a
pair of 1950s football shorts,

although, in the light,
vaguely see-through.

And then we've just got the hose.

Single-legged hose.

And at this stage...

Its very similar to, kind of, I
suppose, stockings and suspenders.

However if they were sewn onto the pants,
pretty soon you'd have a pair of trousers.

You kind of see where the
evolution of clothes comes from.

Ruths headwear is inspired by the
medieval queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

As she got older, she decided
that her chin was sagging a bit,

and she wasn't looking quite
as lovely as she did,

so she invented a barbette,

which goes under the chin, and onto
the top of the head, and pins there.

And then, with a barbette,
you always wear a fillet.

And this is a fillet. Its just
another band sewn into a circle.

And you wear that almost crown-like on top.

Its a very 13th-century look.
So that's it, my French look.

Today, Tom and Peter have been
summoned to the Masons Lodge

for the next stage of their apprenticeship

carving limestone.

So far they've been
working with roughly-hewn

sandstone to build the castle walls.

But for more intricate features
like arches, windows and stairs,

limestone was preferred,

as its fine grain meant it was
quicker and easier to carve.

We need, for the Chapel Tower,
a lot of stone having ten...

Inches... inches.

First, the boys use their splitting skills

to create rough limestone blocks...

under the supervision of
stonemason, Abdelilah Abid.

The wedge is in. Now you
can try with the big one.

Perfect. - Oh, good.

Very good, very good.

The rough block is moved
into the Masons Lodge,

onto a platform known as a banker,

ready for the skilled job of shaping it.

How many? - Ten.

Yes. Very good. You remembered.

Facing a stone was a basic skill that
every stonemason would have had.

First, the edges are cut using a pitch.

And the hammer.

Angle about there? - Yes.

Yeah. Actually, you have
to do it in one time.

- One... One swing through.
- Time, yeah.

- And you have to follow it.
- Like a follow through.


Very good.

A stonemason would have learnt under
the watchful eye of the master mason.

I don't want to hear this.

This is a bird.

Tak-tak-tak, tak-tak tak.

The stonemason, its rhythmical.

Yeah. - Or quick.

But it is always the same.

You can do... very rhythmical.

You only think of the rhythmical music...

and a few minutes after, its finished.

OK? - Yeah.

Stonemasons were paid per stone carved,

so the quicker they worked,
the more money they would earn.

These limestone blocks
are for the Chapel Tower.

This year, the team are hoping to
build the walls up by six metres

to complete the chapel room itself.

In the 13th century,
religion was central to

daily life and nearly all
castles had a chapel.

- Here we are. We are in this room.
- Yeah.

And we have to draw the niche
in the east part of the room,

just in front of us.


So this drawing you have is very
much a kind of a stylised view,

but now, as the stonemason, you
must precisely mark it out.

Yes, exactly.

We have now to transform imagination
drawing in useful drawing.

The niche is where the altar will be.

Before any building is done,

the walls must be marked out
with absolute precision.


This is continuing the curve of this wall.

The altar niche must be
in the east of the tower,

so Florian is marking out the east-west
access using an ingenious medieval tool.

I absolutely love this. Its a horn.
We've cut off the ends.

That's been tied to a piece of string...

which is wound around an axle, and

it is encased in ochre powder.

I mean, the same ochre that
we find in the quarry.

When you pull the string up and snap it...

it hits the ground,
thus shedding the ochre,

and leaving an absolutely
true straight line.

And these, they've been
around for millennia.

Right, flip it over.

Using just a rope, dividers
and the ochre line...

the chapels walls are marked out.

To reach this first-floor chapel...

a limestone spiral
staircase is being built.

To design it, Florian and Tom

have come to the Tracing Floor
next to the Stonemasons Lodge.

The Tracing Floor was the nerve centre
of the medieval building site,

where the master mason
drew full-scale plans.


Using a compass,

the circumference of the spiral
staircase is drawn, actual size.

- This is an apprentice job.
- Always the apprentice, never the master.

Florian and Clément are working out
the central part of our staircase,

and that will form the column that
runs up, connecting all the stairs.

And now were going to draw er... 12 steps.

For the medieval mason, geometry was
the jewel in the crown of their art.

Using just a compass,

angles and shapes could be accurately drawn

to within a degree, with perfect symmetry.

Here, Florian divides the circle
into six equal segments...

which are then subdivided
to create 12 steps.

Now we have the steps, we can try
the steps in the drawing first.

This is a fantastic way
to actually make sure,

before you start cutting stone, wasting
materials and time, that they work.

You can see there, they're bigger than
my foot length, so that's workable.

Now we need to finish one step.

Because all the steps are the same,
Florian needs to make just one template.

This is a precision job now.

You mess this up, you're gonna
mess up your stone in the castle.

So the last thing to do is
basically just cut the template.

That's ready. A present for you.

Thank you very much.

We've got our template now, placed
on top of our large piece of stone.

Were marking it out with a bit of slate.

Magic. There it is. Now its ready.

Just cutting. - Just cutting.

Five, ten minutes? - Oh...

- Two or three days.
- Two or three days.

You can hear how good quality this stone is

by the ringing sound, when Clément hits it.

And I think that's why, to be honest,

Im standing here and not actually
being allowed to do anything.

Ah, I lied.

Right line. - Righto.

An apprenticeship for a stonemason
would have been about seven years,

but to be honest, as Clément
says, its actually a lifetime.

You're always learning, and Peter
and I haven't been here long.

You know, theres just so much to take in.

Carving stone takes its
toll on the tools...

and every day they must be sharpened
by blacksmith, Martin Claudel.

Is it true, er, Guédelon,

if theres no blacksmith here
for two days, work stops?

Yes, work stops because we have to
fix a lot of stonemasonry tools

and if we don't do that, they cant work.

First, the worn-down chisel is heated
to 1,000 degrees to soften its tip.

To reach this temperature,
bellows blow air through the fire.

I love these bellows.

One goes up, the other one goes down.

So its a constant airflow, isnt it?

Martin draws the chisel to
a point on the anvil...

then sharpens it using a file.

But the chisel tip will be blunt again
in no time unless its hardened.

Hardening is one of the great
discoveries of the ancient world,

achieved by heating the metal, then
quickly quenching it in water.

As it gets hot, the metal changes colour

and this tells the blacksmith how
hard it will be once quenched.

Too soft and it won't cut.
Too hard and it will shatter.

To carve stone it must get yellow-hot.

He watches for the colours appearing
on the surface of the metal -

blue, the red and, most importantly,
the straw yellow at the very end.

Now its ready for the masons.

There are few clues as
to how ordinary people

lived day to day in a medieval village.

But Ruths pieced together
fragments of knowledge

to work out how people did the most mundane

of everyday tasks, like washing up.

I haven't got a scouring
pad, but I have got sand.

For the pad, at this time of the
year theres plenty of grass -

I could use straw - just
as something to rub with.

Now, if Ive got to deal with grease,
that's a different matter altogether.

Sand will take the worst of it off,

but no amount of scrubbing
with just some warm water

is going to shift the
grease out of something.

You need a little bit of chemical help.

And for that I turn to wood ash,
just straight out of the fire.

The wood ash combines with
water to make caustic soda.

When it comes into contact
with fat on the dishes...

it makes soap, leaving the
dishes spotlessly clean.

A handful of ash, wipe it around
with a bit of grass or straw,

rinse it out with hot water
and you get a clean pan.


Knowing what peasants ate in the
13th century is also a challenge,

but we do know what
ingredients they had to hand.

Ruth has come to the castles garden
to see what there is to harvest.

Could really do with some
TLC, this patch of garden,

but nonetheless, a fair few things
are starting to sprout through,

which is a relief.

So Ive got parsley coming through here.

And a number of other things that
you might think of as weeds -

and indeed they are weeds, but are edible.

Theres a lot of land cress, with
this little white flower on.

So that's quite bitter in flavour but, you
know, anything to give a bit of bite.

Plants that we now consider weeds
would also have been used.

Theres quite a lot of dandelions and
nettles too, which will help bulk it out.

Wheat and barley were
also essential ingredients.

Flour was expensive,

so workers ground their own using a device

that has been around for 10,000 years.

The quern.

This is the sound of the past.


A rotary quern like this...

was estimated to require about an hour
to an hour and a halfs work every day.

This is the daily grind.

You pop a handful of grain in the centre...

barley in this case - and off you go.

The posher you were, the
more refined your food was,

and ordinary people often made do with
food that was really quite coarse.

You can see that in peoples teeth
when were dug up archaeologically.

With the tools sharpened,

Clément has put the finishing
touches to the step.

Now comes the delicate task of
transporting it to the chapel.

- Looks like your steps arriving.
- Yeah.

Well, I say, your step.

The step is winched up the castle
wall using only manpower.


Brake off.

Once on top of the wall, its moved
up the tower using an inclined plane.

One slip and the step could
fall, wasting three days work.


- Be careful.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

These guys have been
doing this for 15 years.

They know how to get
things like this up here,

but its amazing what they can move without
the use of what wed call machines -

essentially the use of rollers,
levers, inclined planes, pulleys...

all made out of wood.

Wood and stone working
together, perfect harmony.

A bit like me and Tommo.

- Do you wanna nip down first, Ruth?
- OK.

Each step must be absolutely level

or else the staircase
will veer to one side.

A masons level and plumb line are used

to ensure its perfectly positioned.

I suppose this staircase has still
got quite a long way up to go,

and if this isnt absolutely perfect...

the first little bit of skew and that
just gets magnified as you go up.

But carrying anything up here or, God
forbid, fighting your way up here,

it would be really difficult, wouldn't it?

Yeah. Tommos not stuck down there, is he?

Wedged. - Wedged.

Using the greens from the
garden and the ground barley,

Ruth is cooking a medieval
pottage in the clay pot.

So a little bit of water in there.
Im gonna start with my leeks.

This time of year nettles
are still quite tender.

I wouldn't say that you add nettles
for flavour, particularly,

but they are quite good bulk.

They're one of the few things that grows
in profusion at this time of year.

That's softened down a bit now.

Grain is added to create
a porridge-like dish.

- Hello, Ruth.
- Oh, you're back.

- How was it today?
- Its going very, very well.

Its amazing how the whole thing is...

its all in two-dimensional
layers, but then you see...

They're like cuts... a
third dimension appear,

such as the doorway that
we've been working on.

Put the lintel on there, suddenly, wow!

It gives me a real feel,
too, of just how much impact

such places must have had on people.

You know, if everybodys living in
this sort of little tiny... one room,

hearth in the centre, low building,

and then theres that thunking
great thing out there...

its quite a shock to the system, really.
It makes a huge impact.

This is a period when these great
military buildings, religious buildings,

are starting to rise up and make
an impact on the landscape.

The team are also getting used
to the simple medieval food.

This is a triumph. This
is an absolute triumph.

For barley and vegetables, its not bad.

You're a hungry man, you've been
pounding all day at the stone,

walking on the treadwheel,
anything is good to eat.

And its not exactly easy,
either, grinding the darn stuff.

Its just as hard work as pounding
away all day in the quarry.

- Theres no easy jobs in the medieval age.
- No, there aren't, are there?

Next time... defending the castle...
with crossbows...


And architecture...

against the most powerful
weapon of the age...

Trois, deux, un... tirez!

The trébuchet.