Last week I again had the fortune to go on an amazing field trip around the UK. It is amazing the sites that I’ve been able to see just by traveling around the country. The CMS (Centre for Medieval Studies) took us on a trip to Northumbria. In two days, I say a reconstructed Anglo-Saxon farm, a Roman fort, a fourteenth century castle, and some amazing archeological sites with a quick stop at the North Sea. The quote I’ve used as the title for this post is from the Old English poem Beowulf, describing the sea and north winds before a battle, which is appropriate based on the sites we saw, but does not reflect the amazing weather we had. It was actually warm and pleasant, except at Hadrian’s Wall.
First stop, Bede’s World: a museum dedicated to the life and times of historian, theologian, and monk Bede.
The museum is full of artifacts from the archeological digs of the twin monasteries of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. Alongside reconstructions and facsimiles.
Gyrwe, the Anglo-Saxon word for Jarrow, is the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon farm at Bede’s World which utilizes experimental archeology and heritage farming techniques.
I love the textures crated by thatch, plus the skill of thatching is really impressive.
Brad and Sarah with a reconstructed cross (which was carved by one of my adviser’s old students.)
The original eighth century church is still incoporated into the fabrick of the still extant parish church on the cite. You can see the small Anglo-Saxon windows, an Anglo-Saxon doorway (now bricked up), and an Anglo-Saxon tower, which has had height added in the tenth and twelfth century. Up to the first rounded window in the photo is eighth century, the height just above the belfry style window is tenth century, while above that (cut from the photo) is twelfth century.
Anglo-Saxon Glass (reset in modern times). There is little evidence for what type of pattern may have been utilized, however the pieces found during excavation have been set into a mosaic into original window settings, which I think its really cool. This makes it the oldest stained glass window in situ (technically) even though it is a modern insertion.
Vindolanda is a Roman fort in the North of England just south (a mile or so) of Hadrian’s Wall. The earliest wooden fort dates to 85 CE, and there have been at least seven forts on the site, 5 in wood and two in stone. Most of what can be seen at the site is the fourth century fort, the last one to be built on the site.
Vindolanda is probably most famous for the tablets that have been found here, detailing day to day life and administration of a frontier fort. These have been preserved in the anaerobic soil, dating between 85 CE and 130 CE, some are kept in the museum at the site, but many are in the British Museum. They contain information from, complaints about the weather, list of supplies, military orders, and birthday party invitations.
Vindolanda has the largest collection of extant shoes from the Roman era, this ladies slipper would have been incredibly expensive.
After Vindolanda, we stopped at Hadrian’s Wall, the famous wall that signifies the end of (Roman) civilization, separating the wild norther tribes from Roman Britain. Here we are on the wall.
North of the Wall. (Insert Game of Throne comment here, there were plenty of opportunities on this trip!) You may be able to tell that here is where we found the rain on the trip, and a blustery wind. However, it was very atmospheric and somewhat appropriate for Hadrian’s wall.
Next stop Heavenfield. This is the site of an Anglo-Saxon Battle between Oswald of Bernicia (Anglo-Saxon) and Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd (Welsh, allied to Penda of Mercia) in 633 0r 634 CE. It was a decisive Northumbrian (Anglo-Saxon) victory. Bede records this victory as a turning point in the conversion of the English to Christianity. Oswald was a Christian and reunited Bernica and Deiera at this battle uniting the Kingdom of Northumbria and he had a church built on the site
That night we stayed overnight in Rothbury. The next day was equally full of sites, which I will need to save for a second post. I was nearly on sensory overload, having seen some many wonderful sites that related to my research. All in all a fabulous first day.
I just wish I had had time to go to this shop in Rothbury (which clearly has everything one might need). I just want to ask what they no longer have that they’ve covered up on the sign.