Category Archives: Building Maintanence

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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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

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Ragenleif… well she did her own thing as usual

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The making of Jorvikingi

It struck me that this year is the eleventh year that Jorvikingi has existed, having formed from a small group of participants in an event at an event at Helmsley castle in August 2003.

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Helmsley was a fun event, in a superb location, especially the after hours banquet, and for many of the participants from the Midlands and North, it seemed a good idea to try to set something up based more in the Midlands and North, rather than return to a largely southern centric reenactment circuit.

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Tent and Hall

The final piece of the jigsaw was fitted that September at an event at a facility we had been visiting for a yearly event for many years: The Danelaw Village at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, offered many of us the opportunity to adopt houses there and use the facilities as a more semi-permanent site group. As this was by far one of the best events we all attended, and only a couple of hours from most of the members houses, we jumped at the chance, and Jorvikingi: literally the ‘People of Jorvik’ was born, largely from the Ostvikinga and Seavardreki warbands, led by Jarls Einar, Ubbi, and Anlaf.

Here are a few pics from that September 2003 event, some are a little faded.

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Some of the Ostvikinga, led by Jarls Einar and Ubbi

Jarl Ubbi

Jarl Ubbi

Yjontnagrim, Ubbis son

Yjontnagrim, Ubbis son

Ragenleif, Ubbis daughter

Ragenleif, Ubbis daughter

Seavardreki banner outside one of the houses

Seavardreki banner outside one of the houses

 

What was to become Magnus's house, before renovation

What was to become Magnus’s house, before renovation

The village from across the field

The village from across the field

What was to become Ulfar and Einars houses

What was to become Ulfar and Einars houses

What was to become Anlafs house

What was to become Anlafs house

Approaching the village, with Jarl Einar and Ubbis tents in the foreground

Approaching the village, with Jarl Einar and Ubbis tents in the foreground

 

Anneth adn Ragenleif, in from of the Ostvikings selling their wares

Anneth and Ragenleif, in front of the Ostvikings selling their wares

From this point on the Society existed, and though some members have gone, and others come along, the group has maintained between 3 and 5 houses for the Danelaw village, built a forge, and help thatch and repair other structures. You only need to see the before and after images of Magnus’s house to see some of the improvements made.

What was to become Magnus's house, before renovation

What was to become Magnus’s house, before renovation

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Magnus’s house, during renovation

It is however, even after 11 years, a bit like painting the Forth Bridge, and there is always something to do, particularly roofs, and we have plenty of plans to keep the houses in good condition. This year we hope to get another house re-roofed, and complete some final daubing on Magnus’s house, alongside countless minor repairs and upgrades, and are planning some larger improvements to the paths around the houses. Like the real Vikings of the tenth century, our work is never done and there is never enough hours in the day!

Thanks for reading

Einar

Images 9, 10, 11, and 12 were originally taken by Ulfar Vigufson, now of Svartland Living History Society

Summer Holiday

Re-daubed side of Magnus's house

The re-daubed side of Magnus’s house

This last weekend we spent another glorious weekend working hard on the houses and enjoying the village. Some temporary coverings were added to the rooves, and thedaubing down one side of Magnus’s house was finished off in preparation for winter. There is still a final side to complete, but the next pressing job will be new rooves for Einar and Osrics houses, which are in dire need of repair. The search for a supply of wood begins!

Painting some of the old carvings

Painting some of the old carvings

Einar had a tidy round of the shrine to keep it looking good whilst Roarr is away, and we also had some fun painting up some of the old carvings around the village, which have needed a little brightening up!

An angry viking face

An angry viking face

Striking resemblance

Striking resemblance

We were struck by how close to Magnus one of the carvings was by the time we had finished painting it!

Katla and Ragenlief

Katla and Ragenlief

We had a great time, and Einar and Katla managed to take 3 and a half year old Hakon and 9 month old Ragenlief, with success, who both had a fantastic time, and a welcome to the group for the first time for Ragenlief!

Hakon

Hakon

Magnus spent some time training Hakon in viking swordplay, though we are all looking forward to the day when Hakon manages to get a lucky hit in somewhere sensitive!

The Last Roarr

So this weekend was Roarr’s last weekend before he heads off overseas for a while, as we thought we’d send him off in style! We had an excellent feed and drink on the Saturday night, a special beer was brewed, venison was eaten, and arm rings given out as gifts.

The goal for the weekend was to try to get Magnus’s house a little closer to being finished, with some wood trimming, a new door, and some decorative panels around the door and front. Magnus started work on his new door, and Snorri and Einar began work on painting up the front boards. The carving and framing around the door was given a fresh coat of paint as it was now a few years old and starting to fade, and the old decorative lintel piece, repurposed inside the house. Then two boards were fitted to the front face, crossing the door way, depicting Sigurd fighting the dragon Fafnir. The design was a reworked version of a motif from a hogback fragment found in Workington, Cumbria, with a Borre style ring-chain motif for its tail, all picked out in Red, white, and black. Finally, a vertical board was added running up the gable end towards the roof ridge, painted with another dragon, mouth agape, and similar in style to those on the Gosforth cross in Cumbria, but with another Borre style ring-chain motif for the dragons body. There is still some daubing, and some dragon heads to fit to the roof, but this house is now nearing completion.

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In addition, we planned to finish off, fit out, and decorate the extension to Osric’s house. The outside was finished off and trimmed out by Oric, and Einar and Osric worked on the internals afterwards. Snorri worked on decorating the door frame with a simple triangle and hatching motif, similar to that found as decorative borders on many viking age objects, and Einar painted a Jelling style dragon under the eaves on the gable end. This makes the extension now complete, with our next major upgrade being to make the rest of the house match it!

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Roarr decided that we needed a shrine to the gods, and decided to utilise some of the space next to two of the houses. We don’t know much about religious practices and structures in the period, but he decided that a figure of Odin, with a small platform for figurines and offerings might be appropriate, and a small wattle enclosure around it. So far it looks quite good, and we are planning on carving and decorating it some more in the following months.

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In amongst this, it was a reasonably busy weekend for Murton Park, with Minster FM broadcasting from the museum for four hours, and many members of the public enjoying the site, and talking to us and learning about the viking age, including demonstrations from Magnus of coin minting.

Magnus demonstrating striking a coin

Magnus demonstrating striking a coin

A great weekend was had by all, and we look forward to our next one!