Around the country there are a number of places where you can go and see or sit inside a reconstructed prehistoric house. We haven’t visited them all by a long shot, but here’s the list. Let us know what you think of them if you’ve visited.
Ancient Technology Centre, Dorset
Interior of the Earthhouse at the Ancient Technology Centre. Photo courtesy of the Ancient Technology Centre.
This set of reconstructed buildings in Cranborne in Dorset includes a Neolithic (Stone Age) log cabin and two Iron Age roundhouses, one very special one based on unusual roundhouses excavated on the Isle of Man. There are also Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Viking replica structures there, too, so you could teach the whole of the British history part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum there if you want to!
The site is not open every day so schools must contact the site and work out a suitable day to visit, and plan what activities your pupils will take part in. The focus is very much on hands-on skills.
Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire
Inside the house based on one from Danebury hillfort at Butser Ancient Farm
This site in Hampshire is the third version of Butser, which was first established by Peter Reynolds to conduct experiments in Iron Age farming techniques. Most of what we think we know about house construction and food storage comes from the experiments conducted there in the 1970s and 1980s. They also keep ancient breeds and grow ancient crops.
They have an Iron Age settlement, a Roman villa and are developing some Neolithic houses based on those found at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge.
Neolithic houses at Stonehenge
Neolithic House number 1 completed at Stonehenge, photo courtesy of English Heritage
The new visitor centre at Stonehenge is complemented by reconstructed Neolithic houses, the kind of dwellings people may have lived in at the time of one of the major phases of construction at the monument, about 2500 BC. The houses were built with guidance from the Ancient Technology Centre, above. English Heritage will be running Discovery Visits at the houses and visitor centre, which will involve hands-on learning with replica objects and craft activities.
Chiltern Open Air Museum, Buckinghamshire
Replica Iron Age roundhouse at the Chiltern Open Air Museum. Photograph by Kim Biddulph.
The museum in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, mainly preserves buildings at risk from around the Chilterns. Most of them are nineteenth century in date. There is a reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse based on one excavated near Dunstable and a great Iron Age and Roman theme day that schools can book to find out about life 2000 years ago and how things changed.
Celtic Harmony, Hertfordshire
Children get a chance to try out Iron Age jobs, like grinding grain and baking bread in the reconstructed roundhouse, or older children will learn hunting techniques in the woods and how to lead a tribe.
Ufton Court, near Reading, Berkshire
A reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse can be visited at Ufton Court Educational Trust near Reading. A visit includes meeting an Iron Age person and then comparing their way of life to the Roman and re-enacting Boudica’s revolt.
Flag Fen Bronze Age Centre, Cambridgeshire
Earliest wheel found in Britain at Flag Fen in Cambridgeshire. © Francis Pryor
You can go see the preserved timber posts of a huge walkway across the fen leading to a wooden platform where hundreds of bronze weapons and other artefacts were committed to a watery grave, along with reconstructed Bronze Age and Iron Age roundhouses. In the on-site museum, there’s also the earliest wheel found in Britain.
Hadleigh Country Park, Essex
Hadleigh’s roundhouse is based on a floor plan from an archaeological excavation at Little Waltham, near Chelmsford. The field containing the roundhouse is open on most days to allow visitors to view its exterior. Schools can book to see the inside of the roundhouse and do some activities, like an archaeological dig.
Howick reconstructed Mesolithic hut, Northumberland
This Mesolithic house in Northumberland dating to about 8000 BC was quite a sensation when it was excavated by archaeologists from the University of Newcastle. A reconstruction was built for BBC’s Meet the Ancestors which still stands and can be seen on the Maelmin Heritage trail.
Herd Farm, West Yorkshire
A settlement of three Iron Age roundhouses has been built and is open for school visits at Herd Farm north of Leeds. Children get to become Iron Age villagers and learn everyday activities people would do in the Iron Age.
Ryedale Folk Museum, North Yorkshire
This museum seems to have an Iron Age roundhouse and leads educational sessions with schools.
Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire
The reconstructed village at Castell Henllys
The roundhouses at Castell Henllys are built inside the original Iron Age hillfort, for an extra authentic feel. There is an education centre nearby with plenty of objects excavated from the site to look at, as well as replica objects to handle.
Llynnon roundhouses, Anglesey
The two roundhouses are thought to be how Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age houses looked in the area. Local schools use one of the roundhouses.
St Fagans Open Air Museum, Cardiff
A new Iron Age replica farmstead was recently opened at St Fagan’s Open Air Museum. The building, which is based on an archaeological site from the time of the Roman conquest, is a recreation of a small Iron Age farmstead near Llansadwrn in the eastern corner of Anglesey.
Caer Alyn, courtesy of the Caer Alyn Heritage Project
Caer Alyn, Wrexham
Caer Alyn heritage project runs digs on an Iron Age hillfort and two roundhouses have been reconstructed there.
Navan Fort, County Armagh
Inside the roundhouse at Navan Fort. Courtesy of Navan Centre & Fort.
Navan, or Emain Macha, is an iconic place in Ulster history. It was an Iron Age ritual fort in which a series of huge roundhouses were built. Then, in AD 94, the biggest roundhouse of all was built (or possible several concentric circles of posts with no roof) and subsequently set on fire and sealed under a rubble and earth mound. One of the earlier, smaller, roundhouses has been reconstructed near the site and there are a number of school workshops available.
Scottish Crannog Centre, Perthshire
View of a reconstructed Iron Age crannog. Courtesy of the Scottish Crannog Centre www.crannog.co.uk
Crannogs, dwellings built on piles in lakes, were built in Ireland and Scotland for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Scottish Crannog Centre is a reconstruction of an Early Iron Age example. Pupils learn about life on the crannog in Lock Tay and try their hand at wood-turning, stone-drilling and fire-making. Children realise how ingenious Iron Age people were to survive and prosper in this situation.