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History - Whole School Enquiry - Who were the Anglo Saxons?

Monday 2nd October 2017

In this enquiry we will be finding out all about who the Anglo-Saxons were, why they came to Britain and how they lived. Use the links and information below to find out for yourself all about the life of the Anglo-Saxons.

Who were the Saxons?

The Saxons were a people from north Germany who migrated to the island of Britain around the 5th century. There were actually three main peoples: the Saxons, the Angles, and the Jutes. After these people moved to Britain they became known as the Anglo-Saxons. Eventually the name “Angles” became the “English” and their land became known as England.

  • The Saxons were named after a type of sword they used called a ‘Sax’.
  • The Saxons originally lived in Europe. Some of them came to live in Britain during the Dark Ages.
  • The word ‘Saxon’ refers to several groups of people from Northern Germany and Southern Denmark. They were a type of Germanic people.
  • They are sometimes called ‘Anglo-Saxons’. This refers to two groups: the Angles and the Saxons. It can also mean the ‘English Saxons’.
  • The part of Britain which the Anglo-Saxons took over was named ‘England’ after them. It means ‘Land of the Angles’.
  • They all spoke a language similar to English. It is usually called ‘Old English’. They used a type of writing called Runes for name tags and gravestones.
  • Strictly speaking, the Saxons came from North-West Germany. Some of them moved south to set up Upper Saxony. The Angles came from Angeln in South-West Denmark. A third group, called the Jutes, came from Jutland in Central Denmark.
  • Tradition says that the Saxons settled in Southern England; the Angles settled in East Anglia, the Midlands and Northern England; the Jutes settled in Kent, Hampshire & on the Isle of Wight.
  • Other groups who settled in Britain can also be called ‘Saxons’. These include the Frisians, the Franks and the Swabians.

(The above is from www.earlybritishkingdoms.com)

What were Anglo-Saxon homes like?

  • Some Anglo-Saxons built their houses inside the walls of Roman towns.
  • Others cleared spaces in the forest to build villages and make new fields.
  • Many villages were built near rivers because the Anglo-Saxons were good sailors.
  • A high wooden fence would be built around a village to protect it from wild animals like: wolves, foxes and boars.
  • Anglo-Saxon houses were rectangular huts made of wood with roofs thatched with straw. Each family house had one room, with a hearth with a fire for: cooking, heating and light. The houses were built facing the sun to get as much heat and light as possible.
  • The biggest house in the village was the hall where the chief lived with his warriors.
  • Other huts were used as workshops for things like weaving or pottery.
  • Each village would have an area of common land for everyone to use to graze their cattle.

Interesting Facts about the Anglo-Saxons


  • The Saxons got their name from their short sword called the scramasax.
  • Alfred the Great is the only English king known as “the Great”.
  • Saxon lands were divided into Shires which were further divided into “hundreds”.
  • A peace officer of a Shire was called the Shire Reeve. This later became known as the “sheriff”.
  • A lot of what we know about the early Saxons was recorded by a monk named Venerable Bede. He is sometimes called the “Father of English History”.

Below you can see some of our work

Towards the end of their Anglo Saxon enquiry the children spent a day in the Forest School area developing their thinking in the outdoors, take a look at our image gallery.

One class created and edited their own movies at the end of their enquiry, take a look below.

Watch our Video

Anglo Saxon Life