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August 19, 2011

mastercrafts.

Monty Don, a huge fan of traditional crafts, presents a series which celebrates six of the craft skills that built Britain and its heritage, ranging from thatching to stone-masonry.

Under Monty's watchful eye, three hopefuls who are passionate about learning these trades are put through their paces by the country's leading practitioners of wood craft, metalwork, thatching, stone-masonry, weaving and stained glass. After six weeks of apprenticeship and labour, their work and achievements are judged by experts in their chosen field to see who has best mastered the craft.

Episode 1 - Green Wood Craft
In the first episode, 46-year-old garden designer Charles Hooper, full-time student and single mum Sarah Charlton, 33, and 29-year-old supply teacher Tom Vaughan begin their intensive apprenticeship working with green wood, undeterred by the gruelling schedule.
There are a little over 600 dedicated green wood workers in the country today, including the episode's mentor Guy Mallinson. He left a successful cabinet making business in London for a new life in Dorset, devoted to the simplicity of green wood craft. He works without power tools, screws or glue or fixings - just freshly cut or unseasoned wood and ingenious tools, such as the pole lathe and the steam bender.

Episode 2 - Thatching
Thatch used to cover half a million of the nation's roofs in 1900. But with only 30,000 thatched roofs now remaining, Oxfordshire-based master thatchers Matt Williams and Dave Bragg are now among just 1,000 thatchers left in the country. But with 25 years experience between them, Matt and Dave are well equipped to take on the rookies and teach them all they know.

Episode 3 - Blacksmithing
The humble village smithy was, for centuries, the most important place in the village and it was the craft of the blacksmith, more than any other, that during the industrial revolution transformed Britain into the great workshop of the world. It takes four to five years to train properly as a blacksmith. During their six-week course, our trainees learn the foundations of the craft - from how to forge precision decorative panels to making their own tools.

Episode 4 - Stained Glass
The knowledge of manufacturing glass was brought to Britain by the Romans over two thousand years ago along with the seed of a new religion called Christianity. As this religion flourished and the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages soared up towards heaven, so the craft of stained glass rose to a similarly transcendent level as it strove to tell Bible stories to a largely illiterate congregation while pouring God's light into these Gothic buildings. During their six-week course, our trainees will learn the foundations of the craft - from how to cut glass incredibly accurately to leading up and glazing a window.

Episode 5 - Weaving
2000 years ago, the Romans introduced hand looms to Britain and by the 15th century, British weaving was among the most accomplished in Europe. The industrial revolution and the invention of power looms turned the cottage weaving industry into a global market. Nowadays there are fewer than 200 people in the UK making a career from hand weaving and the group's mentor, Margo Selby, is one of them. With thirteen years' experience behind her, she supplies internationally to top boutiques and prestigious department stores from her central London studio.

Episode 6 - Stone Masonry
It was the skills and techniques of the stonemason that defined the look and build of the country right up to the Second World War. However, because of extensive bomb damage and the urgent need to rebuild, new techniques - such as prefabricated concrete buildings - put paid to the stonemason's craft. And much of the skilled work of stonemasons was diverted into restoration projects.

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