A famous early medievalist told me that the only thing growing in Jarrow were the Bede’s World pigs. Not anymore it seems. Earlier this week it was announced that Bede’s World is closed until further notice. What will become of the porkers?
This superb Jarrow museum focused on the archaeology and culture of the Early Middle Ages including the monastic sites and society of the pre-Viking kingdom of Northumbria. Its closure has been rightly regarded as further evidence of the erosion of British culture and heritage caused by Conservative Party-led Westminster cuts to local government funding, particularly affecting museums in the North of England.
The museum had multiple components as well as being adjacent to the church and ruins of Jarrow’s medieval monastery itself where Bede wrote his many famous ramblings.
In a previous post I talked about the indoor museum: its mortuary remains, artefacts, stone sculpture and settlement archaeology. This post is to record my visit there a decade ago when I encountered its outdoor Anglo-Saxon village: Gywre.
Gywre is apparently pronounced ‘Yeerweh’ according to the sign. However, the sign doesn’t go on to explain how you pronounce that. Best we all guess and make it up ourselves.
You go ‘Yeerweh’ and I’ll go mine.
Bede did it Yeerweh, Sinatra did it Meeweh.
Who knows. I had a geordie house-mate at University but I never learned the lingo of the North-East… Sorry folks.
Ancient breeds bring back an aura of past farming life in Gwyre. When I visited back in 2006 the pigs were big mothers rolling in the mud. There were also geese, cows and sheep. The material culture of these animals is the best bit; the goose house was my favourite and the fences are so frustrating – they are probably accurate and how few of them leave their trace on the archaeological sites we excavate!
Then there are the buildings, reconstructed from archaeological excavations at Hartlepool, Yeavering and Thirlings. The Thirlings hall was an archaeology experiment, built using historic tools. The monastic workshop emulates the plan of a building excavated at Hartlepool. I liked the SFB with its sunken floor best… for despite arguments suggesting a single method of raised floor construction, I wonder if some could have been built this way. There was also a fabulous pole lathe.
I particularly like the juxtaposition of pylons and SFBs in this post-industrial landscape.