Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. No universally accepted example survives above ground. Generally preferring not to settle within the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons built small towns near their centres of agriculture, at fords in rivers or sited to serve as ports. In each town, a main hall was in the centre, provided with a central hearth.
There are many remains of Anglo-Saxon church architecture. At least fifty churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin with major Anglo-Saxon architectural features, with many more claiming to be, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. It is often impossible to reliably distinguish between pre- and post-Conquest 11th century work in buildings where most parts are later additions or alterations. The round-tower church and tower-nave church are distinctive Anglo-Saxon types. All surviving churches, except one timber church, are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of re-used Roman work.
The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings range from Celtic influenced architecture in the early period; Early Christian basilica influenced architecture; and in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings. In the last decades of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, a more general Romanesque style was introduced from the continent, as in the now built-over additions to Westminster Abbey made from 1050 onwards, already influenced by Norman style. In recent decades, architectural historians have become less confident that all undocumented minor "Romanesque" features post-date the Norman Conquest. Although once common, it has been incorrect for several decades to use the plain term "Saxon" for anything Anglo-Saxon that is later than the initial period of settlement in Britain.
Anglo-Saxon secular buildings were normally rectangular post built structures, where timber posts were driven into the ground to form the framework of the walls upon which the thatched roofs were constructed. Only ten of the hundreds of settlement sites that have been excavated in England from this period have revealed masonry domestic structures and confined to a few quite specific contexts. The usual explanation for the tendency of Anglo–Saxons to build in timber is one of technological inferiority or incompetence. However it is now accepted that technology and materials were part of conscious choices indivisible from their social meaning. Le Goff suggests that the Anglo-Saxon period was defined by its use of wood,providing evidence for the care and craftsmanship that the Anglo–Saxon invested into their wooden material culture, from cups to halls, and the concern for trees and timber in Anglo–Saxon place–names, literature and religion. Michael Shapland suggests:
The stone buildings imposed on England by the Romans would have been 'startling' and 'exceptional', and following the collapse of Roman society in the fifth century there was a widespread return to timber building, a 'cultural shift' that it is not possible to explain by recourse to technological determinism.
Anglo–Saxon building forms were very much part of this general building tradition. Timber was 'the natural building medium of the age':the very Anglo–Saxon word for 'building' is 'timbe'. Unlike in the Carolingian world, late Anglo–Saxon royal halls continued to be of timber in the manner of Yeavering centuries before, even though the king could clearly have mustered the resources to build in stone. Their preference must have been a conscious choice, perhaps an expression of 'deeply–embedded Germanic identity' on the part of the Anglo–Saxon royalty.
Though very little contemporary evidence survives, methods of construction, including examples of later buildings, can be compared with methods on the continent. The major rural buildings were sunken-floor (Grubenhäuser) or post-hole buildings, although Helena Hamerow suggest this distinction is less clear. 50 feet (15 m) long and 25 feet (7.6 m) wide with entrances in the middle of both longer sides.An excavated example is at Mucking in Essex. In addition to the sunken huts, vernacular buildings from the migration period found at Mucking included more substantial halls up to
Even the elite had simple buildings, with a central fire and a hole in the roof to let the smoke escape and the largest of which rarely had more than one floor, and one room. Buildings vary widely in size, most were square or rectangular, though some round houses have been found. Frequently these buildings have sunken floors; a shallow pit over which a plank floor was suspended. The pit may have been used for storage, but more likely was filled with straw for winter insulation. A variation on the sunken floor design is found in towns, where the "basement" may be as deep as nine feet, suggesting a storage or work area below a suspended floor. Another common design was simple post framing, with heavy posts set directly into the ground, supporting the roof. The space between the posts was filled in with wattle and daub, or occasionally, planks. The floors were generally packed earth, though planks were sometimes used. Roofing materials varied, with thatch being the most common, though turf and even wooden shingles were also used.
The most archaeologically striking example of a royal palace is found at Yeavering (Northumbria). Excavated by Hope-Taylor, the 1977 site report illustrates a complex set of wooden halls, axially aligned. However, John Blair has made clear that, from c. 600 to c. 900, elite settlements are archaeologically invisible. From the mid-10th century onwards, a unique architectural form emerges at high-status thegnly sites - the Long Range. Comprising a combined hall and chambers, these are understood to represent a deliberate set of performative symbols of power and status put in play by the newly powerful thegnly class.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, fortifications (burhs) were constructed around towns to defend against Viking attacks. Almost no secular work remains above ground, although the Anglian Tower in York has been controversially dated to the 7th century. Recent evidence opens up the possibility that St George's Tower, Oxford, may be a surviving part of the defences surrounding the Anglo-Saxon burh of Oxford.There is a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon settlement at West Stow in Suffolk, and contemporary illustrations of both secular and religious buildings are sometimes found in illuminated manuscripts.
The fall of Roman Britain at the beginning of the fifth century, according to Bede, allowed an influx of invaders from northern Germany including the Angles and Saxons.
The Angles and the Saxons had their own religion, but Christianity was on its way. St Patrick, a Romano-British man, converted Ireland to Christianity, from where much of Western Scotland was converted and much of Northumbria was reconverted. Links were also established between the Christian communities in Ireland and those in Wales and the West country at sites such as St Piran's Oratory which represents some of the earliest Christian architecture extant on the British mainland. The architecture though was initially influenced by Coptic monasticism.
Examples of this can be seen today in the form of rectangular dry-stone corbelled structures such as at Gallarus Oratory, Dingle and Illauntannig, Ireland. Christianity and Irish influence came to England through missionaries. In 635, a centre of Celtic Christianity was established at Lindisfarne, Northumbria, where St Aidan founded a monastery.
In 597, the mission of Augustine from Rome came to England to convert the southern Anglo-Saxons, and founded the first cathedral and a Benedictine monastery at Canterbury. These churches consisted of a nave with side chambers.
In 664 a synod was held at Whitby, Yorkshire, and differences between the Celtic and Roman practices throughout England were reconciled, mostly in favour of Rome. Larger churches developed in the form of basilicas, for example at All Saints' Church, Brixworth.
The Romano-British populations of Wales, the West Country, and Cumbria experienced a degree of autonomy from Anglo-Saxon influence,represented by distinct linguistic, liturgical and architectural traditions, having much in common with the Irish and Breton cultures across the Celtic Sea, and allying themselves with the Viking invaders. This was however, gradually elided by centuries of English dominance. Characteristically circular buildings as opposed to rectangular, often in stone as well as timber, along with sculptured Celtic crosses, holy wells and the reoccupation of Iron Age and Roman sites from hillforts such as Cadbury Castle, promontory hillforts such as Tintagel, and enclosed settlements called Rounds characterise the western Sub-Roman Period up to the 8th century in southwest England and continue much later in independent Wales at post-Roman cities such as Caerleon and Carmarthen.
Subsequent Danish (Viking) invasion marked a period of destruction of many buildings in Anglo-Saxon England, including in 793 the raid on Lindisfarne. Buildings including cathedrals were rebuilt, and the threat of conflict had an inevitable influence on the architecture of the time. During and after the reign of Alfred the Great (871–899), Anglo-Saxon towns (burhs) were fortified. Contemporary defensive banks and ditches can still be seen today as a result of this. Oxford is an example of one of these fortified towns, where the eleventh-century stone tower of St Michael's Church has prominent position beside the former site of the North gate. The building of church towers, replacing the basilican narthex or West porch, can be attributed to this late period of Anglo-Saxon architecture.
In contrast to secular buildings, stone was used from very early on to build churches, although a single wooden example has survived at Greensted Church, which is now thought to be from the end of the period. Bede makes it clear in both his Ecclesiastical History and his Historiam Abbatum that the masonry construction of churches, including his own at Jarrow, was undertaken morem Romanorum, "in the manner of the Romans", in explicit contrast to existing traditions of timber construction. Even at Canterbury, Bede believed that St Augustine's first cathedral had been 'repaired' or 'recovered' (recuperavit) from an existing Roman church, when in fact it had been newly constructed from Roman materials. The belief was "the Christian Church was Roman therefore a masonry church was a Roman building".
The earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon architecture dates from the 7th century, essentially beginning with Augustine of Canterbury in Kent from 597; for this he probably imported workmen from Frankish Gaul. The cathedral and abbey in Canterbury, together with churches in Kent at Minster in Sheppey (c.664) and Reculver (669), and in Essex at the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall at Bradwell-on-Sea (where only the nave survives), define the earliest type in southeast England. A simple nave without aisles provided the setting for the main altar; east of this a chancel arch, perhaps a triple arch opening as at Reculver, separated off the apse for use by the clergy. However there is no surviving complete 7th-century church with an apse. Flanking the apse and east end of the nave were side chambers serving as sacristies; further porticus might continue along the nave to provide for burials and other purposes. Exceptions to this include the Old Minster, Winchester.
Church designs at the time differed between the North of England, which are narrow with square ended chancels, rather than the apses of the south. In Northumbria the early development of Christianity was influenced by the Irish mission, important churches being built in timber. Masonry churches became prominent from the late 7th century with the foundations of Wilfrid at Ripon and Hexham, and of Benedict Biscop at Monkwearmouth-Jarrow. These buildings had long naves and small rectangular chancels; porticus sometimes surrounded the naves. Elaborate crypts are a feature of Wilfrid's buildings. The best preserved early Northumbrian church is Escomb Church.
Little is attributable to the 8th and 9th centuries, due to the regular Viking raids. Developments in design and decoration may have been influenced by the Carolingian Renaissance on the continent, where there was a conscious attempt to create a Roman revival in architecture.
The 11th century saw the first appearance of the High Romanesque style in Britain. The decades before the Conquest were prosperous for the elite, and there was great patronage of church building by figures such as Lady Godiva. Many cathedrals were constructed, including Westminster Abbey, although all these were subsequently rebuilt after 1066. Norman workers may have been imported for Westminster Abbey through the Norman Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert of Jumièges.
Recent arguments and recent archaeological discoveries have raised the possibility that the 11th-century St George's Tower, Oxford, predates both the foundation of Oxford Castle and the Norman Conquest, and functioned as a gate tower commanding the western entrance into the pre-Conquest burh. If so, the tower was then incorporated into the Norman castle built on the site in the 1070s, instead of being constructed along with it as architectural historians have long assumed.It would thus be almost without parallel in England as a purely secular and defensive Anglo-Saxon structure (see below, Secular architecture).
|This article is part of the series:|
society and culture
|Power and organization|
There are many churches that contain Anglo-Saxon features, although some of these features were also used in the early Norman period. H.M. Taylor surveyed 267 churches with Anglo-Saxon architectural features and ornaments.Architectural historians used to confidently assign all Romanesque architectural features to after the Conquest, but now realize that many may come from the last decades of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Typical Anglo-Saxon features include:
It is rare for more than one of these features to be present in the same building. A number of early Anglo-Saxon churches are based on a basilica with north and south porticus (projecting chambers) to give a cruciform plan. However cruciform plans for churches were used in other periods. Similarly, a chancel in the form of a rounded apse is often found in early Anglo-Saxon churches, but can be found in other periods as well.
The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England in the Early Middle Ages. They traced their origins to settlers who came to Britain from mainland Europe in the 5th century. However, the ethnogenesis of the Anglo-Saxons happened within Britain, and the identity was not merely imported. Anglo-Saxon identity arose from interaction between incoming groups from several Germanic tribes, both amongst themselves, and with indigenous Britons. Many of the natives, over time, adopted Anglo-Saxon culture and language and were assimilated. The Anglo-Saxons established the concept, and the Kingdom, of England, and though the modern English language owes somewhat less than 26% of its words to their language, this includes the vast majority of words used in everyday speech.
The term Norman architecture is used to categorise styles of Romanesque architecture developed by the Normans in the various lands under their dominion or influence in the 11th and 12th centuries. In particular the term is traditionally used for English Romanesque architecture. The Normans introduced large numbers of castles and fortifications including Norman keeps, and at the same time monasteries, abbeys, churches and cathedrals, in a style characterised by the usual Romanesque rounded arches and especially massive proportions compared to other regional variations of the style.
Essex is a county in the East of England which originated as the ancient Kingdom of Essex and one of the seven kingdoms, or heptarchy, that went on to form the Kingdom of England.
Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted, near Chipping Ongar in Essex, England, has been claimed to be the oldest wooden church in the world, and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or, more loosely, as a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century.
The Church of St Martin is an ancient Church of England parish church in Canterbury, England, situated slightly beyond the city centre. It is recognised as the oldest church building in Britain still in use as a church, and the oldest existing parish church in the English-speaking world, although Roman and Celtic churches had existed for centuries. The church is, along with Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey, part of a World Heritage Site.
All Saints' Church, Brixworth, now the parish church of Brixworth, Northamptonshire, England, is a leading example of early Anglo-Saxon architecture. In 1930 the British architectural historian Sir Alfred Clapham called it "perhaps the most imposing architectural memorial of the 7th century yet surviving north of the Alps". It is the largest English church that remains substantially as it was in the Anglo-Saxon era. It was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1954.
All Saints' Church, Earls Barton is a noted Anglo-Saxon Church of England parish church in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire. It is estimated that the building dates from the later tenth century, shortly after Danish raids on England.
Odda's Chapel is a former chantry chapel at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire. It is an 11th-century late Anglo-Saxon building, completed a decade before the Norman Conquest of England.
Woodeaton or Wood Eaton is a village and civil parish about 4 miles (6.4 km) northeast of Oxford, England. It also has a special needs school called Woodeaton Manor School.
St Mary's Priory Church, Deerhurst, is the Church of England parish church of Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, England. Much of the church is Anglo-Saxon. It was built in the 8th century, when Deerhurst was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. It is contemporary with the Carolingian Renaissance on mainland Europe, which may have influenced it.
The history of Anglo-Saxon London relates to the history of the city of London during the Anglo-Saxon period, in the 7th to 11th centuries.
Coldred is a settlement in the Shepherdswell with Coldred civil parish in the Dover District of Kent, England. The main part of the village is Coldred Street which lies 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) to the south-west.
The medieval cathedrals of England, which date from between approximately 1040 and 1540, are a group of twenty-six buildings that constitute a major aspect of the country's artistic heritage and are among the most significant material symbols of Christianity. Though diverse in style, they are united by a common function. As cathedrals, each of these buildings serves as central church for an administrative region and houses the throne of a bishop. Each cathedral also serves as a regional centre and a focus of regional pride and affection.
St Giles Church is the sole church in the village of Wormshill in Kent. The church is Anglican and is dedicated to Saint Giles. It forms part of the united benefice of Tunstall with Bredgar. The other parishes are Milstead, Bicknor and Frinsted and Rodmersham. The ecclesiastical parish of Wormshill is in the Diocese of Canterbury and the Sittingbourne deanery. It is a Grade II listed building, English Heritage number 1060971.
St Peter's Church is the former parish church of Barton-upon-Humber in North Lincolnshire, England. It is one of the best known Anglo-Saxon buildings, in part due to its role in Thomas Rickman's identification of the style. It has been subject to major excavations. The former Church of England church is now run by English Heritage and houses an exhibition exploring its history.
Anglo-Saxon turriform churches were an Anglo-Saxon style of church that were built in the form of towers. They can also be called tower-nave churches.
Wilcote is a hamlet about 3+1⁄2 miles (5.6 km) north of Witney in Oxfordshire, England.
The archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England is the study of the archaeology of England from the 5th Century AD to the 11th Century, when it was ruled by Germanic tribes known collectively as the Anglo-Saxons.
St Mary's Church is a redundant Anglican church in the parish of Chickney, Essex, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building, and is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Worcester's city walls are a sequence of defensive structures built around the city of Worcester in England between the 1st and 17th centuries. The first walls to be built around Worcester were constructed by the Romans. These early walls lasted beyond the fall of the Empire, and the defences encouraged several early Christian foundations to establish themselves in Worcester during the troubled 6th and 7th centuries. The Anglo-Saxons expanded Worcester in the 890s, forming a new walled, planned city, called a burh. The burh utilised the southern stretches of the old Roman walls, but pushed further north to enclose a much larger area. The Anglo-Saxon city walls were maintained by a share of taxes on a local market and streets, in an agreement reinforced by a royal charter.