A Visit to Murton Park Viking Village

287 Vikings 2

Last Saturday we had a great visit to the Murton Park Viking Village which is on the site of the Yorkshire Museum of Farming just outside of York. Although we took lots of photos of wonderful old farm machinery, this post is not about old farming methods on this occasion. Today I want to focus on Vikings!

The reconstructed Viking village is excellent, and made specifically for the reenactment group who call themselves Jorfor’s Hall. I found out about them on Twitter (@jorforshall). The village is described as a Danelaw Farming Communityand over this particular weekend (9th and 10th April) the Vikings were in residence. This is the entrance into the village:

055 Entrance to Viking Village

And this is how the group describe themselves on their website, Jorfor’s Hall:

“Jorfor and his family are hunters and trappers, most of them originally hailing from the Troms area of northern Norway, though they have travelled far across the Viking world, some further than others, and settled in many different lands”.

The group takes part in Viking events all over the country, as well as featuring regularly at Murton Park. Events are tailored for a variety of needs including school parties, youth clubs, fairs, fetes and shows. They also take part at the Jorvik Viking Festival in York in February.

The weather on Saturday morning was a bit dreary to start with, and it was very wet underfoot, but that only served to illustrate the conditions people would have lived with 1100 years ago. Most of the pathways through the settlement were wood-planked, to counteract the mud. This tallies with what I found when doing my research several years ago about the Danish trading town of Hedeby. 

This was the man in charge, the chieftain of the village, wth the very appropriate name of Bear. Thankfully, he was a very friendly bear and told us a lot about the great helmet he’s wearing or holding in these photos, as well as how it compares in battle to the one on the stool.

I’d run a mile fast if I saw someone coming at me wearing a helmet like that – and that, according to Bear, was exactly what the helmet was supposed to do: terrify people (especially when the man wearing it was as big as Bear!). The helmet, however, was not the typical Viking style; the more usual design being like the one with a nose guard, shown on the stool. Bear’s helmet is a replica of a famous one discovered in Norway. I think (but I’m not sure) Bear said it was the one found in a 10th century chieftain’s grave at Gjermundbu.

I found this picture of it on Wikimedia Commons.

Viking helmet from Gjermundbufunnet, now at Kulturhistorisk museum. Author: J Jeblad. Creative Commons
Viking helmet from Gjermundbufunnet, now at Kulturhistorisk museum. Author: J
Jeblad. Creative Commons

However, Bear did say that this helmet could be one that had been brought back from the East (trade or raid) and the style was not adopted for long amongst the Vikings. Although the facial shield and eye mask are intimidating to say the least, they could be disastrous in battle. A sword thrust into an eye socket would  direct the sword straight into the eye! With the more usual nose guard, there was the possibility of the sword being deflected away from the eye.

The village itself displays a variety of housing styles and shop fronts, generally from the 9th and I0th centuries. But, as it says on the information poster at the entrance, no one knows for certain what buildings looked like. They were all made of timber, which rots away leaving little evidence. Roofing materials in the village vary from thatch to split tree trunks, wood planks and shingles and some of the buildings are decorated with colourful designs and some some have little gardens:

Inside these houses, space was limited and indoor life continued around the ever-present central hearth fire. Every home would have a loom, where women would make clothes, blankets and wall hangings. Storage chests did what storage chests usually do. 🙂

To finish with, these are a few of the villagers themselves, some about their work, others just cooking or socialising. Jobs and trades around the village would be many and varied, and of course, warriors would always be on the alert in case of attack.

. . . and the cross section through the hull of a reconstructed Viking ship that greets visitors on the way in. It shows how Viking ships were built using overlapping wooden planks (known as clinker planking) which made them waterproof. This technique is still used today in wooden ship construction. It was donated by the Yorkshire Museum.

057 Viking ship reconstruction

48 thoughts on “A Visit to Murton Park Viking Village

    1. Thanks, Ann. I really ought to stay home a little more and get on with things I’m supposed to be doing! The travel bug just won’t leave me alone. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Chioma. It was a good site to visit and the Jorfor’s Hall Vikings really looked the part.
      I hope you are keeping well. I’m on my blog so rarely at present, and we’re away a lot, collecting lots of information and photos for more posts. We go away for another week next weekend. Goodness knows when I’ll get round to writing all these posts up.

  1. Great post, and what a cool place to visit! I love those recreations of how people (probably) really lived in earlier eras. Getting just one hut is exciting, but seeing how a whole village worked together is wonderful! Will you also be doing a post on the old farming tools, I hope?

    1. Thanks, Joy. It was a good experience, even though it was a damp morning and muddy underfoot. It was lovely in the afternoon, so it serves us right for rushing there first thing. The shop fronts were interesting. It stands to reason that tradespeople would want to sell their wares. There was a little altar of some sort in a corner, too, which I forgot to include in my post. Most of the Viking settlers in the Danelaw would have still been pagan at this time and would have worshipped their old gods like Odin, Thor and Frey etc.
      Yes, I hope to do a post about old farming methods and implements at some stage. Unfortunately, I still have a whole load of posts about sites we visited last year to write up first! I’ll add the Farming post to the list of ‘To Do’s’.

    1. Thank you Ann. I found it very interesting, too, and I’ve been researching Vikings for some years. This village and the re-enactment group, were new to me, though.

    1. Yes, it was a good place to visit. It was just a pity it had been raining earlier that morning and off the wood-planked paths, it was wet and muddy. Still, what’s a dollop or two of mud, when all’s said and done? Thanks, Ali.

  2. Wow Millie, how absolutely fascinating. Isn’t it wonderful to be taken back in time to see how things really were. I really enjoyed this educational visit. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Lynne. It was certainly well worth a visit and, as you say, these things are always so educational. The village had been constructed really well, and it’s always good to see how enthusiastic these reenactment groups are about what they do. I would have liked to have gone back on the Sunday, too, as several activities were planned. Unfortunately, we’d already made plans for that day. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jack. It was a good day out, and interesting to see a Viking site in England. I didn’t know Murton Park existed until I came across Jorfor’s Hall on Twitter. The only others I’ve seen are in Denmark. I’m glad you found the post interesting. 🙂

  3. This was a great post, Millie! The photos and information were so interesting! I loved seeing the Viking village replica, and also the way the ships were built. That clinker planking is pretty clever!

    1. Thank you for liking it, Cynthia. It was a great place to visit. The clinker-built hulls were very clever for the time they were being built by the Vikings. But the Vikings were very advanced seafarers, even then. 🙂

      1. It’s an amazing innovation. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that ancient people were able to do the things they did. Maybe that’s a reflection of me not giving them enough credit haha.

  4. I can entirely imagine life in this village, Millie 🙂 The Swedish name Björn actually means bear and it’s still used today as a first name. But you already knew this as a Viking researcher, I’m sure 🙂 Happy you’ve found use for Twitter! I’m still finding it hard to engage in, it’s nowhere as sincere as good old WordPress.

    1. Yes, I knew Björn meant bear, just like Ulf (unsurprisingly) means wolf. 🙂 I could imagine life there, too, and the village layout was like many I’ve seen The only thing missing was a larger hall for the chieftain. Although not every village would have had a jarl, I’d have loved to have seen a ‘hall’ where many of the village could have feasted. All the ‘houses’/huts at Murton were very small inside.
      Twitter is a strange site to use, especially after WordPress. There are several people I do chat to, though, which is nice. I’ve found a few fellow authors who have been very helpful to me, for which I’m grateful. They’ve retweeted some of my tweets, too. I’ve been told that people happily drop each other, so expect the number of followers to fluctuate. I’ve also had a few followers I wouldn’t dream of following back! Erotica is definitely not my scene! 🙂 I’ve also had a lot of book promotion sites following me – all useful to know about, but most won’t ever get used by me. I’ll keep Twitter going and just see what happens.
      I’ll be trying to get round a few blogs over the next few days. We’re away all next week, so things will all be on hold again. I never seem to be able to catch up with myself lately.

  5. Fantastic Millie, I had no idea this place existed!
    I would love to go see it on my way back from the Wall but unfortunately time constraints are so massively against me that I have to head straight back.
    Maybe next year…..

    1. Thanks, Cameron. Yes, your visit ‘up north’ is getting closer. It must be very exciting and will be very demanding. So many miles to walk! As for Viking re-enactments, there are several groups all over the country. I also follow an Essex group on Twitter, so I’ll be looking at events they put on, too. The Jorfor’s Hall group go all over the place, too.

      1. Really impressive Millie. The passion that people have for these things is amazing. They may not be strictly my cup of tea or something I would do but I do admire them for the effort they put in to re creating a visual so that people might learn.
        Kudos is what I say.
        As for the walk….. It’s simply a case of Up and At ’em every day and lets get this sucker bashed out….!

  6. Amazing place… it’s like you are taking me by hand and showing me the wonderful viking village…. thanks for sharing such wonderful places with me Millie, its amazing.

  7. Millie, I was thinking… I never got around to doing that book review but maybe I could do a little interview with you? “Time traveling with Millie Thom and the vikings” 🙂 We could do it a bit later on, when you’re done with the trilogy and have time? People read when they travel, so it’s not too far off topic for my blog! It might be fun, let me know! You have my email from earlier 🙂

    1. Thank you! I could have replied here, if I’d thought about it, but I emailed you a short while ago. The theme of the interview sounds definitely intriguing. 🙂

      1. Hello again. I’ve just checked and I see that I missed out one of the letter k’. Oops! I’ll resend. (I had a notification this morning telling me my email was ‘delayed’, so I thought it would just be late getting to you. Now I see I was wrong. Perhaps I should learn to read! 🙂

    1. Do you mean actual villages, nor reconstructed ones like Murton? I’ve seen others like this in one in Denmark, but they were reconstructions, too. If you still have ‘real’ villages like this in Finland, that’s a revelation to me.
      I’ve just replied to your earlier message, by the way (email). Thank you for the invitation!

      1. Well you never know! Lol Some people like to live like people of the past and recreate places like that. They’re obviously not from the Viking era, but the people in them aren’t reenactment groups either. Thanks for the link. I’ll have a look asap.

    2. Whoops! I think I just sent a totally muddled message to you. What I said about the Viking village still applies, but the part about the email and interview was intended for someone else. Oh boy! You and she are both ‘Travel’ bloggers and all I can say is that I seemed to get you muddled this time. I’ll blame it on sleep deprivation. 😀

    1. Thank you for saying that! I do love history, and not just English history. I’ve also written about some of the places we visited abroad last year. That tends to include a lot of history, too. I suppose we all write about things we either love or know a lot about.
      I’m now intrigued to know what you blog about. I can see from your blog title, you’re in India and post about Jaipur. I’ll hop over and take a peek as soon as I can. Thank you for visiting so many of my posts!

      1. Millie, I guess we have something in common then! I write about Jaipur, my city. I focus on aspects that includes everything! History, architecture, culture, nature, everyday life…. A different take on city which is a popular tourist destination. Some say I make ordinary things beautiful by my Photography, but the fact is I just capture what I see; I don’t manipulate! Thanks to you too for checking out my posts! Hope you’ll like forthcoming posts too! Thanks for your words Millie… appreciate it! 🙂

  8. Did I ever ask if you’d visited Hjerl Hede in Jutland or Lejre near Roskilde?
    Hjerl Hede is a lived in outdoor museum and Roskilde was once the Capital of Denmark. The site at Lejre is a research centre and also a live-in experiment.

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