CF Special Projects – The Wessex​ House

The Wessex House

An Anglo-Saxon Hall reconstruction to be built on the site of the original.

A few years ago, the archaeological traces of an unusually large and high-status Anglo-Saxon hall were discovered on land owned by the Sylva Foundation, a charitable organisation concerned with woodlands and dedicated to research, education, practical forestry for the future and the sustainable use of timber.

Set in the centre of a newly planted mixed woodland of tree species from around the world, the site has been fully investigated and recovered. The Sylva Foundation has now successfully gained permission and funding to re-create a fully authentic building on the site and have approached the Carpenters’ Fellowship to help realise this exciting ambition.

For more background information on the discovery and research, visit the Sylva Foundation website:

We at the CF, with our track record of community, volunteer and rendezvous timber building events, are running a series of three Anglo-Saxon timber building workshops covering the full range of techniques involved. These events will be fully catered, with camping facilities on site and will be focussing on authentic period building design and the use of authentic tools. There will be a wide range of activities for participants of all levels of experience and ability.

Phase 1: October 12th to 14th, 2018

A three-day course during which samples will be made of all the typical built components. This includes:

• Timber conversion – cleaving and hewing timbers into shape for posts and plates (no saws were used in this period)

• Earthfastanchoring of the posts

• Axe carpentry – The shaping of stubby tusk tenons and through-mortises, grooving boards, fashioning halvings and lap joints

• Shaping the characteristic Saxon“treenails”, a peg with an enlarged head, often wedged internally

• Creating wattle panels and hurdles, for the walls and the roof under thatch respectively

Phase 2: Wednesday, March 20th to Sun March 24th 2019 (note revised dates)

A week-long event continuing the themes above, but in this case, focussed on timber conversion.

We have marked 80 trees of oak, ash, birch and chestnut in the Blenheim Estate nearby and these will be felled over the course of the winter. When we arrive at Sylva the timbers will have been delivered. We will be sorting and converting these logs and poles for use in the building. This offers an unusual opportunity to understand and become familiar with skills involved in hand conversion from tree trunk and branch to useful timber components. In addition to this being a full body work-out, there is no better way to intimately understand the nature of the material we use.

We will be:

• Assessing each piece’s suitability for a particular role in the building

• Cleaving large timbers using hammers, wedges and levers

• Hewing timbers to flatten faces using side axes

• Other related activities will be arranged using the waste for hurdles, treenails, etc.

Phase 3: Wednesday 3rd July to Sunday 7th July 2019 (note revised dates)

This is the final event which will culminate in the full erection of the building’s timber frame.

We will be:

• Setting the earth-fast posts

• Cutting tusk tenons and through-mortises

• Laying up and framing roof trusses (all by axe)

• Fitting plates over posts

• Rearing trusses, lifting beams, fitting purlins

• Pegging up

This event will offer the full range of anglo-Saxon carpentry techniques as well as associated activities such as wattling and possibly even daubing which is a popular activity for children and the young-at-heart. Each event will be led by CF members with expertise in these areas and they will be on-hand throughout to offer advice, technical guidance, historical discussion and general encouragement. The food will be provided once more by Eppieof Crafty Catering, which was such a hit at our last rendezvous.

We will have additional refreshments available in the evenings along with talks and the informal socialising that we enjoy on these occasions. This will be located in the new Education Centre building which will be our warm, dry headquarters for the duration.

The Sylva Foundation premises are also full of widely varied ongoing timber projects which provide extra interest.

For full details, and how to apply, please email direct to