Butser Ancient Farm is an archaeological open-air museum located near Petersfield in Hampshire. Containing reconstructions of late prehistoric buildings such as Iron Age roundhouses, it is used as both a tourist attraction and a site for the undertaking of experimental archaeology. In this latter capacity, it was designed so that archaeologists could learn more about the agricultural and domestic economy in Britain during the millennium that lasted from circa 400 BCE to 400 CE, in what was the Late British Iron Age and Romano-British periods. Founded in 1970 by the Council for British Archaeology, in 1972 they recruited experimental archaeologist Peter J. Reynolds to run the site as project director. It was initially located on the site of an original Bronze and Iron Age farmstead on Butser Hill, but in 1989 was fully relocated to a site at Hillscombe Down before being moved, this time to Bascombe Copse on the slopes of Windmill Hill, in 1991. Prominent British archaeologist Mick Aston has commented that "Virtually all the reconstruction drawings of Iron Age settlements now to be seen in books are based" on the work at Butser Farm, and that it "revolutionised the way in which the pre-Roman Iron Age economy was perceived".
The farm was named after its original site at Little Butser, a northerly spur of Butser Hill, a few kilometres from Petersfield in Hampshire. In the original Bronze and Iron Ages, a farmstead had been found on Little Butser, whose occupants had farmed the valley to the north and east. In 1976 a second site, known as the Ancient Farm Demonstration Area (AFDA), was opened at Hillscombe Down on the southern slopes of Butser Hill, about a kilometre away from the main Farm. This was primarily designed to be a public site which could act as an educational resource for schoolchildren, and it was intended that this would take away the visitor pressure from the original site, where the large quantities of visitors (at times over a thousand people turned up to open days) were getting in the way of the experimental archaeology. The first Butser Farm site at Little Butser was subsequently closed down in 1989. In 1991 the project moved to Bascomb Copse on the slopes of Windmill Hill, Hampshire between Chalton, Hampshire and Clanfield, Hampshire, about 5 km from the original site. Buildings at the farm include simulated pre-Roman roundhouses and a simulated Roman villa. The 'Longbridge Deverell House' was the first full-sized roundhouse to be built at the latest site, and at the time one of the largest in Europe.
After Peter Reynolds' death in 2001, the site was run by his partner, Christine Shaw, for a number of years. Under her guidance, one of Peter's projects, a Roman building, was completed, resulting in the first full scale construction simulation of the wing of a Romano-British villa from Sparsholt, near Winchester. It was financed with the support of the Discovery Channel, and was filmed for a ten-part series for television. In 2006/7, a management team was assembled, and with Christine's guidance, took over the running of the Butser Project. The management team consists of Simon Jay and Maureen Page, running the farm under the business "Butser Education CIC". It was also in 2006 that the 'Longbridge Deverell House' started to collapse, and prompted a programme of redevelopment of the constructions across the farm. A major re-assessment of the techniques of building was undertaken. It was decided to use the opportunity to examine the accumulated information of a further 20 years of excavation evidence. Following the dismantling of the 'Longbridge Deverell House', the replacement is based on the excavations of the 'Little Woodbury House'. Under the leadership of David Freeman, construction started in February 2007 and finished in December, having gone through one of the wettest summers on record.
This is a unique experimental archaeological site and a fascinating day out, nestled into the rolling South Downs National Park. The farm displays ongoing constructions of ancient buildings based on real sites, dating from the Stone Age through the Iron Age and Roman Britain, and finishing with the Anglo-Saxons. They also grow crops from prehistory and keep rare breeds of animals, including pigs, goats and sheep. They have a full programme of special events including fantastic Celtic festivals and workshops, such as metallurgy, Iron Age cooking, bushcraft skills or felting; for upcoming events click here. Here you can travel back to Ancient Britain and feel it with all your senses: touching, seeing and hearing, smelling wood smoke and perhaps even tasting bread cooked the prehistoric way. You get a real sense of our past – of the Celts and Romans who lived here before us. Discover what they ate, what they wore… and how they survived the winter. Was life a constant struggle or was there time to have fun too? Find out with a visit to this remarkable Hampshire visitor attraction.
The site is based on an open field with a mixture of grass and flint paths. It is possible for wheelchairs to access the majority of buildings easily, however there are a couple of trickier areas. The Janus Visitor Centre has been designed to be fully accessible to disabled users. Assistance dogs are welcome. In the Janus Visitor Centre they sell hot and cold drinks, ice creams and locally produced fudge. New for Summer 2016 – delicious slices of cake! They have picnic tables with beautiful views if you want to bring your own food, or you could eat in one of the prehistoric houses. The toilets (including disabled) are based in the Janus Visitor Centre. Please note there are no baby changing facilities, however you are welcome to find a quiet corner and change (or feed) your little ones they way our ancestors used to! The toilets are eco friendly. The waste from the toilets is processed by bacteria living in a Hipaf tank after which the fluid runs into a reed bed. Antibacterial gel kills these bacteria, so please do not use this at the farm. Please ensure than no wet wipes or sanitary items are put down the toilets.
Location : Butser Ancient Farm, Chalton Lane, Chalton, Hampshire PO8 0BG
Transport : Petersfield (National Rail) then bus (37) or taxi. Bus Routes : 37 stops half a mile away at the Hampshire Hog Pub.
Opening Times : Summer - Daily 10:00 to 17:00; Winter - Monday to Friday 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adults £8.00; Children (5 - 16) £4.00; Concessions £7.00 (Carer is free)
Tel. : 02392 598838