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Work is progressing on the two new replica buildings at the Avalon Marshes Centre. Their methods of construction provide a fascinating glimpse into how our forebears built. Since our last update in November the timber frame of the Anglo Saxon Longhall has been erected and the roof trusses for both buildings have been hoisted into place by crane. The main work underway at the moment is wattle and daub walling, to the Longhall and to the gables of the Romano British dining room, and tiling.
When it comes to roofing materials for villas, the Romans favoured slates or tiles made of clay. Slates would be nailed into place and overlapped one another much as we see today on houses. With the clay tiles (Imbrex and Tegula!) nails were not required as a nib on the Tegula held the tile in place. Tiles would have been produced locally and evidence of Roman pottery kilns has been found all over Somerset.
As explained in our last update, the Anglo Saxons used mostly timber in their building construction, so it should come as no surprise that this was applied to their roofs. Everyday dwellings would probably have had roofs made of thatch or reeds but the Longhalls were buildings of status and required a more impressive roof. They would have used wooden tiles known as shakes (sometimes referred to as shingles), which would have been pegged into place with wooden dowels.
The word ‘shake’ is a relatively modern term and is used when referring to wooden tiles that are produced using the traditional method of hand splitting them. Shingles are produced using modern machine saws; they are generally thinner and smoother than the traditional shake. It is estimated that South West Heritage Trust will need a around 5500 tiles to cover the roof for our Anglo Saxon Longhall.
This exciting project has been made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership, and a lot of hard graft by South West Heritage Trust staff and volunteers. When completed the Anglo-Saxon long hall and the Romano-British replica building, which is also under construction, will provide an important educational and visitor resource at the Avalon Marshes Centre.
Roman roofing tiles Saxon Shakes
Wattle and daub Saxon Longhall – Pegged joints