2016 Update

It is hard to believe that it is well over a year since we updated the blog, but such is the case. When we last posted we had just started our 2015 season, and now we are just closing down our 2016 one, although in that time a lot of things have happened; all good I hasten to add!

As way of a catch up I’ll post a few images of the things we have got up to!

At the end of May in 2015, we held a small market event with some friends from Svartland Vikings. It was a great event and we forged some great friendships. This event was also the first full event of our newest members: Ulfrik and Leonor, with their little girl Inês.merged cropped effect.jpg

We also had our usual run of living history events throughout the year, including our usual full week holiday in August.  dsc_0016…. and our seeming endless feasts! dsc_0016In 2016, we began the year with a few preparatory weekends, but in May began our full living history events programme. Plenty more lamp lit feasts…

20160430_202336… and of course training the youngsters!


We also held a second May viking market with the Svartland Vikings, and guests, this year over 40 of us turned up, and in addition we were able to take advantage of some alterations to the field next to the village, to really integrate our living history displays, and our two groups! It was a fantastic event, and I am very excited for 2017s event!






I was also invited to attend the Viking World- Diversity and Change conference, which was a great event, filled with some stimulating lectures. I also had to opportunity to sell some of my reproduction items, which proved popular, as well as making some good friends and contacts! In general, the last 18 months have seen my small reproduction item business do quite well, so if you are interested please have a look over at blueaxereproductions.com or drop me an email at blueaxereproductions@gmail.com. I hope to update the website with more of the items I have been working on over the winter 2016-17.


A couple of us also got the opportunity to attend the Heysham Viking festival (follow the hyperlink for Facebook pictures of the event), hosted by the Vikings reenactment society as guests. It was a fun event, with amazing weather, and we got the opportunity to demonstrate some of our crafts and trade with other reenactors and members of the public. The event is scheduled to run again in 2017, and we hope that we get the opportunity to attend again.


We spent our usual full week at Murton in August, as did our usual array of crafts, cooking, and a little weapons training, as it has been so long since many of us fought, that even the basics are getting rusty!dsc_0016







We also took the opportunity to take some portrait photographs of our viking characters whilst we were there. There are still some we need to take, but it was good fun, and we got a few nice images.










I was also invited to speak (with my archaeologist hat on), at an event at Largs, which was a Vikings training weekend, and a celebration of the Glasgow Vikings 40th anniversary. I gave a talk on the viking cemetery at Cumwhitton I was involved in publishing, and also some of the reproductions I made for Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery.


That brings us up to date, with just one more end of year banquet, and a few social and craft events outside of living history. We hope to have a busy year next year, and this time we’ll make more effort to update the blog more regularly!



Boots and Spurs

No this is not the second hit by Brennan Huff and Dale Doback (warning explicit lyrics) from Prestige Worldwide, but a little update on some of the crafts we have been up to in preparation for the first proper weekends at the village in Murton.

We have been to the Village once already, but as the weather was incredibly poor, we had an awful lot of building maintenance to do, and the site was closed to the public we decided to just get on with that, and abandoned the reenacting, so the wooly pants have yet to be worn in anger this year. We have another trip to Murton coming up next weekend, which again will involve more maintenance, but this time properly in kit, and that should be the last for a few weekends which will be more craft and fun based, as the weather will be warm enough for us to take the kids along again… whether or not it remains dry is another matter!

We have been getting all the clothes out, seeing what fits the little ones, and what doesn’t, and what we might need new.I decided to finally get some more leather from a fantastic store called LeProvo in Newcastle, and make some more pairs of shoes and boots.

Whilst the kids feet were growing fast, I was reluctant to make shoes as they would want redoing every six months, but Now Hakon is 5, then he has slowed down a little growth wise, and also we will also at least get a second use out of them when Ragenleif gets a bit bigger. Therefore, he finally has his own pair of viking boots, and very cute too!


I must admit, I have been thinking about these since we went to Ireland early in the year and saw this:

DSC_0155Archaeologically small sizes seem to be the most common finds, which I have often heard people say is because of ‘smaller feet back then’. However, we really have no evidence for this, indeed average heights are not much smaller than today. Average heights for the period in Scandinavia and the UK tend to average around the 5ft7-5ft8 mark for men and 5ft2 for women, compared to 5ft9 and 5ft3 today… so actually there isn’t much in it, indeed Viking warriors graves often average out as pretty tall (around 5ft11-6ft). However, when you think logically about shoes it is pretty obvious. When my (UK size 9) shoes are worn through beyond saving for me to use, there is actually a lot of good leather still left in them that can be cut down to a smaller size, until ultimately we get to small adult/kids sizes, when they are probably about done anyway. This would leave us with a small size skew archaeologically.

I have also completed a new pair of toggle boots for Aelgifu/Katla and am making myself a pair of ‘tall’ boot based on the finds from Hedeby and Deventer, which I finally got access to the leather publication of. You can see an image of a reconstruction of the boots here:

They are the tallest boots I know dated to the 9th-10th century, coming almost to my mid calf, though not quite. They are also the inspiration for the ‘viking sea boots’ which is a bit of a ‘reenactorism’. The latter often come to the knee, and never have the odd little ‘winkle picker’ toe point. Still these are very unusual, and I do not know of any evidence for them in any UK sites or in sites in modern Scandinavia, where lower ankle height boots are the norm until later in the 12th-13th century. Indeed even in Hedeby and Deventer the low shoe and ankle boots seems to be king. Here is my final attempt:


Secondly, and inexplicably linked to shoes and boots, are spurs (indeed the boots from Cumwhitton were only preserved as mineralized remains on two pairs of spurs). I have finally got around to finishing off my spurs; based on the Cumwhitton finds, I forged at York Last year, and here they are:

IMG_20150414_002901It has been surprising looking deeper into Spurs in the 9th-10th century, and finding out just how many there are. Particularly in Viking graves in the North West of England, but also Scotland, and Ireland like these ones in the National Museum of Ireland.

20150221_14052220150221_140518Clearly they were an important item of dress and equipment, and I believe that they should be considered an item off dress of a man of a high rank, much the same way we would look on a sword, or high quality belt fittings, knives, pendants, and other items. The objects people wore were always functional, but it would be foolhardy to think they didn’t also convey something about the person; who they were, what they did, how much wealth they had. A pair of spurs may well mark a high-ranking viking, or even Saxon, out the same way they would a cowboy or a lawman in the old west.

I have also been busy finishing making a door and shutters for the Viking house, which hopefully I can get installed this weekend. Either way, I’ll be sure to get some pictures and update you all on the progress!

Sliding top boxes

Clearly these must be for Viking Dominoes! These are again a series of objects from early medieval Dublin, from our recent visit. I have known about these little boxes for year and never seen one in the flesh, and like most period finds they didn’t disappoint. Once thing it is easy to forget is often how small, fine, well made, and detailed these objects are, particularly as within a living history environment, many of our castings and replicas are too big, too heavy, and too crude. I have absolutely no idea  what they are for but I guess any kinds of sewing items, gaming counters, jewelery, or religious relics could be kept in one.


This one however, blew me away. It’s hard to see from the photograph, but it is miniscule. I was not convinced you could even fit a small sewing needle in this. So perhaps it was for a keepsake, a hair from the head of a saint, or perhaps even their children? If anyone else has any ideas I’d love to hear them!



National Museum of Ireland

This last weekend the group went on a ‘civvies’ trip out to Dublin to visit the museums in the City which we have been planning and saving for, for several months. Dublin is noted for its Viking past and collection of amazing objects in the museums, and we hoped to view these, and to learn about the Early Medieval and Medieval origins of the town.

Safe to say, we had a fantastic time; the weather was freezing, but the Guinness was good! We also took the opportunity to book a tour with Fin Dwyer who created and hosts the Irish History Podcast. Fins tour was very enjoyable, and was a great opportunity to walk round Dublin to try to get a sense of what was there 1000 years ago, when you strip away all the roads and modern buildings. Anyone who hasn’t checked out his podcast I highly recommend it, and if you are visiting Dublin yourself, I’d recommend his tour over any of the tourist focused ones, as he is actually an Archaeologist and Historian and his knowledge is more than just a prepared script.

The real star of the show for me, after the beer, was the Viking collections in the National Museum of Irelands Archaeology Museum. We took so many photographs, and actually made a couple of trips round. It’s a shame to hide these images away, particularly as so much of the material is unpublished, and largely unknown, so what I thought I would do is share some of our pictures in regular posts, with what I can remember of the details.

For starters is this little oddity. I confess, I have always ‘known’ leather bottles existed in the early medieval period, but never knew of any actual examples extant. Yet here this little one was. Sadly there were no more specific dating details so I don’t know for sure if this was from 600 AD or 1100 AD, or somewhere in between, but from the decoration, it wouldn’t look out-of-place in a 8th-12th century context, though much of the motifs are very long-lived. I also can’t remember where it was from.

It is very like a costrel in form (or should we perhaps say costrels are like these!), and approximately 30cm across and 15-20 cm deep. It appears to be in three parts; the ‘top’ face here is fairly flat, though now dished in, and the back is bowl-shaped, and these two stitched together as visible here.

DSC_0096There is also a separate formed mouth piece, which seems to be stitched on similar to the Hedeby Quivers. Presumably there was a waxed wooden plug/cork in the top, and there is also a suspension cord. The leather it is constructed out of seemed pretty thick, perhaps 3-4mm. It was pretty clear that the domed ‘back’ part had been formed first, before decoration and assembly.

DSC_0098Decoration… yeah… and boy was it! It was arranged in bands running around the vessel with a central motif in the middle of each face, and a mix of motifs. The ever-present Greek key, and triple stranded knotwork motif, and some elaborate triskelesque (yeah I made up a word) swirls. The central circular motif on each face, was made out of triquetra arranged with one point in the centre, and the other two points touching the edge of the circle, and the spaces in between filled with triangle, cross hatched in opposing 90 degree directions. You can breathe a sigh of relief if you got this far, I’m not going to describe the whole thing, but hopefully those notes will help clarify some details for any of you thinking of making replica; it’s certainly going on my ‘to do’ list this year!



We’re all going on… a Summer Holiday

If the title of this post has induced horrendous visions of being stuck on a bus with Cliff Richard singing, have no fear, this is actually about something far less terrifying; a long hall full of armed and marauding vikings. At the beginning of August our society held its annual weeks holiday at Murton Park. The group has attempted to hold a week-long event there since the first one in July 2004, 10 years ago, and also during the event we had our 11 year anniversary as a society and celebrated it in our own unique way as you will see.


We stopped in another house this weekend, as our is still undergoing some work on the roof and daub, and with the kids along, it was much easier to simply stop elsewhere.This is a picture of the house we stopped in on the first holiday, and you can see how long ago it is, as there is a rare straw bale, the house didn’t have a porch yet, and most importantly, Anlaf still had hair!

Jorviking Holiday 2004-03

Here is the same house now, which you can see has a convenient porch and deck outside, which is very useful with the kids.


We brought a lot of things to stop the full week, and set out the inside as best we could.


There is something quite satisfying about stopping in these places for a longer period, as you get the opportunity to slide into a more natural pattern of eating and sleeping and it becoming ‘normal’. The only problem is, as with most holidays, just as you are getting used to it, its time to come home again.


Either way the kids enjoyed the week in their usual fashion, Hakon spent a lot of time fighting and joking around.


Ragenleif… well she did her own thing as usual


We got on with a few jobs on the village, such as shingling the backside of our house, fitting the remaining shutter, and Al gave us a great hand by building out and trimming the eaves on the front of the house. Osric and Snorri also got a lot of daubing done inside Snorri’s house, and on the side and front of our house, Osric being watched here by Hakon and Ragenleif.


During the week Odin also got a bit of a haircut of salad leaves, like a larger version of an cress-haired egg-man!


We also get more opportunity to wear many of the different and elaborate outfits we have made over the years. Here is Katla in her Viking style strap dress and accessories with Ragenleif.




Here is Einar ad Hakon showing off their dress, Einar in a copy of the Viborg shirt, with linen trousers and winingas, with a belt and seax.


However, where the real beauty and mystery of the village comes to life is at night, by the light of the fire.


By firelight everything seems more enigmatic. One can put aside reality and be drawn a little into the atmosphere. The fire flickers, and shiny objects glitter and sparkle in the dark. The dark corners and shadows draw a veil over the dirt, dust, and any authenticity inaccuracies just like snow does, and the imagination and the senses seem much more alive in the dark.


It is a wonderful place to take photographs, though with the low light it can be quite tricky. Any attempt to artificially light the place looks awful, flash or any lighting of any other kind can easily destroy the wonderfull shadows and the yellow glow. Yet there is precious little light to capture images without graining and blurring, and often I resort to putting liquid wax or oil onto the fire to produce a bright flare for a few seconds to allow me to use a slightly faster shutter speed. If you notice anyone a little dazed looking on the photographs; now you know why!



We also tend to let the children stay up until they fall asleep, and often they will play viking and other ancient games, like Katla and Hakon here playing pick-up stones, a scene I can almost image all those years ago; a boy and his mum playing a game by firelight.


After the cooking is done, everyone gets together for the evening meal. The cooking and the meals are a great opportunity to use known viking ingredients and suggested recipes and attempt to investigate some of the possible tastes of the tenth century: Lamb and onions with leaf salad and beetroot, onion soup and bread, bacon, boar, and barley, vegetable stew amongst other treats.


Of course, in such an environment, it would be rude not to same some fine brewed ales and meads as well!


I’d like to pick up a final point I mentioned briefly earlier, and it is a point I have also heard echoed by Professor Neil Price in his Messenger lectures at Cornell University about firelight and shiny things, notably metalwork. You can see on this picture of me, the effect the brass, tin, and silver of my belt buckles, strap ends, seax sheath fittings, and arm rings have in a dark hall. You can also see how the tin sheet on the Tating ware jug, and the tinned studs on the iron-bound box glow. To people in the 10th century, this would seem as enticing and enchanting as it does to us, perhaps even more so.





I’d also like to introduce you to two new looks Einar and Snorri are trying, entitled ‘Blued Steel’

DSC_0088 DSC_0127Zoolander eat your heart out!

These are a final few  shots of the village the last night before we left, with the sun slowly setting.DSC_0155

You can see the back side of our house finally shingled here, with the new shutter on the reverse side fitted.DSC_0150

Lastly a final shot of the house, with a little more of the roof finished, and the two daubed panels. Still quite a bit of work to go, but a good deal of progress made none the less. DSC_0175

It was a shame to leave, but we had a good trip, with more progress on the house, some good feasts and chats, and even a sneaky trip into the Yorkshire museum and the Jorvik centre to check out some of the real stuff again. We will be back again in early September for a birthday celebration, and another great banquet!


Clothes, and boxes, and cups… oh my!

We have been busy over the last couple of weeks with some crafts projects and I’d thought I’d share a few of them with you all. We have the groups annual week-long holiday at the Danelaw village at Murton Park Museum of farming next week and we have been furiously getting things made and ready for the week ahead. This has included buying straw hats, sharpening and repairing axes, sourcing wicker baskets, waterproofing shoes, cleaning pans and cauldrons, making implements to cook with, planning food to cook, and making and repairing clothes to last the full week.

It was my wife’s birthday last week, and I decided to make her a present. Using some spare off-cuts we had I made her a jewelry box of her own to keep her Viking treasures in, as the one we had been sharing was getting a bit full!


The box is not an exact copy but it uses elements of many exisitng finds, combined in what I feel is an appropriate period fashion. It has a lot in common with one of the boxes from the Birka cemetery, such as its small size, the handle, and general design. The Birka example uses decorative copper-alloy plates, but iron straps and brackets are common to many boxes including Cumwhitton and the boxes from the Oseberg ship, and the tinned nails are found on the Oseberg ship boxes.



The handle and lock plate are pretty ubiquitous on most boxes from the period, and the exact design of the lock being is that of a verticle mounted type (as described here), found on many boxes, both Viking and Anglo-Saxon. On this last photo you can just see the bluey-purple tinge of the metal, which I heated and quenched to darken it.


The key is not the final version, as I didn’t have any steel appropriate. But it serves to open the box for now. The two teeth and the handle can be seen, and how they reach round inside the lock, to depress the spring, then allowing the key to act as a handle, and slide back the locking pin. One very obvious thing missing, is the hasp that actually closes the lock, which I hope to make next week on the forge at York.


I also turned a few more objects on the lathe, in order to reduce some of the wood pile in my garage before any wood worm gets at it. I made a few small early medieval cups out of birchwood, with the classic globular shape, and decorative grooves.

DSC_0024We have also been very busy making clothes, particularly linen garments in order to cope with the heat we are having at the moment. As well as a few tunics for the children, I have also made myself some linen trousers, in two distinct patterns. Viking age trousers are, by and large, guessed at from pictorial sources, and the patterns of finds from the preceeding period. There are a few tentative pieces from the Viking age, which do suggest some commonality with these earlier garments, but there is still a lot of guesswork involved. For a very good summary of the archaeological evidence this article is definitely worth a read.

The first trousers I made are a pair of shorter, wide waisted trousers, to a very simple design similar to those found at a much earlier site at Marx Etzel, and a number of mediterranean and continental sites from the first few hundred years AD. These trousers come down to my calves, a bit like long shorts, or cut offs, and I shall be wearing them with red linen hose or woven leg bindings. Thor Ewing’s ‘Viking Clothing’ book makes a interesting case for garments such as there, and after having a chat with him at the Midlands Viking conference earlier this year, I decided to try some variations on these, to asses their style and practicality. So far they do look very different, and given the evidence for this style of dress, there does seem to be a distince continental, particularly Carolingian feel to it, which makes a lot of sense to me. Given how popular Carolingian metalwork is, the idea that elements of continental clothing fashion creept into Denmark and Anglo-Saxon England too, including these hose and such linen garments is quite compelling. Certainly the volume of the trousers, combined with the tightness of the leg bindings, produce a remarkably similar profile to some of the baggier looking trouser on many period illustrations, indicating that not all may have been quite as baggy as the ‘Rus’ pants worn by reenactors, and clearly illustrated on some pictorial sources. The legs are slit up the back slightly, to allow a quite tight fit around the calf.

DSC_0025I also made myself a pair of linen trouser in the Damendorf/Thorsberg style, with narrower, full length, legs, and more sophisticated tailoring.


Ultimately, because of the size of the piece of cloth I had, I ended up with a bit of a hybrid pattern between the two garments, with the crotch and back gussets more like Thorsberg, but with triangular inserts in between the legs and gussets, to allow more room for movement, and prevent embarrassing tears when squatting! I was really quite pleased with this hybrid design, as it felt very like another version of the sorts of tailoring and designs we often see in archaeological clothing remains, which often seem to hint at a variety of specific patterns, within and certain style and philosophy of tailoring.

DSC_0028Finally, I have begun to make myself a pair of red linen hose to wear as an alternative to leg windings (once again if you wish to read a decent summary of the evidence for hose, please visit here). Whilst there is some debate as to whether red linen is linked to hose specifically, as dyed linen does not seen to be very common in the period, there is a reasonable argument to be made for it. As the lower legs are very visible in Viking mens clothing, and even the tops of the Coppergate sock had a small red band around it, I decided that red linen would be very striking and a good way to spend a small amount of money on a small piece of material, that would be very visible. I shall be sure to take some pictures, when I have them done!

DSC_0026We now have a final weekend to put the finishing touches to the lat bits of clothing, and then we will be ready to head to York next Tuesday! If you are in the area in the week between Tuesday 5th and Monday 11th of August, then do drop by and say hi!

The Viking House rebuild; a little more than we planned for!

The weekends work on the house went well, though as you will see it ended up being a little more than just a re-roofing and adding a few shutters. The first thing we had to do when  we arrived on Friday dinner time, was take a final snap of the old house. As you will see in this, and a number of other snaps, we used modern ladders, modern footwear, and modern tools this weekend, primarily because they are a lot safer, quicker, and easier to use, that their historic counter parts, and ultimately, we had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

20140711_141928The stripping of all the roof straw, and exposing the rafters, took a few hours, but was good fun!

20140711_165920Finally we removed a layer of plastic membrane which are used on all the houses, to help keep them waterproof (a little compensaton for the lack of funds to thatch or shingle them with truly authentic, but expensive, materials). Then we had the roof stripped. We spend until later that evening removing as many lats as we could, and clearing out some of the roofing material we had removed.

20140711_175602The next morning, not long after 6.30am, we started work again, this time removing that last of the lats, and beginning to strengthen the partition, and extension to the house, however this is where things got a little more complicated. The extension, was a bit of an after though to the structure, and the wood had been up some time and was rotten in places. It became clear it needed replacing, so whilst we had the man power, materials, and opportunity we decided to rebuild that end.

DSC_0163We sunk two brand new posts into large post holes we dug, and squared them all off, making the building about a foot longer in the process. We also began to clean up, and de-nail the rafters, as well as adding new rafters in, in between the old ones, to strengthen the roof.

DSC_0164The next step was to cover the roof in boards and plastic. Not the most authentic solution I appreciate, but as we have explained previously, these houses primarily exist as an education resource, so we need them to be strong, cheap, waterproof, and easy to maintain, and when we have covered the inside and outside with plans and shingles, the modern materials will be invisible.

DSC_0169We also dug post hole, and affixed my new carved and painted posts, originally designed to cover the old partition posts, which we had now removed. As a result, we added the post in a little further back, closer to the door. I was very pleased with the posts when they were in position.


Finally, work began on fastening the new lats on the roof, and installing the shingles. There were 6 rows of shingles on each side, and each row had about 57 shingles in it, with a final smaller row to be installed close to the ridge nest time we come down. Meanwhile the inside of the new extension was being planked out, and insulated, with the intention of daubing them in future.


With evening on the final of four days approaching, we had to take the decision to stop shingling the back side of the roof and to spend our last hour or two tidying up and making the house clean and safe for the next few weeks until we are back. We cleaned up all the debris from the build. We covered any visible modern membranes temporarily, and dressed the inside of the house ready for public visitorsDSC_0180

I re-hung the old door, which is a little small, and fitted the new shutters I had built ready to install, and added back in some of the old furniture and items for now.



There is still a lot to do over the rest of the year, but the strength and quality of the new roof, and the improvement of light and space inside has added another 15-20 years to the building, and will mean we will be able to adapt to our increased need for space as the kids get bigger!

DSC_0184Whilst we didn’t 100% finish everything we wanted to achieve, we also added on rebuilding half the house, and I think the finished house will be massively better for the extra work. I’m looking forward to hosting a thank you banquet in it when we are finished next year.

I’d just like to thank everyone who came to help me this weekend: Osric, Magnus, Afrior, Snorri, and Roarr, who worked like trooper, and without which I’d never have got it a quarter of the way. Thank you.

Breathing new life into old longhalls

In two weeks time, on the weekend of the 12-13th of July, we have a long weekend planned for the village at Murton Park, outside York. Our ambitious goal is to remove, and replace the roof of our house, and renovate the internal uprights, and replace one window, and reinstate two others with brand new frames and shutters.


This is the view of the back of the house, and the place where this new shutter will be inserted. We don’t know a lot about Viking age windows and doors, but finds from York suggests that windows may have been quite small actually, and perhaps even have had small horn inserts. A window aperture was found in a house at Hedeby 32cm x 48cm, and also small lights cut into the wider stave planks. They are mentioned in literature, such as Njals saga and Grettis saga, the latter mentioning light shining through a window. However, one has to bear in mind that these are Icelandic medieval documents, and may not reflect viking age building techniques, nor indeed be representative of other parts of the viking world. Ultimately, however, we often have to spend a lot of time in these spaces, and light is important for us to see to cook, eat, and do crafts, and when one considered this is a museum with members of the public around and that fires and lamps cannot always be monitored, then shutters are a very sensible option.With the decision made, I think we have enough evidence to attempt some putative reconstructions of small shutters, around the size of the Hedeby one. I have therefore set about making some shutters at home, and glued and pegged them all, ready to fit on the weekend. To close them, I have taken a leaf from some of the simple wooden sliding mechanisms from Hedeby and other sites.


Our house has an addition to one end lengthening the house by just over a meter, but the original end wall of the house is still present. This means that the outside door is central to the house, and the one in the partition is offset with a wood store to one side. Originally we did this to reduce the draughts and create the store as we had insufficient timber to do anything else, but now we have some bigger plans. The uprights in the original end wall are being left in place, but being strengthened by being clad in some substantial new carved and painted timber uprights. This will allow us to place a new tougher cross beam in higher up, remove some of the walling higher up, and reinstate the door in the centr, creating a larger and brighter space inside.

The posts are each being carved and painted differently, one has a Borre chain motif found on many items, notably the Gosforth cross shaft base.

In addition to this, I decided to use the form often found on viking age cross shafts and convert from a square post, to round, and integrate the knotwork from the round, into the square, using rings and knots on the corners similar to the moulding found at Kirk Levington.


I decided to paint them Red, white, and black, as they seem to be frequent colours occurring on paint traces from viking wood work and stone sculpture (as well as yellow and blue) and we as a group often use it as common colour on our houses. I alternated the base colour of the ‘triangles’ to draw out the pattern and lead the eye to the underlying links, and then used the other two colours as borders. Overall I am very pleased with the complete effect.


Finally, having been there for over 15 years, the roof could do with replacing. It does not leak as bad as some, but it does, and the straw coverings are proving hard work to replace and repair, particularly as the straw we have access to is not as good as it used to be, due to changes in local farming practice. As a result, we have prepared 650 clipped point shingles for fitting to the new roof. Shingles have been found archaeologically at many sites, from York to Trelleborg, but also are seen on stave church roofs, and covering the roofs of hogback monuments. I often believe that shingle and turf roofs are overlooked, particularly in the North of England and Scotland. Turf roofs as easy to maintain, and last a long time, and shingle roofs are inherently repairable and long-lasting, particularly if treated with pine pitch, and when no longer any use as a roof, their remains make good firewood. More importantly, for us, they suffer less from infrequent maintenance, particularly when treated with a modern ‘pine pitch substitute’.

imag0494.jpgHere is a last picture of the house not long after we first took it over. It will be a shame to see the shaggy mop go, but hopefully the work we get done over the weekend should mean that with a little luck and hard work, we should get another 15-20 years out of the houses yet! IF you are around York on the weekend of the 12th-13th of July, do pop along to Murton Park Museum of Farming and say hi for yourself!


June Weekend

June was one of our last normal weekend of the year, from here on in we have an Epic weekend where we hope to completely remove the roof of our house and replace it, with clipped point shingles, a full week long holiday, and a birthday celebration banquet. Mostly we just enjoyed the weather.

Hakon using his shield as a parasol!

Hakon using his shield as a parasol!

Ragenlief exploring the village

Ragenlief exploring the village

We did get a few tasks done. The edging board on Snorri house was rotten and had been removed, so we decided to paint up a new one as a repair.

Fixing up a new roof edge board

Fixing up a new roof edge board

Roarr also managed to get the rest of the Odin post at his shrine, carved and painted. unfortunately we only took pictures of the work inprogress, and didn’t get any finished pictures of the edge boards fitted, or the shrine painted up after carving, so we will have to take some next time.



It was a nice weekend, but I for one am getting excited to start some serious building work on our house. We have most things ready for the re-roofing in July now, and I shall add a post soon with everything we have ready, and some of the things I have been preparing at home ready, and a few ‘before’ pictures for reference!


Excavation of a Viking-Age Cemetery at Cumwhitton

An article I wrote for English Heritage on the Cumwhitton cemetery

The Historic England Blog

Little did Peter Adams know, when he pulled a metal object from the ground in 2004, that he had made one of the most exciting discoveries in Viking-age archaeology in England for many years. He had been metal-detecting, with permission, on farmland to the west of the quiet village of Cumwhitton in the Eden Valley and, until then, it had been a fruitless search.

The object was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and proved to be a brooch that was identified as a rare Viking oval brooch of ninth – or tenth – century date. These are mostly found in pairs and in a burial context. He therefore returned to the site and did, indeed, find a second brooch.

One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd One of the oval brooches found by Peter Adams. © Oxford Archaeology Ltd

The Portable Antiquities Scheme commissioned Oxford Archaeology North to investigate the site as it was under immediate…

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