Saturday, 10 May 2014

A day in the life of a seventh century Anglo-Saxon

April. In England.

More accurately, in Gloucestershire. At the National Trust-owned magnificence that is Dyrham Park.

And of course, as it is April, it is raining.

My wife and daughters traipse along behind me across the beautifully sculpted park. We are making our way to the Old Lodge buildings. The level of excitement is pretty low from the female contingent of our little group. I, however, am buzzing.

Because we are off to see the living history re-enactors, Wulfheodenas, who specialise in reconstructing the warrior class of Anglo-Saxons from the 6th and 7th centuries. As my novel, THE SERPENT SWORD, is set in 633 - 634 AD, I am very excited to meet them and see what they have on display.

When we arrive at the cluster of buildings on the hill overlooking the manor house, we find a small group of what appear to be time travellers, stepped out of a saga as told in the smoke-filled halls of northern Europe well over a thousand years ago.

A lady and three men are huddled around a fire cooking their breakfast.

We seem to be the first visitors of the day, and a couple of the menfolk kindly get up and show us where their hoard of goodies is laid out on trestle tables. Because of the rain, they are inside the barn, which seems quite fitting, with the wooden beams giving the feel of a mead hall.

They are more than happy for us to handle the items on display. "If it looks sharp, it probably is. And the helmets are heavy and expensive, so don't drop them." There ends the health and safety warning.

Heavy and expensive. And awesome!
They are also pleased to answer questions. Lots of questions in my case.

I'm too seaxy for my kirtle...
We stay for about as long as my daughters can stand it. It is cold and miserable, with the wind gusting and rain blowing into the barn, but I am so pleased we have come. I have learnt some interesting things and met some people who are incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the period that my novels are set in.
I hope to be able to see Wulfheodenas again sometime, hopefully with better weather.

Some more photos

Here is a selection of some more of my photos from the visit.

A thegn can never have too many helms!

Get off of my land!

Look at the pattern-welding on that beauty, sir. A bargain at twice the price.

Lyre, lyre, your scop is on fire.

I want your seax, baby!

7th century utility belt?

The hospitality left a little to be mead or pottage!

Matt looking moody.

Fork 'andles? No. Axe handle!


  1. Hahaha Loved reading this Matthew. We appear to share the same humour. Am still chuckling as I write this! Met the Wulfheodenas at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. They really know their stuff and have some gorgeous kit. Did you see the patterned sword blades? I am in love with those. An amazing technique made by a man in Hawaii. Sounds as though you had a brilliant time. You can learn so much more from such a tactile experience, than simply reading research books.

  2. They really do know their stuff. I was a little concerned at my own lack of knowledge in comparison, but hey, I can write a mean story too!

    I am already in love with pattern welded blades. My novel happens to feature one spectacular sword in particular! The title is a subtle clue - THE SERPENT SWORD. ;-)

    Now I just need a massive book deal so that I can afford to buy one!

  3. Hi Matthew, Matt here. Good to chat to you at Dyrham, hope the girls weren't too bored. Perhaps you could come to our big show at Old Sarum, meet some very interesting people and maybe even camp for the evening and get some mead down you?

    1. Hi Matt. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I think my girls will survive some enforced learning!

      The Old Sarum event sounds great, but unfortunately I already have other plans this year. But I'll definitely try and catch up with you all again at a future event.

      All the best,


  4. Hello Matthew, it was good of you to brave the weather, questions and enthusiasm from people like yourself make it all worthwhile. Hope to see you again, as Matt says perhaps at Old Sarum.

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by. I will definitely see you again at an event in the future.

      All the best,


  5. Nice post! There's nothing like getting your hands on the real (well, nearly!) thing, is there? I love the smells and sounds you get too at a re-enactment. And of course tastes if you're lucky.

    1. Thanks! I am a very visual, tactile person, so this type of thing really appeals to me. If I wasn't so busy, I'd probably join a re-enactment group.