Saxon experiment continues at West Stow village as thatched roof created for Sunken House

Anglo-Saxon houses at West Stow, where a new building is taking shape.

Anglo-Saxon houses at West Stow, where a new building is taking shape. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The first new Anglo-Saxon house in almost a decade is nearing completion at West Stow, with the site remaining at the “forefront” of experimental archaeology.

The thatched roof for the Sunken House, which replaces one of the first huts built in the 1970s, is now being constructed, with master thatcher Alan Jones continuing to explore and investigate Anglo-Saxon methods.

West Stow has been a site of international archaeological importance since excavations started in 1965, with five Anglo-Saxon buildings recreated on the original footings of the 5th-8th Century settlement.

Sarah Broughton, chairman of West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village Trust, said the latest build demonstrated their commitment to authenticity.

The experimental reconstructions are still made using the same tools, techniques and materials that would have been used 1500 years ago. With each hut thatched in a different way, Mr Jones has been an integral part of the ongoing experiment since 2008 and is looking to explore the methods settlers may have used.

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He said: “At West Stow you can show the way that thatching straw was a part of farming – they ate the grain and found a good use for the straw left behind. In addition there were other naturally occurring materials which our ancestors would have made good use of to provide a roof over their heads that kept the rain and the cold out.”

The renowned thatcher will be holding live demonstrations at the country park, near Bury St Edmunds, later this month.

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He added: “My talk and demonstrations will show the range of ways in which materials were used to their best advantage and time and resources were not wasted.

“There will be opportunities for hands-on skills in the afternoon. People of the past had a great tradition to draw upon which had made them self-sufficient in so many ways. Today, many may be surprised at their sophistication.”

Sarah Stamp, cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which runs the site, said: “These demonstrations will help to explain why we are so very proud of our experimental reconstructions at West Stow. They have been at the forefront of understanding the early Anglo-Saxons since the excavation of the site.”

Mr Jones will be giving a talk and thatching demonstrations on February 21.

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