Because the Anglo-Saxons were adept sailors, many settlements were established along waterways. To defend a hamlet from wild creatures such as wolves, foxes, and boars, a high timber fence would be erected around it. Anglo-Saxon dwellings were rectangular wooden cottages with straw-thatched roofs. They usually had one or two rooms: the kitchen, which included an oven; a living room; and a bedroom.
A village church was also a common sight in Anglo-Saxon England. Religious beliefs were important to the survival of society, and churches were used for prayer rituals, as places of refuge, and as venues for public executions. The bones of those who died without burial rites were often placed in urns inside churches. This is because Christians believed that their souls would be saved if they were buried with the holy sacrament of the Eucharist.
Anglo-Saxons were also skilled metalworkers; they made tools, weapons, and armor out of iron, bronze, and copper. In fact, some historians believe that Britain's knowledge of metalworking came from the Anglo-Saxons. They brought with them skills in forging swords, spears, axes, and knives.
Finally, the Anglo-Saxons were traders who traveled across Europe selling goods including clothes, jewelry, and food. They also imported foreign slaves and currency into England.
Early Anglo-Saxon structures in Britain were relatively basic, made mostly of wood with thatch for covering. Rather from settling in the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons created tiny towns around agricultural centers, river fords, or areas to serve as ports. These early settlements had no formal streets or squares and usually only included one or two houses. As time went on, the Anglos began building more substantial structures made of stone, but they still relied heavily on wood for their homes and businesses.
Anglo-Saxon architecture is known for its simplicity. They built only what they needed at first, focusing on defense rather than decoration. It wasn't until much later that any sort of aesthetic style emerged. The Anglos used whatever materials were available to them, including timber for their homes and shops. If a roof was missing, they would cover it with leaves or branches. When stones became available, they too were used instead. There are examples of Anglo-Saxon churches with roofs made of wood, which have survived to modern times. However, most buildings were simple structures without ceilings.
As time went on, the Anglos began using brick instead of wood for their buildings. This is because bricks are easy to work with and durable enough for most applications. They also provide better insulation than wood does. Brick buildings first appeared in England around 600 AD. Previously, all buildings were made of wood.
We know that the Saxons mostly built with wood, yet some of their stone churches still stand. Anglo-Saxon dwellings were wooden cottages with straw-thatched roofs. Forests comprised a large portion of the United Kingdom. The Saxons had enough of timber to work with. They built their homes and churches out of it.
The Anglo-Saxons were able to construct such large ships because they used wood as well. Some boats used for military purposes were made out of metal but most boats were made from wood. The Norse introduced the English to metals like gold and silver but the Anglo-Saxons preferred wood for its flexibility. Wood is easy to shape and can be painted if needed. Ships constructed out of metal were often poorly designed and led to many a disaster at sea. The English learned this the hard way during the Viking raids so they decided to stick with what worked for them.
The Anglo-Saxons built large numbers of ships. Some estimates say that they built over 100 ships in one year alone. That's more than the number of ships in most European fleets back then! They used these ships to explore new lands and raid other countries for their treasures. In time, they even started building larger and larger ships which allowed them to travel further and capture more prizes.
After the Norman invasion in 1066, all ships above 30 tons were required by law to have masts and rigging.
Each family residence featured one room with a fireplace for cooking, heating, and lighting. The dwellings were created to take use of as much heat and light as possible. There might be another room on the same floor as the living room or bedroom but usually there was not.
The people who lived in these homes didn't own them; they rented them. In fact, all property ownership before 1866 was based on rental income rather than out-of-pocket costs. If someone couldn't pay their rent, they would be thrown out onto the street—often having to find another place to live.
How did Anglo-Saxons dress? By modern standards, they wore little clothing. Women wore cloth undergarments known as "stays" that went underneath their dresses to hold them up. They also wore padded bra cups if they wanted to enhance their breasts. Men wore loincloths and leather shoes. Both sexes anointed themselves with oil and used scented herbs as perfume.
Where did Anglo-Saxons come from? English is a language family spoken around the world. It is divided into several groups or "langues": English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and Isle of Man English. All these languages share a common ancestor called Proto-Germanic.