West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is both an archaeological site and an open-air museum located near to West Stow in Suffolk, eastern England. Evidence for intermittent human habitation at the site stretches from the Mesolithic through the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British period, but it is best known for the small village that existed on the site between the mid-5th century and the early 7th century CE, during the early Anglo-Saxon period. During this time, around 70 sunken-featured buildings were constructed on the site, along with 8 halls and a number of other features. Subsequently abandoned, the area became farmland in the Late Medieval. The site at West Stow has shown evidence of human habitation throughout British prehistory. Indeed, the wider Lark Valley contains the greatest known concentration of prehistoric settlements in the region of East Anglia. Excavation at West Stow has discovered evidence for hunter-gatherers living in the area during the Mesolithic, or "Middle Stone Age" period. Temporarily camping on the knoll, they left behind them five or six dense concentrations of Sauveterrian-style waste lithic flakes, blades, cores and other stone implements. Similar scatters of Mesolithic worked flints have been found across the valley area. Grooved ware and petit tranchet-style arrowheads dating from the Neolithic Age have been found in a field adjacent to the West Stow site.
During the early Anglo-Saxon period, West Stow was the site of a small village made up of timber buildings. Archaeological excavation of the site unearthed evidence for a variety of different constructions and areas at West Stow: 69 sunken-featured buildings, alongside 7 post-hole buildings interpreted as halls, traces of several lesser structures, a reserve area for clay, 2 large hollows or animal pens, pits, various unassociated post holes and several 7th century boundary ditches. The Anglo-Saxon village showed no signs of the development of property boundaries until the last phase of occupation. There was no evidence that the settlement was defended by fortifications. The majority of structures built at West Stow belonged to a category of what the excavators called "sunken-featured buildings", a term first coined by Professor Philip Rahtz. The other category of building uncovered at West Stow consisted of seven larger structures held up by wooden posts which left behind postholes; the excavators interpreted these as halls. Five of these buildings were located along the central spine of the hill, with the other two being positioned on the north side and south side respectively. All of the buildings were roughly positioned east to west, although the hall on the north slope was instead orientated north-west to south-east.
The St Edmundsbury District Council planned to turn the area into a rubbish dump servicing the city of Bury St. Edmunds following the culmination of excavation, a decision that was reviewed annually. Eventually they decided against this decision, forming the West Stow Saxon Village Trust, an experimental archaeological group, in order to reconstruct some of the Anglo-Saxon buildings in the hope of learning more about Anglo-Saxon building techniques and architecture. The work was undertaken by a group of undergraduate students from Cambridge University who called themselves the West Stow Environmental Archaeology Group. These experimental reconstructions ensured that they only made use of woodworking techniques and technologies that would have been available in Anglo-Saxon England.
One of England’s great archaeological sites, West Stow has extensive indoor galleries and a stunning recreation of an Anglo-Saxon village surrounded by 125 acres of unspoilt countryside. West Stow Country Park features 125 acres of woods, heathlands, a river and a lake, plus nature trails, walks and an adventure playground. Visitors to West Stow can explore history and nature, watch a film, dress up as an Anglo-Saxon or say hello to the rare breed pigs and chickens. As part of the annual RingQuest event, you could even meet a Hobbit, among other Lord of the Rings characters! The Museum, Visitor Centre and Café at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village are wheelchair accessible via ramps and gravel paths. The Village is also wheelchair accessible, although assistance is recommended as part of the route to the village is unpaved and up a slight incline. The Anglo-Saxon houses, which are reconstructed to correspond to the archaeological evidence from the site, are wheelchair accessible with assistance. Information about each of the houses can be provided. There are accessible toilets in the carpark, Visitor Centre, Anglo-Saxon Museum and Café. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the site. A large print transcript of the introductory DVD and a large print version of the Village Map are available. The Anglo-Saxon Museum is well lit with clear signage. Induction loops are installed in the Visitor Centre and Café.
Location : West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, Icklingham Road, West Stow, Suffolk IP28 6HG
Transport: Bury St Edmunds (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 16A stops outside.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £5.00; Concessions £3.00; Children (5 - 16) £3.00
Tel: 01284 728718