The roundhouse build on Wilma’s Walk is part of the Arran Archaeology Project, a two-year joint venture between Arran Arts Resource and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Ranger Service. The project gives local school children the opportunity to explore some of the island’s numerous archaeological sites. To create a lasting legacy of the project, the rangers decided to construct a replica Bronze Age dwelling. This has provided an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to become involved in hands-on experimental archaeology.
The replica dwelling is designed to be as authentic as possible whilst complying with modern building regulations. It is based on an Early Bronze Age hut circle excavated at Torr Righ on the west coast of Arran. Construction details not evident from the Torr Righ site were finalised with the craftsmen contracted to oversee the build, in consultation with the NTS’s Head of Archaeological Services and a structural engineer.
The structure consists of two rings of timber posts, each of which is joined together by lintels. Wooden rafters were pegged and tied onto the lintels to form a conical roof. Lastly, rings of hazel rods were lashed onto the rafters as purlins, which will form the base for the thatch. Most timbers were gathered locally by the ranger team and volunteers during the winter months. All the rafters are made from alder poles harvested when the site was cleared. Much of the wood for posts and lintels came from windblown trees donated by the local Forestry Commission. The bulk of the building materials were prepared for construction by local Country Park volunteers and an NTS Thistle Camp working holiday group earlier this year. This was a great help when it came to finally putting the roundhouse up in August – we just had to put it all together, almost like a flat pack roundhouse kit!
The next step in the construction process is the thatching of the roof with reeds. A master thatcher has been employed to teach this traditional but dying skill to a group of NTS Thistle Campers, on Arran for a working holiday in mid-September. Once the thatch is installed, most of the wooden structure will be hidden, so it is worth having a look at it before it disappears underneath the reeds. Finally, the wattle panels forming the walls will be clad in daub, which in turn will be surrounded by an earth and stone mound as suggested by archaeological evidence.
The completed roundhouse will be used for educational purposes by the Country Park rangers. To provide a unique insight into life in the Early Bronze Age, it will be furnished with replica Bronze Age items.