Title: Anglo-Saxons

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Enemies - Pics and Celts. Later Vikings.

Earth bank was often built around the village for protection. With wooden stakes driven into the top of it. There might also be a stone watchtower which made part of the church. The church towers had upper rooms that could only be reached by ladder. Defenders could throw rocks on attackers below. Many Stone churches were built against existing stone watchtowers.


Lived in single room huts made of wood. Nobles lived in larger single room houses called Hall Houses. Some homes had a sunken floor which was filled with straw and then covered with planks. This helped keep the home warm in winter and was also somewhere to store things. There was usually a hearth in the centre of the house a place for cooking and heating.


Anglo-Saxon is settled in places near to rivers and the sea. The British fled to hilly lands in the west or stayed often living as the Anglo-Saxon slaves. At this time most of Britain was still covered in Forest. Usually settled in places that could easily be reached by boat. Most settlements were small home to a chieftain and a small number of followers. They had to be places that were easy to defend. An island in the river was a favourite choice. Another popular place was inside a sharp curve or meander in the river. Third place was in the angle where two rivers met.

The first Anglo-Saxon settlements were tiny. But over the centuries they grew larger and became more organised. Nevertheless even the largest were home to no more than a few hundred people.

The basics. Village people needed water, food, fuel for heating and cooking and materials for homes and clothes. The village also need to protect itself. Water could most easily come from a river or spring. With more effort, it could come from a well. If the village was sited next to a river, however, it was vital to choose a place that did not get flooded. Food could only come from nearby land, so most villages would be placed near to easily worked fertile soils. Other areas, with heavy clays or acid soils, were left alone. Wood for fuel and wood, mud, straw, reads and dung to make buildings. Wood came from woodland, and reads from marshlands by the river. The forest could also feed pigs.

Anglo-Saxons villages were surrounded by two or three large open fields. The fields were divided into narrow strips and each family received a number of strips to farm. Each year one field was left without any crop growing so that the soil could recover.

Child - rearing

Anglo-Saxons made fine weapons and armour and the most beautiful and intricate jewellery.

Most people wore Lucky charms, some women wore strange keys like metal objects which they hung from their waste.

Colourful brooches and fine weapons. The Lindisfarne gospels - pages are alive with illustrations of spiralling and coiling lines of beaked serpent creatures.

They loved to listen and tell stories and particularly enjoyed trying to solve word riddles.


Pagans and Christians

Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons began in 597 and was at least nominally completed by 686.

Pagan - customs and beliefs - anglo-saxons became warriors because to die in battle was a glorious death and you could enter Valhalla a banqueting hall ruled over by Woden.

Pagan Gods

- Woden - god of war & wisdom (Wednesday)

- Frigg - Goddess of love (Friday)

- Thunor - god of thunder (Thursday)

- Tiw - god of battle (Tuesday)

Gods were believed to live in special or ‘holy’ places, usually where a spring bubbled up through the ground or where a group of trees clustered.

Anglo-Saxons also believed that the world was inhabited by giants, dragons, monsters and elves.

Christain conversion - Pope sent missionary St Augustine in 597. Converted Ethelbert King of Kent to Christianity. Ethelbert gave Augustine the site of the old Roman church at Canterbury.

By the second half of the seventh century there were monasteries and churches all over Britain. Long-running conflict between the Irish and Roman Christians. Came to a head over the dating of Easter, in 1664 they held a meeting at Whitby Abbey to settle their differences. They agreed to follow Rome.

Monasteries followed certain rules.

From 668 there was a golden age of Anglo-Saxon learning. Some Monasteries began to make elaborate manuscripts with exquisite illustrations known as illuminations.

Myth & Memory


King Arthur - legends and myths - some Britain’s fought back against the Anglo-Saxon invasions. Modern historians think they have found a British war leader who fought against the Anglo-Saxon invaders around 500. The evidence for Anglo-Saxon history is incomplete. This is why it is sometimes called the dark ages.
Later Anglo-Saxons believed Roman remains were built by Giants and haunted by ghosts.

Food was fairly basic and often difficult to find if the harvest had been poor. Most river water was polluted and unsafe to drink. So barley was used to make weak beer, which was drunk instead of water. People rarely ate meat pigs were the only animals raised for meat. Wild animals such as deer and wild boar was still common and could be hunted in the forests, but only if you were the land owner. Food was dried salted or pickled so it would last throughout the year.

What we know about the early years is almost entirely from a few accounts written much later. All of the accounts are written by monks and other men at the church. Venerable Bede, Jarrow and Monkwearmouth - The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Monasteries were centres of learning. Monks copied the bible and other religious books. They had to be written by hand on the skin of calves, they had no paper.

Anglo-Saxon runes.


Most people travelled by boat and lived close to rivers.

Celebration & Ritual

Burial ritual - the dead received grave goods.


Crime and punishment

The Anglo-Saxons didn't have prisons. People found guilty of crimes were either executed or punished with fines. If they ran away, they became 'outlaws' (outside the law), and anyone could hunt them down - unless they hid in a church. The fine for breaking into someone's home was 5 shillings (25p), paid to the home-owner. For minor crimes like stealing, a nose or a hand might be cut off.

If a person killed someone, they paid money to the dead person's relatives. This was 'wergild'. The idea was to stop long quarrels or 'blood feuds' between families. Had a blood price, even parts of the body had a price. An eye was worth more than a ear, a leg more than an arm.

Life was very harsh. They made their own soap from a mixture of ashes, animal fats and urine. Even nick combs have been found in their graves.

They did not know how diseases could be spread and they relied on cures and remedies. People rarely lived beyond their mid 40s because of injury and disease.

Loose fitting tunics. Women’s tunics came down to their ankles, men wore knee length tunics over cloth leggings. They wore a bely which was also used to carry knives, keys and other tools. In winter they would wear cloaks fixed in place with branches. They carried leather bags and ornaments such as beads and metal clasps, they wore leather shoes.

Some of the Anglo-Saxon tribes were invited in by the British who needed help fighting against the Celts. The Vortigern of Kent invited in Anglo-Saxon army to help him fight against other raiders, it was a big mistake, as soon as they had defeated his enemies they turned on Vortigern and took over his kingdom.

The first Anglo-Saxon villages or often named after the chieftain who won the land. ‘Ing’ and ‘folk’ both mean people. The first part of the place name will probably be the name of the local chieftain. Four example Reading means ‘Redda’s’ people and Hastings ‘Haesta’s’ people.

Later villages were named after a feature of their surroundings for example Oxford got its name because it was a place where Oxen were driven across a ford in a river and wich means farm as in Norwich.

Other places were named after pagan gods. Four example the town of Wednesfield in the West Midlands was named in honour of the god Woden.

King Alfred established burhs were no more than 30 km apart. A burh a fort with earth walls and a dyke. Many places fortified at this time have names ending in - bury (Glastonbury). Good places for merchants to live and trade. Many recaptured towns became burhs. Many have names ending in -wic or -wich (Norwich and Ipswich).
Historical Record

Three main types of evidence: written records, objects found in the ground, and objects passed down through the generations (artefacts).

Very little evidence survives. Called the dark ages. Four main reasons: 1. peoples moving home, 2. fighting possessions destroyed, 3. built in word, 4. very few written records.

Most famous written record is the Anglo-Saxon chronicle written by a man called Bede who lived in a monastery at Jarrow in Northumbria.

Beowulf also contains useful everyday information. Although some parts are inevitably exaggerated.

Aerial photographs can also give useful archaeological information.

Buildings, pottery and coins also provide useful information.

Archaeological Discoveries: Sutton-Hoo and Staffordshire hoard.
Further Activites
Geography - rivers, settlements, forests, use of the land, hills
RE - Pagan - customs and beliefs - anglo-saxons became warriors because to die in battle was a glorious death and you could enter Valhalla a banqueting hall ruled over by Woden. Christain conversion - Pope sent missionary St Augustine.

Pagan Gods

- Woden - god of war & wisdom (Wednesday)

- Frigg - Goddess of love (Friday)

- Thunor - god of thunder (Thursday)

- Tiw - god of battle (Tuesday)

English - riddles

The moon is my father

the moon my mother.

I have a million brothers,

I die when I reach the land.
Thousands lay up gold within this house,

but no man has made it.

Spears past counting guards to this house,

but no man looks after it.

Staffordshire hoard: http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/staritems & http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/gallery
Ordinary (every day) objects






Horns - hunting, drinking

Shoe leather and buckles

Belt buckles



Metal bowls - cooking





Sewing needles

Horse buckles etc

Objects of war


Swords (pommels & hilts)



Arrow heads

Spear heads
Religious objects (pre and post Christain)


Book bindings

Cauldrons - worship and ceremony

Ceremonial or high-status objects

Animals - Zoomorphic


Fine gold and Garnet - jewellery

Ivory (whale and walrus)
From all over Europe and the middle east

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