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The making of Wreckers 7: William Stanton

Updated Sunday 8th April 2007

The Timewatch Team diary about the making of the Wreckers programme. The team's quest takes them to the Goodwin Sands and Norfolk.

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Tuesday 3 April

We’re at the start of our second leg of filming – on the East coast. One of the people we want to bring to life in the programme is William Stanton, the infamous Deal pilot and boatman. In Bella’s book, she quotes some passages from Stanton’s autobiography where he gives a good insight into the life of a boatman in the 19th century.

In his writings, he talks about how dangerous the boatman’s work was but that there was little payment for this work leading many of them to cross the line into illegal salvage. It’s a frank account and gives a vivid picture of coastal life a hundred and fifty years ago.

When we came to Deal on our recce, we discovered that the tiny museum here had the original Stanton manuscript in an old battered box in its library. It is this book that we have come to film. Bella is entranced to hold this original in her hand and we all admire the beautiful writing and lovely hand drawn illustrations – it’s a real treasure.

Deal [Image: Fast Eddie 42 under CC-BY licence] Creative commons image Icon Fast Eddie 42 under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license

Thursday 5 April

Yesterday we went out to the Goodwin Sands to film the “ship swallower” as the treacherous sand banks that rise out of the water twice a day have become known. There are more than three thousand known shipwrecks on these banks so it is an important story to cover in the film and an eerie place to film.

Today we have come up to the Norfolk coast to interview an ex-RNLI man who has some surprisingly frank admissions to make about his ancestors – for he candidly admits that before his forefathers saved life, they saved property. In other words, they were wreckers before they became lifeboatmen.

It’s refreshing to hear someone talk so openly about wrecking and place it firmly in the context of its time, without trying to make apologies for it according to today’s values.

Find out more

More on the Timewatch Wreckers programme

Study history with The Open University





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