Go West (Stow), life is peaceful there… Well, not so much when there are up to 120 school children excitedly exploring an Anglo Saxon village. It certainly is a lot of fun, though!
It’s Tim again, as promised, to tell you all about my placement at West Stow Anglo Saxon Village!
The Great Hall
When I saw that West Stow was one of the places we could support as part of our traineeship, I was very excited and knew that it would be my first choice. As you may know, my days with Visitor Services are often spent occupying the Iron Age round house at Colchester Castle. Visitors to my partially-built Celtic home are often reminded of West Stow and wax lyrical about the fully re-created Anglo Saxon houses there. Of course, they also realise that it would be rather impractical to build an entire village within the confines of a Norman castle!
Having excavated the remains of an Anglo Saxon settlement, archaeologists at West Stow were free to re-create the village. Using the same materials and building over the post-holes of the original stuctures, the first houses were built in the 70s, the most recent in 2007.
As well as the village, there is also a great museum at the site. It is between these two areas that daily school tours are divided. Joe Carr – the Education Officer – runs these and has been incredibly kind and supportive in allowing me to assist him. Not only has Joe given me the chance to deliver parts of the tour, but also develop new elements for it.
Together we came up with the idea to create riddles using my pyrography set and hide them in the houses. To ensure the children’s focus remained inside, we added an extra layer of difficulty by writing them in the Anglo-Saxon runic system of “Futhorc” (or as I knew it for many years, “Dwarvish” – thank you J.R.R. Tolkien!).
We also added new layers to the Anglo Saxon legend told to the children in the great hall. I tell the story, whilst Joe plays live music to accompany me. Both these activities have received really positive feedback from children and teachers, which is very gratifying.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Joe and I helped run a free event for families from HomeStart. Tuesday involved a look round the village, with stories in the hall and our new Anglo Saxon pop song “Village on the Hill”! I also used my pyrography kit to create a souvenir for each guest; a piece of wood with their name in Futhorc burned into it. On Wednesday, we had two talented ladies called Helen and Melanie demonstrate craft skills from their online course. Using powdered silver that had been cleverly turned into clay (alchemy!!!), we created our own Stone age and Anglo Saxon- inspired necklaces. We also made clay squares with spiral patterns (inspired by a Stone Age mace-head), which will all be turned into a joint work of art to be displayed in the West Stow visitor centre.
Sadly, this Friday is my last day at West Stow. Suffice to say that I have loved every minute of it and I plan to continue to be involved in some way or other. I would happily volunteer and very possibly become a member of the Friends of West Stow.
I knew that I would enjoy the Anglo Saxon village at West Stow but, in a relatively short amount of time, I feel it has taken hold of me just as strongly as Colchester Castle. Now I just need to win the lottery, so I can take turns volunteering with each site indefinitely…
Wow, that was a long post. Sorry! Until next time, this is a rather divergent Celt/Anglo Saxon signing off.