Volunteer scribes to inhabit Monk Cell at Jarrow Hall

A Monk Cell is being re-created at Jarrow Hall in South Tyneside – with a focus on calligraphy.

It will be housed in one of the reconstructed buildings in the Anglo-Saxon village area of the site, in Church Bank, Jarrow.

The village is being given a makeover as part of a Heritage Skills project funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Know Your Neighbourhood Fund.

Volunteers are being trained in a variety of heritage skills, which they can then pass on to others.

The Monk Cell and Thirlings Hall at Jarrow Hall
The Monk Cell and Thirlings Hall at Jarrow Hall: Anglo Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum

Repairs have already been carried out to the village’s main Thirlings Hall building, with volunteers using their skills to rethatch the roof.

Further work includes filling gaps in the walls with wattle and daub and painting murals inside.

Work on fitting out the Monk Cell is also underway, with inspiration being taken from a picture of Ezra at his desk, as seen in the Codex Amiatinus.

Ezra at his desk
This image of Ezra writing is being used to inform the Monk Cell furniture and layout

“One of the museum’s most treasured items is our facsimile copy of the Codex Amiatinus,” explains Molly Wyatt, cultural learning and participation officer apprentice at Jarrow Hall, who is helping to lead the Heritage Skills project.

“Made by Bede and fellow monks in 692AD, it’s a lasting legacy of their beautiful penmanship and how they shared their learnings. The parts likely written by Bede himself even include notes on how to say things. What a great teacher!”

The Codex Amiatinus at Jarrow Hall
The Codex Amiatinus on display at Jarrow Hall

Using skills from the past to secure future of Jarrow Hall site

Jarrow Hall celebrates the life and time of The Venerable Bede, a monk, author and scholar who lived in the twin monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the early middle ages.

The museum first opened in 1993, which means the reconstructed buildings are now 30 years old and showing signs of wear and tear.

Extensive improvement work has been carried out at the site, however, since it was taken over by Groundwork South and North Tyneside in 2016.

The reconstructed Monk Cell is based on archaeological excavations carried out in the 1980s at a different monastic site in Hartlepool.

Molly said: “Each monk would get their own Monk Cell. Think of it like a university bedroom, with a bed and a desk with a writing slope and a little foot rest.”

The aim is to cover the Monk Cell with calligraphy and have volunteer scribes demonstrating their skills to visitors.

“When we’ve got a volunteer in here, they will get the calligraphy out and lay it out as though it is partly drawn,” added Molly.

“We want the focus to be on the calligraphy and the creating of it and showing it off.”

A small group of volunteers have already been honing their calligraphy skills. If you would like to join them, e-mail molly.wyatt@groundwork.org.uk.

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