Welcome to the Gestingthorpe History Group website

Our Living Archeology Projects

The Kiln

Medieval word-fired updraft brick kiln.

After years of discussion and over 2 years of construction our Medieval wood fired updraft kiln was fired for the first time. We try to fire this a couple of times a year full of pots, bricks, tiles and anything else that can cope with 1000°C!

The Hovel & Bread oven

Saxon wattle and daub hovel and bread oven.

During an archeological dig in the neighbouring parish of Bulmer, structures and ovens relating to early inhabitants of the Belchamp Valley were unearthed, so we decided to build a structure of our own to celebrate.

the Saxon water mill

Building a Saxon Water Mill

Following on from the bread oven, we thought it might be nice to grind the grain to make the flour before we bake the bread. Here is our answer to this (Note: there are no nails used in the structure, every joint was hand cut and pegged - just how the Saxons would have done it).

the wind pump

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Pieces of this wind pump have been laying around for a number of years unloved. We have rebuilt it and it now circulates water in Hill Farm's fish pond.

coracles

Gestingthorpe History Group making and using coracles.

Our ongoing project is to travel the length of the Belchamp Brook from Gestingthorpe to the River Stour at Sudbury. But first we needed a suitably rustic mode of transport.

pottery & bricks

Gestingthorpe History Group making pots and bricks.

Gestingthorpe was always famous for producing the best tiles in Essex. It is not, however, generally known that peasant pottery as well as bricks were made here from the early 17th Century to the year 1912.

Saxon Hovel & Bread Oven

Check out this great video

Coracle Building

an ancient craft

There are a number of ponds within the parish of Gestingthorpe, together with the Belchamp Brook that borders the village to the North. We have a plan in mind to navigate the brook from Gestingthorpe to the Stour at Sudbury (a distance of some 4 miles) in a home made coracle.

building

Thin strips of pliable wood are first cut and the diameter of the coracle established (a similar shape to an egg). Once tacked together and central support plank is added which will act as the seat once we turn the boat the right way up. Ribs of wood are then added from front to back of the boat before opposing strips are added and woven through to strengthen the shape. Once the shape is established it becomes quite strong - cotton calico is then wrapped over the frame before being stapled to the wooden supports. Finally several coats of bitumen paint are needed to seal the calico and make it waterproof.

launching

Balance in a coracle is essential - because of their size, your weight needs to be central or you can easily capsize. A lot of practice has take place on shallow ponds in warm weather (and there have been a few duckings!). Some of the Belchamp Brook has been navigated, but owing to this never having been done before (as far as we know), we still have trees and branches to clear which takes time, watch this space to see if we achieve our goal!!

Coracle Video

The first voyage of our coracle on the pond.

Our Medieval Brick Kiln

Our wood-fired medieval updraft brick kiln at full temperature!

Here we light the kiln for the first time, June 21st 2013.

Slowly getting up to temperature

Two days later and it is cool enough to open

Top of the chamber before brick removal

Lots of pots and bricks in varying colours

2nd Firing of the Kiln, August 2013

Loading kiln number 3, October 2013

Unloading kiln number 3, October 2013

Unloading kiln number 4, December 2013

Unloading kiln number 5, April 2014

7th Firing of the Kiln, June 2014