Superimposition of plans of early medieval timber structures from the Continent and Britain. The orange marks and arrows highlight what scholars have considered as possible similarities in the modular setting of the plan and in the opposed doors opened on the long sides of the buildings.
Animation elaborated from: Hamerow 2002, 20, fig. 2.8 and from Google Earth.

Recurring features such as pairs of opposed doors opened on the long sides of buildings, wattle employed as construction material, the use of paired timber posts as internal supports for the roof’s rafter, and close similarities in the modular setting of the plan suggest indeed that in the 6th century CE strong links existed between Britain and contemporary architecture in the areas around the North Sea. This seems confirmed by the presence, in fifth to eight century Britain, of small sunken-featured buildings – also called grubenhäuser (scholars tend to use this term to stress the Germanic pedigree of this architectural typology) – that were already widespread on the Continent to the north of the river Rhine.

At the same time, no fifth or sixth century structure similar in size to the huge longhouses that at the time constituted the main farmstead units of the northern Continent has been found in Britain. Also, while people and animals lived under the same roof in continental longhouses, there is no clear evidence in Britain for the existence of byres inside early medieval timber houses that were also used as dwellings.

If identity is a social construct, it may be dangerous to label the timber buildings of early medieval Britain as “Romano-British” or “Anglo-Saxon”. They appear as new realities emerged from complex and non-linear interactions between groups of people with diversified identity representations and geographical backgrounds.