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House of Wessex Project

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The "House of Wessex", an Anglo-Saxon hall reconstruction at the Sylva Foundation Wood Centre in Long Wittenham, was opened yesterday (21st October 2019). 


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As members heard from the Project Manager, Lesley Best, at the SCLHS meeting in June, the hall built at Long Wittenham is a copy, using authentic methods and materials, of an original excavated on the same site in 2016.

The complex was identified by aerial photography in 1976 in an area important in the early Anglo-Saxon era.  Long Wittenham is known for its high-status cemeteries and the old Roman town across the Thames at Dorchester was given to St. Birinus for him to found his cathedral there after he had preached to the Kings of Wessex (or Gewissae) locally.

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The dig found that one possible building was actually a late Roman ditched enclosure, but another was a 40ft by 12ft post-in-trench timber Anglo-Saxon hall. No artefacts have so far been discovered, but an animal bone has been dated to the early to mid-7th century. 

The form and construction style of the building are very similar to somewhat larger 7th century Anglo-Saxon halls discovered elsewhere: most famously at Yeavering in Northumberland, but also near Sutton Courtenay. These are understood to be royal feasting halls (and Yeavering is certainly recorded as such). 

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The Long Wittenham building is about half the size, but much bigger than an ordinary farmhouse. It is thought, therefore, to have been a royal hall used for only short visits by the Kings of Wessex.

During the open-day, some members of the Wulfheodenas (an Anglo-Saxon re-enactment group) were on hand to present traditional Anglo-Saxon dress, crafts and activities.

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The Society wishes to thank the owners of the Royal Berkshire History + website for their permission to use the photographs and some of the material for this article.

Photos of the Manor

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The Society has recently obtained a fascinating collection of early photographic postcards showing Sutton Courtenay Manor.  The photographs, which are mainly the work of Percy Simms and the Antona Publishing Company in Chipping Norton and probably date from the late 1930s, show the exterior and some of the main interior features of this very interesting historical building.  

They can be viewed by clicking here.

OLHA September 2019


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The latest e-bulletin from the Oxfordshire Local History Association for September 2019 can be read via this URL.


The OLHA’s e-bulletin contains articles and information of relevance to those interested in local and family history in Oxfordshire.  All members of local history societies and groups which are members of OLHA are themselves members of OLHA automatically, and this e-bulletin is for everyone.

This edition contains information about a number of upcoming events of particular interest, including:

Heritage Open Days, the nationwide festival of history and heritage, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with events over a ten-day period from Friday 13 to Sunday 22 September. Over seventy properties will be open across Oxfordshire.

- The Oxford Preservation Trust will be co-ordinating Oxford Open Doors, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September, on the theme Made in Oxford.

 - the Oxfordshire Museums Resource Centre at Standlake will be holding its annual open day on Sunday 6 October, 10am-4pm. Free admission, free parking and disabled access. Guided tours throughout the day, no booking required.

Further details of these and other events in September and October can be found in the OLHA's e-bulletin via this URL.

OLHA August 2019

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The latest e-bulletin from the Oxfordshire Local History Association for August 2019 can be read via this URL.

The OLHA’s e-bulletin contains articles and information of relevance to those interested in local and family history in Oxfordshire.  All members of local history societies and groups which are members of OLHA are themselves members of OLHA automatically, and this e-bulletin is for everyone.

Waterperry Gardens 16-6-19

On Sunday 16th June Waterperry Gardens are holding a Rare Plant Fair and visit to the extensive gardens for a special price of £6.  

The Society hopes to take advantage of the offer by proposing that anyone interested meet there at 10.00 am and the Society will pay the £6 entrance fee for members. 

For more information, click here

175th Anniversary of GWR Didcot - Oxford Railway

The Didcot to Oxford Branch of the Great Western Railway opened in June 1844 and the 175th anniversary is being celebrated with events at or near all five stations along the line – Didcot, Appleford, Culham, Radley and Oxford – on Saturday 15th June 2019.

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For more information about the events planned to mark the anniversary see the event website : http://www.didcotoxfordgwr175.org.


In addition, there will be an exhibition about the history of the railway in the County Library at the Westgate in Oxford from 25th May to 10th June: http://www.didcotoxfordgwr175.org/exhibition.html.   

OLHA April 2019

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The latest e-bulletin from the Oxfordshire Local History Association for April 2019 can be read via this URL.

The OLHA’s e-bulletin contains articles and information of relevance to those interested in local and family history in Oxfordshire.  All members of local history societies and groups which are members of OLHA are themselves members of OLHA automatically, and this e-bulletin is for everyone.

Reports and Updates

A brief report on the Society’s meeting and the talk by Katherine Bradley about early women professional gardeners on Tuesday 26th March 2019 may be found here

A brief report on the Society’s meeting and the talk by Jackie Smith on the history of Abingdon’s bridges on Tuesday 22nd January 2019 may be found here.

The Society’s AGM has been scheduled to be held on Tuesday 14th May 2019. 

This and some other new dates for your diary can be found here.  

OLHA December 2018


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The latest e-bulletin from the Oxfordshire Local History Association for December 2018 can be read via this URL.

The OLHA’s e-bulletin contains articles and information of relevance to those interested in local and family history in Oxfordshire.  All members of local history societies and groups which are members of OLHA are themselves members of OLHA automatically, and this e-bulletin is for everyone.

Talk on Harwell - 13th November 2018

A short report on the illustrated talk by Eric Jenkins “Harwell through the Camera Lens” on Tuesday 13th November 2018 may be found here.


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