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Dismantling the truth of sunken house at West Stow

Kimberley Rew and Ian Alister
Kimberley Rew and Ian Alister

Work to deconstruct the first house at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village continued this week when two of its original builders returned to remove the first pieces of thatch.

Ian Alister and Kimberley Rew were among students who helped build the experimental Anglo-Saxon reconstructions at West Stow in the early 1970s using different theories of Anglo Saxon construction - all of which were formed by looking at foundation hollows and post holes left below ground.

On Tuesday they returned to the historically significant site where a sunken house, built in 1974, is being deconstructed after reaching the end of its natural life.

Mr Rew was excited to see visitors enjoying the site as an open-air museum.

“It’s great to have been a tiny part of that, even for a short time,” he said.

“We didn’t know what would happen after 25-40 years and now we’re about to find out.”

Youngsters involved in the project
Youngsters involved in the project

The 63-year-old, who went on to become a member of Katrina and the Waves, a band best known for its 1985 hit Walking on Sunshine and for winning the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest, added: “It was a magical time really. We were all young and idealistic - pretty much nothing like this had been done before.

“Most of us went on into other walks of life but I think it’s something we all remember as being young and in a collective group with a common purpose.”

As part of a Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots project, a group of young people are helping to record each stage of the deconstruction, taking detailed photographs and measured drawings of the structure to help experts understand the way it has decayed.

They will return in mid-November to excavate the remaining pit and to compare their findings with those from the original excavation of the archaeological site.

We didn’t know what would happen after 25-40 years and now we’re about to find out
Housebuilder Kimberley Rew

Dr Richard Hoggett, archeological consultant to the Anglo-Saxon Village, said the house being deconstructed had been built to test the theory Anglo Saxons had lived and worked in hollows in the grounds of their homes but initial findings suggested that was not the case.

He said it was more likely they built a timbre floor over the hollows, an idea being tested in other reconstructions on the same site.


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