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Houses in Iron Age Britain

Round houses were built in Britain in the Bronze Age and their use continued into the Iron Age. However, Britain was the exception: in other parts of Iron Age Europe people lived in rectangular shaped houses.

Most round houses were built from local materials: wooden walls made of wattle and daub; sometimes, stone or turf sod walls were used; and the roof was thatched with reeds or straw. The size of a round house was not the same at all times or places in the Iron Age. Most were small in size, 5-8 metres across, but they could be larger - up 15 metres across, like the house shown here. Found at Pimperne in Dorset, the house has a floor area of 180 square metres - more than the floor space in a typical modern house. The Pimperne house dates to the start of the Iron Age and has been experimentally reconstructed at Butser Ancient Farm, in Hampshire.

Round houses usually contained a single room, although some may have been partitioned internally. In larger houses, the roof space may have been floored over to be used as a loft for storage or even extra living space. Most round houses had a fireplace and oven at their centre. This provided heat for cooking, warmth for the house and light. As there were no windows, the only light came from the fire, lamps or through the door when it was open. In some parts of Britain, round house doorways often pointed towards the east or southeast to let in the morning sun. The position of the doorway may also have had a religious significance.

Following the Roman conquest, British people began to build rectangular houses. Many houses in Roman Britain contained several rooms and were built of durable materials. However, some people continued to live in traditional round houses, especially in areas where Romano-British ways of living were slow to be adopted.