Tuesday, May 12, 2009
My Anglo Saxon Warrior!
I spent last weekend in Suffolk and on Saturday we went to the Anglo-Saxon village at West Stowe. It is built on the site of an original Anglo Saxon village which was occupied between 420 and 650AD by people who migrated to this country from the area that is now part of Northern Germany. Around 650AD the village moved to a site about a mile away which is where it remains today but the reason for the move isn't known.
The original site was gradually covered by sand dunes until it was discovered quite by chance during trial quarrying for sand and gravel.
It was decided to do an archaeological excavation of the whole site and this took place between 1965 and 1972. When the excavation finished the decision was taken to reconstruct the village using the tools and materials available to the Anglo Saxons. There are no written records for this period of English history so the venture was experimental archaeology as they tried to discover how the Anglo Saxons built their houses and lived their day to day lives. Huge numbers of artefacts were found so there was plenty of material to build on. Some weekends during the year it really comes to life when an Anglo Saxon living history group lives there and carries out all the activities of daily life including storytelling round the fire which was one of the great sources of entertainment for the Anglo Saxons, children and adults alike. This way the history and legends of the family and tribe were passed from one generation to the next. I'm hoping to manage a visit to Suffolk when one of these events is on.
Before you go into the actual village there is a room with a short video telling you about West Stowe and also a display of various artefacts. Above on the right of the display case is the Brandon Hoard which is on loan to West Stowe but was discovered near by. It dates to the lst century AD and consists of an iron bound bronze cauldron, a wine strainer, a skillet and a bronze bound wooden vessel. It probably belonged to a wealthy chieften and was hidden during the Roman invasion of Britain. The owner may well have lost his life when taking part in Boudicca's rebellion around AD60 - she was the legendary female warrior chieftain of the Iceni tribe who led a revolt against the Roman invaders and East Anglia was her territory.
Permanent residents of the village - at least until the autumn when they will probably be providing a selection of hams, bacon and pork sausages! Gabriel liked these a lot.
The interior of one of the buildings showing a central hearth in a wooden frame. Several of the houses had these so it must be a recognized style of hearth. I have a feeling that oak doesn't burn very easily so it may be safer than it looks. Any experts who could comment on this? Against the wall are warp weighted looms with the clay loom weights hanging from them.
George was having a good time and he thinks he'd like to be an Anglo Saxon.
Gabriel sees himself as the tribal chieftain and is trying out the chair for size:)
One or two of the Romano British re-enactors who were in the village when we were there, not a full scale presence but giving a little authentic atmosphere.
One of the houses had a built in box bed not unlike the stone box beds found at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands. Neil prodded the straw filled mattress and announced that he didn't think it would be very comfortable!
There is an excellent small museum at West Stowe and on the way in this splendid gentleman flew up onto the fence and cried 'cockadoodledoo!' very loudly several times much to Gabriel's delight. I managed to catch it in full flow.
It was a serious museum but also had things for children to touch and feel including this replica of the helmet found in the burial at Sutton Hoo which is not far away and is scheduled for a visit sometime this summer. He was thrilled at having it on and wanted to see himself in the mirror. It's a poor photo because of all the lights.
Then mummy discovered a dressing up box and he became a small Anglo Saxon. At this point daddy got in on the act as you can see at the start of this post. Gabriel thought it was hilarious seeing daddy dressed up like this. I think he rather looks the part!
I had to leave after lunch on Sunday but in the morning we went to Shotley Gate which is on the estuary where two rivers, the Stour and the Orwell, meet to flow into the sea. Shotley Gate is on a little peninsula in the middle and on one side is the port of Felixstowe and the other is the port of Harwich. The cranes are in Felixstowe which is the largest container port in the UK.
Shotley Gate itself has a nice marina and the estuary is full of boats both cruisers and sailing craft.
There are little sandy beaches and it's possible to walk for 10 miles along a path that goes by the river and through lovely countryside so Neil tells me.
The beaches are thick with seashells, crab skeletons, beautiful coloured pebbles, seaweed and the occasional stranded starfish. Neil and Gabriel are looking for shells so that Francesca can make a shell necklace.
Time to go and get some lunch at the local pub but on the way there we were able to see the lock opening for a boat to move out of the Marina and onto the estuary.
This will be my last post for a while as early in the morning I am off to Sussex and Dorset for a week. A week in the pouring rain by the looks of it too! The forecast is dire for tomorriow and I'm not much looking forward to the drive but hey ho - maybe I'll be lucky and the sun will shine: