What made you want to get involved with the Neolithic Houses project?
My son saw the advert and knowing that I am interested in archaeology, suggested I volunteer. I thought it was a great opportunity to be involved in an activity close to where I live near Old Sarum. I am doing a Certificate in Archaeology at Oxford Uni Continuing Education and I thought this would be a chance to be involved in a different aspect of archaeology.
What are you enjoying about the project so far?
Learning new skills – I have learnt to weave wattle, use a saw and have had extensive practice knotting wet straw (I am still under instruction with an axe!). But the most pleasurable part of the project has been working with the rest of the team. Everyone seems to have special skills and experience which they have been happy to share – I have learnt so much from them.
Is there any part of the project that you’re particularly looking forward to or that you are particularly interested in?
I love talking to people about the houses. We had open days at Old Sarum and it was great to chat to people about the houses – people seemed so interested.
In what ways has being involved in this project made you think differently about the people of Stonehenge and their lives?
We are not building Wendy houses – we are using the materials that we know from the archaeology were available to the Durrington Walls builders to build the very best houses that we can – which is presumably what happened 4,500 years ago. It creates a real link to those people, particularly sharing their experience of the cold, wind and rain on Salisbury Plain (although we have the benefit of wellies)!
What do you do when you’re not building Neolithic houses?
I retired as a solicitor 18 months ago and apart from my Certificate in Archaeology course, I also volunteer with the Portable Antiquities Scheme at Salisbury Museum. The PAS is a great scheme with heaps of fascinating information on the database about objects dating from prehistory to 1700. We identify the finds brought in by metal detectorists and other members of the public and add the details to the database.
What would you say to people who are tempted to volunteer at Stonehenge?
I was very nervous before we started the prototype build at Old Sarum. I hadn’t done any building work before and I was worried that I would be slow and hopeless. I also worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage being outside in the cold all day. I didn’t need to worry – I have been taught the skills I need on the way and I found I loved being outside all day. It has been a fabulous experience.
Additional Volunteering Opportunities
If you are interested in beoming a Stonehenge Neolithic House Interpretation Volunteer, you can find out more on the English Heritage website. As a Neolithic House Interpretation Volunteer you will be responsible for maintaining the Neolithic houses once they are built (which weather permitting will be by the end of April), by lighting fires and assisting with the building maintenance. You will bring the stories of the Neolithic people to life in our external galleries and provide a warm and friendly welcome for all visitors, helping us to deliver a world class visitor experience.