BUTSER ANCIENT FARM ARCHIVE 1973-2007 Archivist Christine Shaw
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The Moel y Gerddi Roundhouse

The site was excavated in 1980-1 by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. While there was some evidence for activity in the Neolithic period, the site was principally occupied during the middle of the first millennium BC. At first, the roundhouse was built of timber but this was later embanked with stone, possibly to prevent the collapse of the timber structure.

Reference: R. S. Kelly (1988) Two late prehistoric circular enclosures near Harlech, Gwynedd. Proc. Prehist. Soc. 54, 101-153

Peter Reynolds chose to construct the initial wooden phase of the house. He had previously built a construct of this house at the National Museum of Wales at St Fagans in 1993 but wanted to explore a different method of roof construction at Bascomb with a basketwork cone instead of an upper ring to brace the rafters. The house was partially complete when he died in 2001 and completed in 2002.

The twelve posts used to build the inner ring were ash as were the components of the ring beam. The walls were of oak stakes with some seven hundred 3 m long hazel rods providing the wattle. The daub was a mixture of clay, dung, soil and fibre - many of the schoolchildren who visited the Ancient Farm helped in the construction of the wall. The rafters were Scots pine, one of only three native conifers. The purlins and basketwork were of hazel. The 2.5 tonnes of long straw used for the thatch was grown locally.  It was tied in place using sisal twine, a fibre not dissimilar to that found in prehistory. It took some three months to thatch the house. The thatching was carried out by Dave Kirby with a dedicated team of volunteers who not only helped to thatch but also to divide the straw yealms into suitably sized bundles for the thatchers to work with.

In order to provide the visiting public and schoolchildren with a visual image of how the interior of a roundhouse might have looked, it was decided that this roundhouse, unlike the Longbridge Deverill, should be ‘dressed’. When the great house was built archaeological evidence for the internal arrangements of roundhouses was scarce. Some ten years later, excavation techniques were more sophisticated and more data had been recovered and processed. Therefore the interior of the Moel y Gerddi roundhouse was decorated and furnished in the style and method of the middle to late Iron Age using excavation data and applicable literary sources. David Freeman from Gallica was particularly helpful.

The internal walls had already been limewashed to give light to the interior. Painted decoration was applied using patterns based on the Wasdalgesheim scroll style which has been found throughout Britain and Europe dating to the fourth/third centuries BC. The colours were made from pigments added to limewash: red from iron oxide using iron-ore from Hengistbury Head, yellow from ochre from Somerset and black from charcoal. A hearth area was created and andirons made by Paul Stanbridge based on those excavated from the relevant period. Furnishings included a bed, storage chests, dressers, looms and a kitchen area.

One of the reasons Peter Reynolds chose to build this particular house was that it had two doorways, virtually opposite each other. As this created a substantial through-draught on all but the stillest days, the north-west door remained closed most of the time. On the original site, when the walls were encased with stone, unsurprisingly, this doorway was built over.