Unique reconstruction of traditional Anglo-Saxon hall house officially opened at Butser Ancient Farm

A UNIQUE reconstruction of a traditional Anglo-Saxon hall house was officially opened at an experimental archaeology site by TV presenter Dr Phil Harding.

By Steve Deeks
Tuesday, 5th April 2022, 8:21 pm

The house at Butser Ancient Farm, based on archaeological remains from Chalton, has taken nearly four years to complete after work started in 2018.

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Now thanks to the hard work of volunteers and staff, under the expert leadership of Darren Hammerton, the ancient house has now thrown open its doors – with Time Team’s Dr Harding present to mark the occasion.

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Reconstruction of a traditional Anglo-Saxon hall house at Butser Ancient Farm. Pic supplied

All timber used in the construction came from within a 10-mile radius of Butser Ancient Farm, with a combination of English oak, sweet chestnut and hazel used in the construction. The roof was thatched with water reeds.

The settlement at Church Down was significant archaeologically with it revealing evidence of large and sophisticated buildings at a time when many thought Anglo-Saxons lived in simple small pit houses called Grubenhäuser.

Experimental archaeologist Trevor Creighton, from Butser Ancient Farm, said: ‘We’re really excited to have opened our second Anglo Saxon building.

‘The first Anglo Saxon building was finished in March 2016, while we started work for our second in 2018. They are both based on the foundations of two houses, dated to around 700 AD, uncovered during excavations during the 1970s.

Reconstruction of a traditional Anglo-Saxon hall house at Butser Ancient Farm. Pic supplied

Archaeologists revealed evidence of 61 structures, numerous fences and other features, as well as the remains of animal bones, cereals, metal work and a few small objects, including spear and arrow tips and decorative objects. Rather wonderfully, you can see the site of the excavation from the front doors of the houses constructed at Butser.’

Creative developer Rachel Bingham said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to open the doors of our second Saxon hall to visitors and also to be welcoming Anglo-Saxon re-enactment group Herigeas Hundas to the farm over the Easter weekend to inhabit and bring both our Saxon halls to life.

‘Visitors can expect a jam-packed bank holiday weekend of crafts and cooking demonstrations as well as spectacular fighting displays. Throughout the whole of the Easter holidays visitors can learn a Saxon craft and take part on our special Saxon themed trail in celebration of the house.’

Mr Hammerton, of Treewright, said: ‘I have been interested in ancient and traditional timber framing techniques for a long time and it has been brilliant to be able to use these skills in constructing the Saxon house at Butser Ancient Farm.

Reconstruction of a traditional Anglo-Saxon hall house at Butser Ancient Farm. Pic supplied

‘This is the second Saxon Hall house we have built here and both test different theories and show different approaches to early medieval building construction. No nails have been used in the construction of the timber frame – instead I have made over 200 trunnels or tree nails – wedges of oak that have been used to secure the timbers in place.’

This year Butser Ancient Farm is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the opening of the Anglo-Saxon house among many projects taking place this year.

This includes a new mosaic being laid in the Roman Villa, two new Iron Age roundhouse constructions and a week of experimental archaeology for visitors to get involved with during the Festival of Archaeology at the end of July.

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For more details of events and workshops visit: www.butserancientfarm.co.uk

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