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16 March 2009
Iron Age reconstruction underway in Shropshire

Park Hall Countryside Experience, located near Oswestry (Shropshire, England), is undertaking a major new project for 2009 with the reconstruction of an Iron Age roundhouse built using traditional methods by local crafts men and women.
     There is an important local connection to the Iron Age, for just over a kilometre from Park Hall is the site of the Old Oswestry Iron Age Hill Fort, which is one of the finest hill forts in Britain. Excavations of the Hillfort in 1939/1940 suggest that the earliest settlement dates back to 700 BCE (Early Iron Age) with evidence of timber built roundhouses on the top of the natural hill. During 2008 a project led by Oswestry Borough Council enhanced facilities at the Hillfort improving access and providing interpretation on site. Alongside these improvements it seemed an ideal time and opportunity to develop the educational base by building a reconstructed Iron Age Roundhouse within close vicinity to the Hillfort, Park Hall being the chosen site.
     In many cases little evidence survives to show the type of dwelling constructed during the Iron Age, because most of the building materials were natural, for example wood, reed and hemp twine. Through archaeological excavations and basic engineering principles ideas of the shape and structure of roundhouses have emerged. The roundhouse at Park Hall is the fifth roundhouse to be built my thatching consultant Patrick Hemmingway of Rossett near Chester. He is being ably assisted on this project by Caroline Lowe who specialises in basket making and willow weaving and will construct the wattle and daub walls.
     The initial stages of the project were laborious because timber and coppiced hazel and willow had to be selected and cut by Patrick and Caroline and brought to the site. Once the construction work began the roundhouse soon started to take shape. Firstly Patrick put in the posts then Caroline was able to weave the hazel and willow for the walls. The next stage was for Patrick to add the wall plates and he is presently assembling the roof rafters, which give the first real impression of the shape of the roundhouse.
     The construction is of course a 'work in progress' and visitors to Park Hall can see each stage as it progresses. The expected completion date is mid/end of May. Further information can be found at www.parkhallfarm.co.uk

Source: Shropshire Star (14 March 2009)

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