Cumbraland at the Govan Stones
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Saturday 30 March saw Cumbraland's inaugural event, and we couldn't have wished for a better venue than Govan Old Parish Church, the home of one of Britain's largest collection of Early Medieval Sculpture and the site of one of the Scotland's oldest Churches.
The first reference to Govan is perhaps the record of joint Pictish-Northumbrian campaign against the Britons of the Clyde in 756, but the Churchyard is believed to have been well established by this time. With the fall of Dumbarton Rock at the hands of the Viking Great Army in 870, the Church at Govan became the centre of a Kingdom that would become one of the most prominent on the 10th Century political map: The Kingdom of Strathclyde or Cumbraland.
As such, for our new group, Govan Old Parish Church represents something of a Ground-Zero and one of our key aims is to raise awareness of little-known but hugely important site and the people and kingdom it represents.
We arrived early on Saturday morning and set-up our exhibition, comprising of a number of stations covering different aspects of Viking age life.
We had an area focusing on textile production where visitors could try their hand at spinning woollen thread from fleece on reproduction drop spindles with Amy, and learn the basics of naal binding (a precursor to knitting used to make articles of clothing like socks) run by Emma and Elaine. In another area Morag presented some of the most recent academic ideas on what Norse pre-Christian belief may have been like, with a range of reproduction artefacts associated with Scandinavian deities and magic.
There was also a display of higher status objects where Adam and Stuart talked about the material culture of the Irish Sea zone, including belt fittings, combs and weapons and shields, all accurately reproducing the form and dimensions of original finds. It was very important to us that visitors could handle as many of the objects as possible so that they could leave with a genuine feel for how these objects were made and used over a thousand years ago.
Our younger members focused on games and toys, challenging visitors to a game of Tafl, a board game similar to modern chess. We had to warn people in advance not to make any wagers as the children are rather good at it!
Finally, Micah ran a display of period tools used in agriculture and craft activities. Whilst he engaged with visitors he was carving runes into the handle of a modern tool as a favour for our friends at Northlight Heritage.
During the 2019 excavations at Govan Mark, a 14 year-old volunteer, excavated a Viking Age grave-marker previously thought to have been lost during nearby demolition work in the 1970s. Steven from Northlight thought it would be nice to present Mark with the trowel he used, and we were delighted to personalise it for him! You can find out more here!
We had a very busy and thoroughly enjoyable day, meeting so many people keen on engaging with Govan's Viking Age history. Our first event was tremendously successful, and the start of a beautiful relationship with our friends at Govan Old!