Schools Activities page

Here we have a number of items which schools have asked us for. Let us know if you have any specific request which we might be able to fulfil.


Combat braiding is a fun way to make a strong colourful braid for edging and fastening clothes together. It can also be used for tying back hair, and as string on which to hang valuable items. So far as we know it has been mostly found in Viking contexts, but the Anglo-Saxons seem to have used it also.

Tools and materials

A hook or some similar fixing on a frame, about 2 metres off the ground.

2 braiders (enthusiastic young folk work best)

4 beanbags or sandbags in (say) two different colours, small enough to fit comfortably in the hands of the braiders.

Thick (double knit or chunky) wool in various natural matching colours. (Don't use mixtures or synthetics, we find they stretch too far)

Pure wool is ideal.


Cut 2 lengths of wool of different colours approx. 1.5 metres in length.

Tie ends of each length onto bags of the same colour.

Fold the wool in half to find the middles. Tie a small loop in the middles, and then hang them up on the hook. (bags should now be hanging at the same level).

The braiders face each other on either side of the frame and agree which colour to throw first


Swing one bag across the front of your body to the opposite hand of your partner, Remember to transfer the other bag you hold across to your other hand. Next time your partner does the same to you.

It is possible to change the order of swinging the bags just to see what patterns it produces.

Keep going until all the lengths of wool are used up.

Tie off the end, and decide what you want to use the "string" for.


There seem to have been a variety of rules for different variations of this game. Its an older relative of the game of chess. You can develop your own variations. The main thing is that both players follow the same rules!

Hnefetafl is quite a complex game for two players, “attackers” and “defenders”. The game is known in Scandinavia in about 400AD.The name we know it by is Norse. The Anglo Saxons had a very complex variant with boards 19 x 19 squares. Most had 7, 9 or 11 squares. The centre and corner squares are reserved for the King alone. (Any piece next to these squares can be hemmed in by other pieces and the empty square). Players take turns. The attackers have a larger army than the defenders. On a 9 x 9 board Attackers have 24 pieces, Defenders have 8 (plus King).

All pieces move like rooks (castles) in chess, i.e. vertically and horizontally, and any distance, but not diagonally. It is not permitted to jump over other pieces or stand on same square. Pieces are taken by hemming them in on two opposite sides, except for the king which needs 4 pieces to hem him in. The Attackers win by hemming in the king so he can’t move. The Defenders win when the king reaches a corner square.

Placing pieces; Attackers line up at the edges of the board on all four sides (excluding corners). Defenders line up surrounding the King in the centre square, but with extras in the central line at top and bottom of board.

Take turns at Attacking and Defending. The strategy needed for successfully playing each side is different.

For a board, use any flat surface. A piece of plain A4 paper ruled off in squares will do. For gaming pieces let your imagination and creativity loose. We use stones of two different colours and similar sizes gathered on the beach, plus one piece of an additional colour and texture to denote the King.

Google the "Lewis Chessmen" to see how fine some medieval gaming pieces could be.


What do we know? Anglo Saxon is also known as Old English. We speak “modern” English to each other. See how many Old English words you can recognise.

Those blessed with a Northumbrian or Geordie accent will make more authentic "double vowel" or "dipthong" sounds. These are probably the nearest modern descendants of the sound of Anglo-Saxon. If you aren't blessed, listen to Ruth on the Radio 4 programme "the Archers". She may not have the most attractive North East accent, but you can hear it twice a day without having to hunt the airwaves for Radio Newcastle.

Days of the week

Monandaeg – day of the moon

Tiwesdaeg - Day of Tiw, a god of war and the sky

Wodnesdaeg - day of Woden, a god of war, wisdom and poetry

Thunresdaeg - day of Thunor, the god of thunder, sky and weather

Frigesdaeg - day of Frig (Freya), the goddess of love and fertility

Saeturnesdaeg - day of the planet Saturn

Sunnandaeg - day of the sun

Now it gets a bit more difficult

Months of the year

Aeftere Giuli - Yuletide or January, which was the first month of the year

Solmonath - month of cakes (or mud) - February

Hrethmonath - month of the goddess Hretha – March

Eosturmonath - month of the goddess Eostre – April

Thrimilci - month when cows were milked 3 times a day – May

Erra Litha - the season when the sea was calm enough to travel on – June and

Aeftere Litha - July

Weodmonath - month of weeds – August

Haligmonath - holy month - September

Wintirfyllith - winter-full - October

Blodmonath - month of blood (when animals were killed for food) – November

Erra Guili - Yuletide – December (and January)

Useful phrases

Godne daeg god aefen godne mergen wes thu hal eala

Hlaford Hlafdige min deorling ic bidde the ic thoncie the

Hwonne cymst thu hider eft? Welcumen na yea sooth unsooth

Sumer is icumen in


An endleafon an ond twentig feowertig

Twegen (twa) twelf twegen ond twentig fiftig

Thrie thrietiene [etc] siextig

Feower feowertiene hundseofontig

Fif [etc] hundeahtatig

Siex hundnigontig

Seofon hund, hundred



Tien twentig thritig

(Note “g” is usually pronounced “y” as in “yes”)

Anglo Saxon Military Commands

Aweccan = Come to Attention (awaken!)

Nimath Wepon = Shoulder arms

Reareth wepon = Ready weapon (with a shout to frighten the enemy)

Gangeth Forth = Advance (Walk on)(in good order)

Forth Rinnath = Run Forwards (at the double)

On Raes = Charge!

Gangeth on baec = Withdraw (in good order)

Winstren = left

Swithren = right

On winstren wendath = turn left

On swithren wendath = turn right

Wendath on baec = about turn

Trimmiath on Winstren = Trim(tidy) the line to the left

In twa (thrie) reawas filciath = Form up in two(three) rows

Standeth fast = Stand fast (prepare to receive charge)

Steppan = one step forward

Sittath adune = sit down

Stand up = Astandath

Standath = Halt

Standath softie = At ease