YOTC Home YOTC Who is Rob Godfrey? YOTC Interactive Blog YOTC Talks and other Events YOTC How to get hold of the books YOTC - Imbolc YOTC - Beltane YOTC - Lugnasa YOTC - Samhain YOTC What people are saying about the books. YOTC Celts & the Iron Age YOTC A Celtic Calendar YOTC Walks in Iron Age Wharfedale YOTC Get in Touch with Rob YOTC - Imbolc YOTC - Beltane YOTC - Lugnasa YOTC - Samhain

Iron Age Wharfedale

Iron Age Sites Plant Dyes Crannogs & Roundhouses


The typical dwelling in Iron Age northen England around 500BC was the roundhouse. Built entirely of biodegradeable local materials (wood, mud and reeds) it leaves no trace at all apart from the holes in the ground for the supporting posts.

A well-built roundhouse erected on a well-drained site might last for decades providing the roof was re-thatched from time to time. They look like an attractive, cosy place to live, at least until it's time to look for the bathroom.

A fire would be burned in a central hearth, providing heat, light and somewhere to cook. The smoke from the fire could escape through roof vents, but the whole place must have had a pretty smokey atmosphere and smell. This picture of a reconstruction at the Village of Welsh Life in Cardiff says it all!

Not all roundhouses were built the same of course, some had wattle and daub walls (as described in the Year of the Celt) whilst others included stones. Here is a picture of a reconsturction at the now (sadly) closed Peat Moors Centre in Somerset. Note the walls have been lime-washed - it is not certain that Celts actually used this, although there's plenty of limestone in mid Wharfedale. I imagine people would have had raised wooden platforms or stools at the least - it's a bit spartan for my liking. Wonder where they'd put the flatscreen?

Picture by Dave Morris


Crannogs are raised timber platforms, supported on stout timbers (often of Elm that can survive for decades under water) on which roundhouses were built. Remains have been found across northern Europe and in particular at the edges of lakes. A wooden walkway/bridge provided access to the dry land. The advantages of the limited access are clearly defensive; keeping out animals that might attack livestock and also to a more limited extent easy to defend from raiders.

Several reconstructions have been built in Britain. Here is one on Loch Tay, Scotland.

The image on the front page of this site is an 'artists impression' (well, mine) of the crannog of the Scevinge. Around 500BC the valley bottom of the Wharfe was a large floodplain/swamp surrounded by dense woodland and there was a lake below the site of modern day Otley stretching over 4 miles to the east (including parts of the Washburn valley).

The Wharfe still floods on occasion, but back then there was a much bigger flood plain to absorb the excess water. It's not inconceivable that a crannog would have been a good solution to living next to abundant wildfowl,fish and water. Conveniently for me the whole thing would have completely rotted away by now.

Copyright © Rob Godfrey 2012-2014. All rights reserved. Payments by Nochex Merchant Services