The Anglo-Saxon period is the name given to the time when invaders of Germanic origin invaded and settled in Britain and withstood the Viking raids until the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066.
Two royal towns of the Northumbrian kings, Yeavering and Maelmin, lie only a few kilometres to the west and north of Lanton Quarry respectively. We know these were royal centres because the Anglo-Saxon monk, Bede, mentions them in his history of the English church and people. Cropmarks visible on aerial photographs, followed by excavations in the case of Yeavering, have confirmed the location of these sites. The Maelmin site, to the north of Lanton Quarry, has a Heritage Trail with reconstructions and information boards.
The excavations at Lanton Quarry have revealed the unexpected remains of a low-status Anglo-Saxon village with houses, workshops and fences. Towards the southern end of the quarry a number of sunken-featured buildings were excavated along with rectangular, post-built, structures. The sunken-featured buildings, known as Grübenhauser, are a specific Anglo-Saxon building form commonly used as workshops. They consist of a shallow rectangular pit with a flat base and a central posthole at either end. There were a total of seven of these types of buildings found at Lanton Quarry, with a number producing different types of finds. One of the buildings produced large numbers of loom weights and also had a clay pad in the northern end, indicating where the loom may have been situated. Also recovered from the sunken-featured buildings were iron knives, beautiful polychrome glass beads, pottery sherds, metal fragments, slag, glass slag, clay, cereal grains and animal bone fragments. All of these materials indicate that a wide range of industrial activities were being carried out on the site and each sunken building may well have had its own industry associated with it.
One of the Anglo-Saxon post-built buildings after excavation
An Anglo-Saxon post-built rectangular building with a number of sunken floored workshop buildings in the background and a fenceline to the left
A reconstructed Dark Age house at The Maelmin Heritage Trail
As well as the sunken-featured buildings, four rectangular post-built buildings were found. Most of the postholes were of a substantial size, indicating that they would have supported large timber-framed buildings. Compared to the sunken buildings, the post built structures produced very little artefact evidence. It is thought that two of these buildings served as houses for some of the residents of this site while the other two, which each had a large double doorway, could have functioned as cart sheds or barns.
At the Maelmin Heritage Trail you can visit a full-size reconstruction of a timber-built building of this period excavated at nearby Cheviot Quarry. The Maelmin site is located 5 miles north of Wooler on the southern edge of Milfield village and is signed from the A697. Further details and site leaflets can be obtained from the information point in the village cafe. Entrance is FREE and access is available during daylight hours.
The Gefrin Trust was set up in 2002 to ensure the future preservation of the site of Yeavering through sympathetic management, conservation and investigation.