==Types of Buildings==
The buildings vary greatly in size from the small, single room houses only about 3 x 3.5m (10' x 11'8') like those found at West Stow to vast halls like that at Westminster which was 22 x 80m (76' x 262'). All the buildings fit into one of two broad categories: sunken featured buildings and framed buildings. Both types are usually square or rectangular although a few round examples of each are known. Sunken featured buildings are those where a 'pit' forms part of the building, either as a living/working space, or as a sort of undercroft. These would have had a timber framed superstructure over them. Framed buildings are those where the whole building gains its strength from its timber frame, built around a series of posts set in the ground.
===Sunken Featured Buildings===
The old idea of sunken floored huts led to reconstructions of them which were not much more than a pit with a roof. Whilst this may be true for those sunken featured buildings used as workshops, recent reconstructions have shown this to be the wrong idea for houses. If a roof is put directly over the pit a number of problems follow. First, where the thatch meets the ground it rots very quickly and needs repairing frequently. Secondly, this method of construction produces a very damp set of living conditions. Thirdly, hearths have been found partly in the pits and partly on the edge of the pit suggesting that they were originally on a floor above the pit and fell down into the pit when the floor rotted away. Finally, and this is probably the most important evidence, when people move around inside a building built this way the edges of the pit deteriorate and do not end up conforming to the archaeological evidence.
The framed buildings relied on the fact that a large number of posts were set into the ground to form the basis if the walls. These posts could be set as deep as 2.4m (8') deep on large buildings, although usually the post holes were much shallower than this. A wall plate then joined all the beams in each wall of the building. Tie beams running across the building, and the roof frames, were secured to the wall plates. The spaces between the upright posts were then filled in and the roof was finished. The floor was sometimes just packed earth, but could sometimes be planked, cobbled, or even given a 'concrete like' covering of slaked lime. There was usually a raised hearth in the centre of the building. Framed buildings were often much larger than sunken featured building, and could have a second storey. The larger buildings tended to have extra rows of posts inside the building to help support the roof. Some framed buildings had wooden 'buttresses' around the outside to help support the building.
The excavations of the seventh century settlements at Cowdery's Down and Charlton, both in Hampshire, uncovered evidence of 'cruck' building, a technique previously not thought to have been used until after the Norman Conquest. In this style of building the outer door frames extend into the roof and internal support for the roof timbers is provided by one or two pairs of curved timbers (crucks) set next to the door frames. This method allows for lower side walls, and thus saves on building materials. In light of these excavations, many other sites were reassessed, with the result that cruck building was identified at these too, showing that cruck building was not only known, but widespread by the seventh century.
The walls were made in many different ways, some were made from wattle and daub, others were planked in one of many ways, some were even 'cavity walls' with moss or grass infill. Although there is no archaeological evidence for it, literature suggests that some of these wooden walled buildings may have been further strengthened by iron reinforcing bands, for example, in Beowulf:
'It was a wonder the wine-hall withstood two so fierce in battle, that the fair building did not fall to earth; but it stood firm, braced inside and out with hammered iron bands. That beautiful building, braced within with iron bands, was badly damaged; the door's hinges were wrenched... he approached Heorot, stood on the steps, stared at the high roof adorned with gold ... Then Beowulf, brave in battle, crossed the floor with his band - the timbers thundered...'
In areas where wood was scarce, e.g. many of the Northern Isles, some buildings had stone or turf walls. In Iceland it is known that entire buildings, including the roof, were made of turf. Some of the later Saxon Royal Manors may have been stone built, perhaps even with glass windows, probably influenced by continental stone palaces. Roofs were generally thatched although turf and wooden shingles may also have been used.
Many houses would have been decorated with carvings. These carvings may well have been painted. Gold may also have been used to decorate some of the great halls as the writer of Beowulf describes '... And he resolved to build a hall, a large and noble feasting-hall of whose splendours men would always speak ... Then I heard that tribes without number, even to the ends of the earth, were given orders to decorate the hall.... The thegns made haste, marched along together until they could discern the glorious, timbered hall, adorned with gold.'
We know how someone set about building a house from a description written down by King Alfred:
At another point in the same saga '... She drew up a fair table, and laid it. Then she carried to him a silver basin and costly towel, and afterwards asked him to eat and drink. She fetched in delicious food and splendid drink. All of the table things, dishes, goblets and spoons, were of silver decorated with gold. Frith sat down by Bui, and they ate and drank together.' In another saga '... Modir took a patterned cloth of bright linen and covered the table; then she took fine white wheaten bread and covered the cloth. She carried in full bowls embellished with silver, put on the table pork and game birds. There was wine in the jug; the silver mug was heavy.'
In Beowulf we have other references to furniture:
Anglo-Saxon tents appear to have been mainly used for armies on the march, the very word camp is an Old English word meaning 'battle or warfare', although it appears they may also have been used by other people when away from home, for example, traders, farmers (?) out slaughtering animals, etc.. We also have several literary references to people being 'at prayer in their tent', usually in descriptions of military events, and also have references to 'tabernacles or tents'. From this, it seems that some tents may have been used as 'mobile churches', and this may well be what the 'bell' tents, usually surmounted by a cross seen in manuscript illustrations, may represent.
''Original article and Illustrations Ben Levick 1993''