Four thousand years after our ancestors built a timber circle on what is now Holme Beach, the final part of the monument was this morning lifted into what should be its final resting place... continues...
.. extra features are now under discussion following news of the £65,000 grant, part of a national £4m payout for museum improvements by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Wolfson Foundation... continues...
Work on a £1 million revamp for Lynn museum is due to start in July. The project has been funded with £778,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £125,000 from Norfolk County Council and donations from other sources... continues...
Norfolk's famous Bronze Age timber circle should finally go on public show in 2007.
A display of part of Seahenge, which in 1999 was controversially dug up from the shoreline at Holme, near Hunstanton, will form the focal point of a major redevelopment of Lynn Museum at King's Lynn... continues...
A second timber circle, 300 years older, was found near Seahenge. Instead of being composed of plain wooden posts, parts of it could have been decorated with carvings. The hypothesis is linked to the discovery of a carved wooden figure called the 'Dagenham Idol' (pictured on the website)... continues...
Lynn Museum, Market Street, Kings Lynn
(entrance at the bus station)
Being a big Time Team fan I have wanted to see these timbers ever since the (in)famous 'special'. It's a long way from Cardiff to Kings Lynn but at last I got the chance. I had planned this holiday and booked the hotels months ago but last week my dad passed away at the 'ripe old age' of 93. I know this is a 'good innings' as they say but the sense of grief remains the same. The holiday was therefore nearly cancelled but as there was nothing I could do at home it seemed pointless moping about at home.
From October to March the museum is free to enter which is an added bonus. I was able to buy a leaflet on Seahenge for 50p but was surprised there wasn't something more 'substantial' available to buy. Although they did have several Francis Pryor books on display.
Myself and Dafydd eagerly went through the door marked Seahenge exhibition (unfortunately no audio phones available) and we made our way past the model of one of the Seahenge builders and the reconstructed outside of the timber circle. Although made of fiber glass it does look like real wood to be fair.
We the turned around the corner to see the real thing (well, half of the circle anyway) encased behind glass. The information boards are very good although I was expecting the timbers to be rather larger.
Enclosed in a separate glass case is the mighty upside down tree trunk, complete with hole in order to drag it across the land. The tree trunk is very big, much larger than I was expecting.
There are also several display cabinets showing prehistoric finds from the locality. There are also very good. The rest of the museum covers the Roman period right through to recent times.
The start attraction of the museum of course is Seahenge. It really is very special and well worth the effort involved in getting to see it. Lynn Museum isn't very big and I can see that they have done their best to display the timbers. However, it is a pity that the circle couldn't be displayed in its entirety with the tree trunk in the middle. Perhaps one day this may be possible? I assume the other timbers are safely stored away somewhere?
Do try to visit the museum if you happen to be in the area. It is well worth it.
It seems likely that the upturned tree trunk served as a place for a body to be exposed to the elements in order to be 'prepared' for burial. Last week my father passed away and yesterday I had a 'phone call from my sister to say that he is now at the funeral home being 'prepared' for his funeral next week. It may me think of the emotions the people who built Seahenge must have also been going through.
These notes are dedicated to my dad who I thank for taking me on holiday around this wonderful country of ours whilst I was growing up and hence installing my 'curiosity' to visit places of my own.
Seahenge. Of course it is not a henge, not even a stone circle but built with wooden posts around the spring of BC 2049. The diameter of the circle was 21 feet (6.6m) with 55 closely fitting posts the circle averaging out at about 10 foot high. The land on which it stood would have been different, saltmarsh protected from the sea by sand dunes and mud with a mixed oak woodland nearby. Tis a place of sacred unknowingness, you may laugh but that central upturned trunk its roots reaching out to the sky must hold some sort of secret. The archaeologists think that it was used for excarnation, either for a great chief, or maybe for the small group or clan who lived here.
When I first saw the upturned tree, my initial reaction was that it was somehow a dinosaur, not quite dead, still throbbing with slow life. It has PRESENCE this tree, blackened and deeply fissured with age and a few model carrion crows perch menacingly on the edges of the mock-up wooden circle help create the drama. The tree stands in its glass cage watching over the recovered wooden posts of the circle as they curve round on their stand backed by a large photographic representation of the beach on which the circle was found.
This beach at Holme-Next-to-the-Sea must be your first port of call, drive down to the village and turn left at the crossroads, (where it says Peddars Way) and there is a car park further on. Walk over the wooden boardwalk by the dunes, the sand stretches for ages down to the sea, and on the horizon about 50 sea wind turbines stand like ghosts, blades idly turning. No mention of where the posts were found on the information boards, and I suppose if you were lucky and walked further on and the tide was out you may find the second wooden circle, called Holme 2.
There are several theories mooted on the boards that accompany the timbers, one is to do with the stripping and non-stripping of the bark off the posts, most timbers had their bark left on but one had been stripped, this one called ‘timber 30’ had its outward facing bark stripped, maybe to represent an important person, maybe because it had been struck by lightning thereby leaving a white bark. Firstly, it was said that the closeness of the posts could be that the whole site was supposed to represent a tree stump, or maybe each individual post represented a person, there were 55 posts in all. The orientation of the first timbers sunk was to the Midwinter sunset in the south-west and the Midsummer sunrise in the northeast.
About half the timbers were placed upside down, it could have been due to the fact that if driven into the ground right way up the circle would have leant inwards towards the centre. By placing them upside down they cancelled this inversion, but there again at other Bronze Age sites inverted objects were associated with death and human remains.
The narrow ‘entrance’ double pronged timber was labelled 35/37 in the initial excavation because it was thought to be two separate posts, there is a blocking timber 36 in front of the entrance.
The great central oak stump, over 50 axes were used on this tree, and 3 holes bored into its lower trunk show where it was dragged by honeysuckle ropes. Measuring about 2 and half metres high by approximately the same width, think I read somewhere it was 150 years old, there are two suggestions for why it was used, one being the excarnation theory the other “a symbolic representation of the fruits of the earth and the magical powers of trees, or perhaps a gateway to the underworld”
What to make of it all? Firstly, one has to agree with the decision of digging the timbers up, if only to help keep them for future reference and safe from further destruction by the sea, and because of their special uniqueness. The heart does stop for a few seconds as you view these old monster wooden posts, my first impression was of the old wooden Scandinavian gods found in the bogs – strange twisted and shaped… Alien, scary and dark! Imagination can run easily with Tibetan ‘sky burials,’ especially as part of the exhibition houses another upside down tree trunk to make the point that the roots easily cradle a human being.
Lynn Museum can be found to one side of the bus station, so simply head for the train and bus station and park in the car parks round there.
I have to admit my main reason for visiting Flag Fen was to reacquaint myself with the timbers I had last seen on a cold windswept beach near Hunstanton 4 years ago. At the time I had dragged along the girlfriend of the time and her 2 kids to watch a ring of wooden posts and a central trunk very slowly emerge from the water – I don’t think they were ever conned by the promise of ‘a day at the seaside’ again after that.
For some reason I’d left it a long time before going to see the remains of the circle in their wooden tanks, perhaps I needed to put some distance between them being there on the beach and being here at Flag Fen. Francis Pryor’s book had reawoken my memories and brought back the feelings of that day – I’m not going to go into the rights and wrongs of the subject, I think the issues were well covered in the Forum posts of the time.
Walking into the large open fronted barn was a strange experience. The central timber is placed at the end and it was almost like walking into some kind of hallowed hall with the trunk forming an alter as its focal point. The smaller split timbers that made up the continuous circle were laid out under the water, some were in with the trunk while others were in a separate tank. The view of the timbers was difficult due to the layer of green pond slime that seemed to be growing on the top of the water in one tank, I presume there is a reason why the water is not changed regularly. I was almost tempted to put my had below the water to touch the posts, but didn’t, partly because I wouldn’t want to cause any damage to the 4050 year old wood and partly because it just didn’t seem right – disrespectful somehow.
I spent quite a while in the barn and there was nobody else around. While I was there something whizzed silently above my head, I looked up to see a young swallow on the wooden beams of the barn being fed by it’s parent before the adult flew off again to gather more insects for the youngster. I was struck by the whole ‘life, death, rebirth’ thing, the timbers had grown, been felled, shaped, moved to a sacred place near the coast, erected and become the centre of ceremony, abandoned, covered in rising water and then peat, been forgotten about, uncovered by the sea and returned to the land of the living, become again the centre of attention, been dug up and brought here awaiting the next part of their journey. The swallow had been born in Britain, grown up then flown to Africa, overwintered there and then returned to Britain to raise it’s own offspring who would repeat the cycle. Somehow I felt that seeing the timbers again had completed the cycle for me too in some way that I can’t explain. A sad but quite moving experience.
[Holme Beach 10/12/02] So I came up here with a friend to see if any of the other structures were visible. And in some words, not really. However reading through pages about the place inc. photos, I see we were about half a mile west of where it was found.. doh.
All was not lost as we did see some large chunks of timber, looking as weathered as the seahenge timbers. They were seemingly carved in a way that made them look like stones from a stonecircle, but I may just have been overly hoping.
A word of warning, its very very cold on this beach in December when the wind picks up.
Visited 24th July 2002: We went to Flag Fen without realising that the Sea Henge timbers were in storage there. I'm certain that the experience was nowhere near as magical as visiting the site in it's original location, but I still got over excited by the experience.
Of course, the battery ran out on the digital camera, so I had a go with the SLR. The results aren't fantastic, but I thought I'd post them up anyway. It was good to see the timbers (I missed out on seeing them in situ) but sad to see them in the wrong place.
"On a recent visit to the Lynn Museum in Norfolk to see the Seahenge Gallery, it was noticed by Bucky's wife Loie, that in each of the trunks that make up the circle there is a wedge-shaped cut extending the whole width of each trunk, and one or two inches into it. Bucky writes that, “Loie noticed a horizontal band of discoloration on one timber. When she pointed it out to me, I started looking at all of them and finding similar bands, at different heights. At first, I thought they might be strips of metal helping hold the timbers to the support posts: there was a tiny bit of space between some of the bands and the wood, as if the bands weren’t tight. Looking at the bands from as close to the timber sides as was possible, it was soon apparent the bands were not connected to the metal posts: light was visible between them. So the bands were in or on the wood. I soon saw that where the bands met the sides of the timbers, they continued around the sides. And the continuations were all triangular. It became apparent that the only explanation for all the different aspects we had noted would be horizontal wedges cut into the wood, and then inexpertly filled with some kind of painted putty.”
"The cuts had indeed been filled and in-painted so, in the subdued lighting of the Gallery, they are not easily seen (which actually contravenes accepted conservation practice as restorations should be clearly visible). Staff on the reception desk at Lynn Museum didn’t know what the cuts were (and hadn’t even noticed them before) but after telephoning one of the museum curators it appears that English Heritage’s original intention was to leave the circle in situ to naturally degrade. In order to get as much information as possible before that happened however a wedge was cut out of each timber (not just the infamous chainsaw chunk from the central bole) for dendochronological cross-dating. English Heritage’s decision to leave the circle in situ was then reversed and all the timbers were subsequently removed for safety and conservation (now unfortunately with slices taken out of them – slices which subsequently needed to be filled in and ‘restored’)."