A word with Wulfnoth
PUBLISHED: 10:15 10 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:19 20 February 2013
We meet a noble warrior at West Stow's Anglo-Saxon village
A word with Wulfnoth
Lance Alexander gave up his career as a designer to pursue his passion for history as a costumed reconstructor at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon village. Now head of visitor services, Lance introduces us to the villages head man Wulfnoth
Presumably these are the clothes worn by a typical Anglo-Saxon?
Bob/Wulfnoth (in the picture) is seen as the village head man so his fashion is that of a higher status person. When re-enacting I was only a member of the family group, the one who did the fetching and carrying so mine was basic woollen trousers, linen undergarments and a cyrtel, like a heavy woven jumper.
Do they itch or get too hot in the summer?
I found the clothing okay to wear, but then again I wasnt ever doing a full Saxon days work in them! I think its a misunderstanding about the fashion of the past that it was uncomfortable. Just like todays fashion it changed with the weather. On hot days, lighter linen clothing etc and for winter days, heavy fabrics, cloaks etc.
Would life in this part of England been tough for such a person?
I think it would have been tough compared to modern day standards but there would have been a sense of community; families working together to deal with problems. Our lives now are sometimes more insular, privacy being a very important part which can mean dealing with things in a more isolated way. Most of us make time for rest, leisure, hobbies and holidays. Back then it was constant hard work living off the land.
Has anything funny/bizarre happened to you while wearing this costume?
We had a large wild boar called Anselm who lived at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village. I was in costume for a special Red Nose day for schools so there were about 120 children on site. As a little party trick I was rubbing the boars belly (he was so docile but to anyone who didnt know him he looked mean) when he suddenly yawned, caught my trousers with his tusk and ripped them from ankle to groin. Luckily, no injuries and the children found it hilarious; I was thinking how I would explain that one to health and safety!
Tell us more about the Anglo Saxon village. What can people see there?
The experimental constructed village is a fantastic place surrounded by acres of beautiful country park with walks, river and lakes. The village is situated on the actual location of an Anglo-Saxon settlement that dates to the early 5th century and was home to some of the first English settlers for over 200 hundred years.
It can feel like stepping back in time. It also has a collection of archaeological finds that can tell us more about the story of our ancestors in this region. With a caf and play area its a full day out for the family.
How did you get involved?
I gave up my job as a designer and was fortunate to start working at West Stow in 1995 as a re-constructor; thatching and building the houses as part of a team. What was meant to be a job change for a few years has turned into almost 15 years. This is mainly due to this unique sites development and working with a great team within the Heritage Service whose dedication and enthusiasm would be hard to move away from.
Have you always been interested in history?
Yes, that and art have always been a passion of mine. My work allows me to be involved in both. Holidays always revolve around standing at locations where historical battles have taken place or
(in)famous people have stood. The Forum in Rome was the highlight for me, simply stunning.
What do you like about Suffolk?
The open spaces and the ability to truly get out and about. We are so lucky to have such outstanding countryside on our doorsteps yet still be within distance of the towns and cities if we need them. Also I do a lot of off-road cycling and the forests are great in this area.
Any favourite places to visit when off duty?
I love Bury St Edmunds. Its a great market town with lovely shops and places to visit. Im lucky enough to work on occasion at the town museum, Moyses Hall which with its history dating back to the 1130s just shows what an important place Bury is. I also enjoy the cinema film is one of the ways I relax.
Any favourite pubs or restaurants?
My favourite pub is the Plough in Icklingham. It has a great varied menu, which is good as many of my friends are vegetarians and the meals seem to cover all palettes. Importantly it has a relaxed atmosphere. Maison Bleu in Bury is a winner too.
Favourite film, book and album?
This is tough, as movies and music is also a passion. Most people who know me would probably say the original 1977 Star Wars. But its just tipped by Ridley Scotts Blade Runner; visually stunning, finite detail and a reflection on how we can struggle to know who we really are. Book; that would be Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, a mixture of historical events, dark magic and feuding English gentlemen. Album; Ma Fleur by the Cinematic Orchestra; powerful and haunting.
Best advice you have been given?
Always look left and right before crossing the road. Nice and simple!