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Iron Age Settlement


All of Britain was once covered with roundhouses. They were the standard dwelling and perhaps the purist and most elegant form of architecture with their simple aerodynamic shape and economic form, which enclosed the largest space for the least use of materials. Strangely they were rare in the rest of Europe.

Bodrifty village is on the high ground of the watershed between the Atlantic and the English Channel in the Penwith District of West Cornwall. The ancient trackway, which runs from near Lands End, eastward, crosses through it. Penwith is the first place in Britain to be mentioned in writing. This was 325 B.C. by a very ancient Greek called Pytheas. He wrote: "The people are friendly to strangers and from their contact with foreign merchants are civilised in their way of life."

The trade was for tin, which they dug here and exported. Cornishmen continued doing this until about ten years ago. Bodrifty is a complete village and fossilised farming system which has survived almost intact as its walls were made of granite. Most British roundhouses had walls of wood and mud of which only obscure traces remain.

The inspiration to build a copy of a roundhouse came from the work of the late Peter Reynolds who did just that nearly 30 years ago at Butser in Hampshire. His Iron Age farm is still going strong.

We were delighted when Peter came down in August (01) to do some filming with Time Team in our newly built Roundhouse. Sadly, Peter died a few weeks later and the next time we went to Butser was to his memorial in the Great House (this being a really large roundhouse) at Butser.

It is heartening to know that Peter's legacy will continue thanks to his family, loyal staff and friends. We are grateful for the help and encouragement which we received from them concerning our project.

As with Butser we intend to offer the Roundhouse as an educational facility for all ages from young to old, also as an alternative venue for namings, weddings, memorials and other gatherings.