Ad Gefrin in Northumberland set to open in autumn 2022 - Museums Association

Ad Gefrin in Northumberland set to open in autumn 2022

Immersive visitor experience to tell the story of an Anglo-Saxon royal court
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Eleanor Mills
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An exhibition concept image for the new visitor centre about Ad Gefrin
An exhibition concept image for the new visitor centre about Ad Gefrin © StudioMB

A new visitor experience of the Ad Gefrin Anglo-Saxon site will open in Wooler, Northumberland, in autumn 2022, following a £10.4m investment from the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, the North East Rural Growth Network – Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund, North East LEP and Northumberland County Council.

The centre will bring to life the little-known history of an Anglo-Saxon royal court, the great hall of Ad Gefrin, which was discovered in the 1950s at nearby Yeavering, and remains one of the 20th century’s most remarkable archaeological finds. 

Visitors will learn about the daily lives of Anglo-Saxon people who lived and worked in the royal court through an immersive recreation of the great hall. Their individual stories will be told through the presentation of a series of projected films and a selection of important artefacts both found at the original site and borrowed from leading international museums and collection.

The great hall was the royal summer palace of 7th-century kings and queens of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria, and a place of hospitality and cultural exchange. It was the home of Aethelfrith, King Edwin and Queen Aethelburga, the saintly King Oswald and his younger brother Oswy. The historic site of Gefrin (Yeavering) in the north Northumbrian hills comprises a huge complex of large timber halls and a wooden grandstand.

The visitor experience will also include a bistro bar, gift shop and the Ad Gefrin whisky distillery – home to the first Northumbrian English single malt whisky, and the county’s first legal whisky distillery in 200 years.

Chris Ferguson, the head of operations and external relations for the project and lead curator, said: “This will be the first experience in the UK to present the story of an Anglo-Saxon great hall, and particularly to celebrate the Golden Age of Northumbria. I hope that by bringing to life the stories of the people that lived at Yeavering, we will showcase one of the most significant archaeological sites in the British Isles.

“Yeavering is a Northumbrian royal palace counterpart to the ship burials at Sutton Hoo in East Anglia, and was as richly decorated and significant a place, if not more so. I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to bring the story of this site to life for a wider audience, and to be able to do so through innovative exhibition design and through a sustainable business model in tandem with our single malt whisky.”

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