Unique reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon Hall House opens in Hampshire

Built using experimental archaeology and traditional Anglo Saxon building techniques – A unique reconstruction of a traditional Anglo-Saxon Hall house, based on Archaeological remains from Chalton, Hampshire, has been officially opened at experimental archaeology site Butser Ancient Farm by TV Presenter and Archaeologist Dr Phil Harding.

The house has been under construction since 2018 by a team of volunteers and staff under the expert leadership of Treewright Darren Hammerton. 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, whilst the roof has been thatched with water reed.

Treewright Darren Hammerton 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. 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. I’m particularly proud that all the timber has come from sustainable sources just a few miles from Butser, in much the same way our Saxon ancestors would have sourced materials”

The building is based on very local archaeology to Butser, just over a mile away from the Farm. The Anglo-Saxon settlement at Church Down, Chalton was very significant archaeologically, 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 be opening our second Anglo Saxon building – especially me, as it’s my favourite period in British archaeology and history! The first Anglo Saxon building was finished in March 2016, while our second commenced in 2018. They are both based on the foundations of two houses, dated to around 700 AD, uncovered during excavations during the 1970’s. 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.”

Attendees at the opening included the original excavation director of the Chalton Saxon settlement site, Dr Peter Addyman. The construction of the Butser Chalton Saxon House marks a continuation of the legacy of this remarkable archaeological site, 50 years on from the original excavation under his expert guidance. Dr Phil Harding, of Time Team fame, was also an alumnus of the excavation site, it was one of his first excavations back in the 1970’s and very fitting to have him part of the event to officially open the new house.

Visitors will have the chance to see the new Saxon house for themselves from next weekend as the Farm opens to visitors at weekends and school holidays from the start of April. See how people would have lived in the Anglo-Saxon period, as well as travelling further back in time via the farm’s Roman Villa, Iron Age and Bronze Age Roundhouses and Stone Age dwellings. Over the Bank Holiday Easter Weekend Anglo-Saxons from Herigeas Hundas will be in residence bringing the two Anglo Saxon Halls to life with crafts, cooking and fighting demonstrations.

Creative Developer Rachel Bingham said: “We’re delighted to be able to open the doors of our Second Saxon Hall to visitors from April, 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.”

This year Butser Ancient Farm are celebrating their 50th anniversary and the opening of the Anglo-Saxon Hall House is just one of many exciting projects taking place at the farm in its 50th 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. For more details of the events and workshops taking place at Butser Ancient Farm in its birthday year visit: www.butserancientfarm.co.uk