Project launch and open day in the sunshine
The sun came out along with over 1600 visitors for our free open day (12th March), as people of all ages enjoyed a fun-filled celebration of Saxon times at the Farm. The event was to introduce the launch of our new community Saxon House project, which aims to construct a Saxon dwelling on the historic Witney site, thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Oxfordshire Anglo-Saxon re-enactors Hwitmearum set up a camp near the sheep field, and engaged visitors with a range of Saxon-themed activities from trying on garments to wheel construction, tapestry and writing with a quill; the troupe even found time to cook up a tasty vegetable stew on the fire for their lunch, which looked and smelled delicious!
Wychwood Warriors - re-enactors from the University of Oxford - made an eye-catching change from our usual croquet on the Manor House lawn, as families tried out armour and wielded swords and shields - some rather enthusiastically!
Children's crafts included making a coil pot or a runestone using air drying modelling clay, or Saxon-themed colouring in. Other activities included wooden spoon carving with Cogges’ regular, David Knight, and weaving, ancient knitting and drop spindle techniques with local crafts people. The 'Curious About Cogges' volunteer group was on-hand with a display of Saxon found-objects and talked to the public about this relatively little-known era of the site and wider region. Visitors could drop by for a chat with Toby Swift and the Wychwood Project to find out more about their heritage workshops and projects, and Witney Radio FM broadcast live from the farmyard all day!
Visitors had the chance to meet some of the experts from McCurdy & Co, the team behind Shakespeare's Globe — a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse in London for which William Shakespeare wrote his plays — and other bespoke projects. All ages had a go at wood work, carpentry and traditional peg-making.The firm will be skill-sharing with volunteers and our land-management apprentices to construct the Saxon dwelling over the next year.
Kieran Wheeler, (pictured top and right), from McCurdy & Co, was busy demonstrating traditional tools and methods used to build the timber-frame roof. He said, "We're really excited to be here today and to get started with the project, and we're looking forward to working with the community so they gain the traditional skills to help build the Saxon House. We are delighted at such an enthusiastic response, it's fantastic to see even the kids get stuck-in. Who needs a TV?!"
Michael Smith, Head of Operation at Cogges, said:
"Wow! What a great weekend it was to kick off our Saxon House project with a public open day! The weather warmed up and 1,685 visitors came out and had fun finding out about all aspects of Anglo-Saxon life, trying their hands at traditional crafts or joining our project contractors McCurdy & Co. to have a go at some of the creative tasks that will be required once work begins on the Saxon House later this year. Most importantly, 31 prospective new volunteers for Cogges and the Saxon House project signed up on the day! It was a great feeling to once again be able to host a large gathering at Cogges for our local community, after several years where such an event has not been possible."
“What a fantastic event, lovely to see so many people enjoying themselves. The Saxon house looks like a great idea.”
“It was a great day – fascinating for the grown-ups as well as the kids”
“It was a brilliant day, thank you!”
Cogges’ Saxon House will provide a unique learning space for schools and craft activities, and an event venue with a difference. This exciting project will bring together volunteers, traditional build contractors and the community to create a fantastic addition to tell the story of Cogges’ 1000 years of history.
Read more about the day and see some fantastic photos by Ed Nix, Oxford Mail/ Times and Witney Gazette.