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Birth of the House of Wessex project

posted on September 12, 2018

Professor Helena Hamerow, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, has provided much of the academic expertise for the House of Wessex project. We asked Helena to summarise how the House of Wessex project came about.

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016

Archaeological excavations at Sylva Wood Centre September 2016

Sylva quotes

Helena Hamerow said

The idea for the ‘House of Wessex’ project came about as the result of an archaeological excavation by the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology and Department of Continuing Education on land owned by the Sylva Foundation. The aim of the dig was to establish whether a rectangular cropmark identified in aerial photographs was the footprint of a rare type of building: an Anglo-Saxon hall.  The excavations — directed by DPhil student Adam McBride and Dr Jane Harrison in 2016 – were part of a wider investigation led by Professor Helena Hamerow called ‘The Origins of Wessex’. The project aims to gain a better understanding of the emergence in the Upper Thames valley of a leading dynasty referred to by Bede as the Gewisse, who later became known as the West Saxons.  Long Wittenham seems to have been a key centre of the Gewisse, as indicated by two richly furnished cemeteries excavated here in the 19th century, and a group of cropmarks indicating the presence of a ‘great hall complex’, of which the excavated building appears to be an outlier.

The dig uncovered the foundations of a large timber hall, radiocarbon dated to the seventh century. This period is sometimes known as the ‘Age of Sutton Hoo’ and is the time when the first Anglo-Saxon kingdoms emerged. The dig led to conversations about the importance in the Anglo-Saxon world of timber (an Anglo-Saxon word that referred not only to the building material, but also to building itself). This in turn led the Sylva Foundation to pursue the exciting possibility of reconstructing the building in its original setting.  The project offers researchers as well as the local community an exceptional opportunity to learn more about the resources needed and methods used — as well as the challenges faced — by those who constructed these extraordinary buildings.

Read more about Professor Hamerow on the School of Archaeology pages


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Anglo-Saxon open weekend 13-14 October

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Anglo-Saxon weekend poster-image

Anglo-Saxon weekend poster-image

13 & 14th October, 10am-4pm  *FREE ENTRY*

We have a very exciting programme of activities lined up for our first Anglo-Saxon open weekend, as part of our House of Wessex project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Over the two days we will offer opportunities for all the family to come along and experience a wide range of Anglo-Saxon activities.

  • Watch and learn about Anglo-Saxon treewrighting (not ‘carpentry’!) including cleaving and hewing timbers, and timber framing techniques.
  • Have a go at hurdle making and the opportunity to try your hand at mixing wattle and daub!
  • A thatcher will be holding demonstrations on the thatching techniques to be used for our building.
  • Children can join in milling, from start to finish, to help make bread using a rotary quern-stone.
  • International award-winning living history society, the Wulfheodenas, will be demonstrating a wide range of Anglo-Saxon arts and crafts.  There will be textile production, from fleece to fabric, bone carving, antler working, leather working, jewellery and material making and lots more.
  • Children can listen to an Anglo-Saxon storyteller and learn and play games from this fascinating period in history.   Each tent will have a mini display and people can see and ask questions about each activity.

We look forward to welcoming you and your family. See the event on Facebook.

Location: Sylva Wood Centre, Long Wittenham, OX14 4QT (map)

Read more about the House of Wessex project

 


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Anglo-Saxon Treewrighting course (Day 3) 14Oct2018

posted on August 20, 2018

14th October 2018 (Day 3)

As part of the exciting House of Wessex project we are running three consecutive one-day treewrighting courses with tutors from the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Places are available for one, two, or three days. During the courses, samples will be made of the key building components for a major historical reconstruction taking place in 2019.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

Learning will include a selection of the following:

  • Timber conversion – cleaving and hewing timbers into shape for posts and plates (no saws were used in this period)
  • Foundations – earthfast anchoring of the posts
  • Axe carpentry – The shaping of stubby tusk tenons and through-mortises, grooving boards, fashioning halvings and lap joints
  • Fixings – Shaping the characteristic Saxon “treenails”, a peg with an enlarged head, often wedged internally
  • Walls and roof – creating wattle panels and hurdles, for the walls and the roof underthatch respectively

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). Although you will be working undercover, the course will be ‘outdoors’, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing. Drinks and food will be provided. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) is available on the site. More details will follow your booking.

Carpenters Fellowship

You may book for one or more days, up to a maximum of all three days. Please book separately for each day that you want to attend.

book-now

Read more and Book your place for Day 3 (14 October)

Category: Courses, House of Wessex
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Anglo-Saxon Treewrighting course (Day 2) 13Oct2018

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13th October 2018 (Day 2)

As part of the exciting House of Wessex project we are running three consecutive one-day treewrighting courses with tutors from the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Places are available for one, two, or three days. During the courses, samples will be made of the key building components for a major historical reconstruction taking place in 2019.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

Learning will include a selection of the following:

  • Timber conversion – cleaving and hewing timbers into shape for posts and plates (no saws were used in this period)
  • Foundations – earthfast anchoring of the posts
  • Axe carpentry – The shaping of stubby tusk tenons and through-mortises, grooving boards, fashioning halvings and lap joints
  • Fixings – Shaping the characteristic Saxon “treenails”, a peg with an enlarged head, often wedged internally
  • Walls and roof – creating wattle panels and hurdles, for the walls and the roof underthatch respectively

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). Although you will be working undercover, the course will be ‘outdoors’, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing. Drinks and food will be provided. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) is available on the site. More details will follow your booking.

Carpenters Fellowship

You may book for one or more days, up to a maximum of all three days. Please book separately for each day that you want to attend.

book-now

Read more and Book your place for Day 2 (13 October)

Category: Courses, House of Wessex
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Anglo-Saxon Treewrighting course (Day 1) 12Oct2018

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12th October 2018 (Day 1)

As part of the exciting House of Wessex project we are running three consecutive one-day treewrighting courses with tutors from the Carpenters’ Fellowship. Places are available for one, two, or three days. During the courses, samples will be made of the key building components for a major historical reconstruction taking place in 2019.

House of Wessex timber frame

House of Wessex timber frame

Learning will include a selection of the following:

  • Timber conversion – cleaving and hewing timbers into shape for posts and plates (no saws were used in this period)
  • Foundations – earthfast anchoring of the posts
  • Axe carpentry – The shaping of stubby tusk tenons and through-mortises, grooving boards, fashioning halvings and lap joints
  • Fixings – Shaping the characteristic Saxon “treenails”, a peg with an enlarged head, often wedged internally
  • Walls and roof – creating wattle panels and hurdles, for the walls and the roof underthatch respectively

Full training will be provided (no prior experience necessary). Although you will be working undercover, the course will be ‘outdoors’, so you will need to wear appropriate clothing. Drinks and food will be provided. Overnight camping (bring your own tent) is available on the site. More details will follow your booking.

Carpenters Fellowship

You may book for one or more days, up to a maximum of all three days. Please book separately for each day that you want to attend.

book-now

Read more and Book your place for Day 1 (12 October)

Category: Courses, House of Wessex
Tags:

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Model of the House of Wessex

posted on August 13, 2018

A realistic model of the House of Wessex has been made by volunteer Brian Hempsted.

Brian Hempsted has been volunteering with Sylva Foundation for the last year, offering his considerable woodcarving skills in helping resident sculptor Simon Clements complete the Tree Charter poles. When he heard about the House of Wessex project, Brian admitted that he was also a keen model maker and offered to make an accurate model of the proposed building at 1:50 scale.

We’ve made a short film showing the model, which he’s just completed. We think it’s just fantastic!

The House of Wessex project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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Tree Tools for Schools

posted on June 21, 2018

We were pleased to have been approached by the Woodland Trust for help in developing a new national resource for schools to be called Tree Tools for Schools. The resources are now live on the Woodland Trust website.

Tree Tools for Schools

Tree Tools for Schools

Our team adapted some existing Sylva Foundation education resources to develop the ‘Working with Wood’ activities. The activity worksheets and teachers notes cover five topic areas all linked to subjects areas in the Key Stage 2 Primary School Curriculum:

  • What does wood mean to you? Learn how wood has been used throughout history and how it is used today.
  • Different trees for different needs! Discover the many reasons for planting trees. And find out how a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak!
  • The story of wood: from tree to table! Follow the journey of a tree from the forest to the sawmill and see how it’s transformed into a table.
  • What are broadleaf and conifer trees? Learn about hardwoods and softwoods, and how they are different.
  • The power of planting trees! Find out why we need to plant millions more trees in the UK. And start your own campaign to inspire others!

Visit the Woodland Trust website

 


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Expressions of Interest sought for timber-framing of Anglo-Saxon reconstructed house

posted on June 18, 2018

Sylva Foundation seek expressions of interest from timber-framing and archaeological specialists for the design and faithful reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon house using traditional treewrighting tools and techniques, on the same footprint as an original historical artefact in south Oxfordshire, and to deliver workshops and onsite training.

The charity has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon timber-framed building in a new project known as the House of Wessex. A summary of the project can be found at: www.sylva.org.uk/wessex

Expressions will be accepted only via the following EOI online form:

https://goo.gl/forms/PFYI6lKxUYg08MlT2

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST IS FRIDAY 29TH JUNE 2018


Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


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Forest Schools for All

posted on June 15, 2018

Forest Schools for All is a bold new education project for Sylva Foundation, in partnership with the Forest School Association, and The Ernest Cook Trust, which is also the main funder of the project. The three leading environmental education organisations have come together with the ultimate aim of increasing and sustaining access to Forest Schools for all children.

Celebrating the launch of FSFA 11June2018

Celebrating the announcement of ‘Forest Schools for All’ during a Forest School session at the Sylva Wood Centre: Simon Gould (Director of Learning, Ernest Cook Trust), Jen Hurst (Education Manager, Sylva Foundation) and Sarah Lawfull (Director, Forest School Association).

For the next two years we will develop and test new approaches across three English countries—Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire—with a view to rolling these out at national scale across England (and perhaps the UK) with more partners, support, and funding.

Sylva Foundation Chief Executive, Gabriel Hemery, said “This project builds on the past ten years of Sylva Foundation’s innovative forest education projects, in particular work to support woodland management in Forest Schools thanks to funding from the Patsy Wood Trust.” He continued “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Forest School Association, and especially grateful to The Ernest Cook Trust for agreeing, not only to fund the project, but to act as a main partner.”

The Ernest Cook Trust Chief Executive, Victoria Edwards, said: “Sylva Foundation is a natural fit for The Ernest Cook Trust as we collaborate more and build partnerships with like-minded organisations and estates. Forest Schools for All will both support a more strategic approach to the type of demographic we reach in our education work, and give our outdoor learning team a great opportunity to pilot and refine Forest School programmes across our estates and beyond.“

Project highlights

  • The project will start in summer 2018 with the first national online survey of Forest Schools. We aim to provide much-needed evidence about the barriers and opportunities to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools. The survey outcomes will also help us measure project progress.
  • In the first two years of this project, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire will be focus counties. Supported by national survey results, we will develop pilot projects in these counties, aiming to overcome barriers to establishing and sustaining Forest Schools.
  • The three counties will aim to become national examples of Forest School excellence by having a high quantity and a high quality of Forest Schools through the FSA-recognised provider scheme.
  • The Ernest Cook Trust will create England’s first ever dedicated grants programme for Forest Schools and Woodland Owners. These small grants will be critical drivers of the project by providing much needed contributions towards the costs of Forest School Leader training, and also the costs of Forest School site development in school grounds or private woodlands.
  • To achieve and sustain the national strategic ambitions of the Forest Schools for All project we will invite public, private and charitable organisations, and individual stakeholders, to share in this exciting vision.

Further Information

What is Forest School?

Forest School is a unique approach that gives young people increased contact with, and knowledge of, the natural world, and a powerful process that enables the holistic personal development of young people.

Since 1993, regular Forest School sessions have become part of the mainstream timetable in thousands of schools across the UK: they are very popular with parents, teachers, children and Ofsted. More details about the six Forest School principles of good practice can be found at: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org/full-principles-and-criteria-for-good-practice.

Partner organisations

The Ernest Cook Trust (ECT), based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK’s leading educational charities, inspiring young people to achieve better educational and life outcomes by learning from the land and is rooted in the conservation and management of the countryside.  It owns and manages more than 8,900 hectares of landed estates across five English counties. ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through education programmes (including Forest School training) on its estates, and by giving grants. Each year its Trustees distribute around £2m to a range of education initiatives. www.ernestcooktrust.org.uk 

The Forest School Association is the National professional body for Forest School, running the recognised providers and trainers’ scheme to ensure high quality Forest School. It has more than 2,000 members.  www.forestschoolassociation.org

Sylva Foundation is an environmental charity offering UK-wide support for forest schools via the myForest for Education website (more than 1,000 registered users). It owns a small estate in Oxfordshire, where it runs the Sylva Wood Centre fostering innovation and enterprise in wood. It has strong links with the woodland owner community across the UK (4,000 owners managing 70,000ha).  www.sylva.org.uk


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Expressions of Interest sought for thatching of Anglo-Saxon reconstructed house

posted on June 12, 2018

Sylva Foundation seeks expressions of interest from thatchers for the thatching of an Anglo-Saxon building to be reconstructed using traditional thatching methods and materials, and to deliver workshops and onsite training, in south Oxfordshire.

The charity has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon timber-framed building in a new project known as the House of Wessex. A summary of the project can be found at: www.sylva.org.uk/wessex

Expressions will be accepted only via the following EOI online form:

https://goo.gl/forms/qBRYYWY3kvNCLqf32

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST IS FRIDAY 29TH JUNE 2018


Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


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