West Stow Anglo-Saxon village celebrates 40th anniversary

Ian Alister
Image caption Ian Alister was one of four Cambridge students who began work on the village in 1973
West Stow Anglo-Saxon village
Image caption The village features a central hall surrounded by smaller living huts
West Stow Anglo-Saxon village
Image caption West Stow has regular days where people re-enact Anglo-Saxon life
Pig at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
Image caption Livestock are also kept at the village to reflect Anglo-Saxon farming techniques

Suffolk's reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the return of some of the original archaeologists.

The site at West Stow near Bury St Edmunds was excavated 1965-1972 on land where a village is believed to have existed from 420-650.

The reconstruction of huts and farming pens was begun by a team of students from Cambridge University in 1973.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council is hosting a reunion on Saturday.

The excavation was led by Suffolk archaeologist Stanley West, who concluded that the Anglo-Saxon huts had wooden floors, whereas it had previously been thought people lived in dirt pits covered with wooden roofs.

Image caption Re-enactors work with metal, but none was used in building the huts

Ian Alister was a 21-year-old reading Anglo-Saxon history at Cambridge when he began the reconstruction project in 1973 with three fellow students.

"It's very satisfying that the thing has survived, because a lot of people were very dubious and thought the huts would blow down in the first gale," he said.

"We used contemporary materials including a cow hide which we bought at the abattoir in Bury St Edmunds and it's still there.

"We were living in a beautiful place without running water and electricity and, having been engaged in dry, academic activity for three years, it was fun."

Alan Baxter, heritage manager at West Stow, said: "It's a 40-year commitment to a most unusual archaeological experiment - there is no other Anglo-Saxon village reconstructed on its original site and these are the roots of our nationhood here.

"Hopefully, the students will be very pleased that a lot of what has happened, since that is exactly what they wanted to happen all those years ago.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council spends about £200,000 a year subsidising the Anglo-Saxon village.

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