A piece of Anglo-Saxon heritage will be recreated in a field in Long Wittenham. The headquarters of the Sylva Foundation has received a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Foundation for the House of Wessex project.
The site of a large house or hall was discovered by an aerial archaeological survey in 1976. In Autumn 2016 an excavation by the Oxford University School of Archaeology revealed the remains of a large Anglo-Saxon building.
Now the Sylva Foundation plans to re-construct the house on the same footprint of the original building. Craftsmen and volunteers will reconstruct the timber frame adopting techniques and materials faithful to the era using traditional heritage tools and skills.
The building will be reconstructed with timber from the Blenheim Estate. It will be built using traditional materials of the time – timber and thatch with wattle and daub, a network of rods and twigs plastered with mud or clay used as a building material.
The reconstructed building will become the home for members of Wulfheodenas, an Anglo-Saxon living history society which has won international awards for its work in Anglo-Saxon projects. The group will be involved in helping run educational courses for school children.
The building will sit at the centre of the new community woodland at the Sylva Wood Centre, a hub supporting small businesses using home grown wood. The Foundation expects to lodge a full planning application with South Oxfordshire District Council in September and it’s hoped the House of Wessex project will be ready by September next year.
The education courses will involve Dorchester Abbey and local historical societies working with schools and adult education giving opportunities to learn more about the Anglo-Saxons. A new Kingdom of Wessex trail will be created connecting the new building with two nearby Anglo-Saxon sites at Sutton Courtenay and Dorchester.
Fears that the project would attract many people and generate extra traffic on a narrow country road were allayed by the Foundation’s chief executive Dr Gabriel Hemery who said: “We are not trying to create a tourist centre here. It will be a quiet place with specific events and will not be open on Sundays. We are conscious of concerns about noise, traffic and disturbance and have developed a close working relationship with the community.”
More details about the House of Wessex project at www.sylva.org.uk/wessex