Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum is about to embark on a mission to develop its famous farm into an animal sanctuary, while expanding on the story the site tells about how our ancestors lived and worked with animals.
Already taking on rescued animals, the much-loved venue has recently welcomed its most recent saved individual Tilda, a rare breed British primitive goat.
Sadly orphaned by the extreme cold during the ‘Beast from the East’ weather event which swept across the UK earlier this year, Tilda was discovered struggling for life beneath the body of her mother who was killed by the storm when it hit the borders in February.
Found by a Northumberland shepherd, the weakened Tilda was bottle-fed and nurtured back to health for several months following her harrowing experience. As a result, she was not suitable for being released back into the wild and instead found a permanent home at Jarrow Hall where she is now living out her days in safety under the care of their dedicated team.
An 11-acre visitor attraction in the heart of South Tyneside, Jarrow Hall has already rescued a number of animals since it opened in 2016. When taken on by charity operators Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, the farm already housed animals broadly similar to breeds the Anglo-Saxons would have known in England between the 5th and 11th centuries.
Alongside the farm, Jarrow Hall has an Anglo-Saxon village, grade II-listed manor house and a museum dedicated to the monk and scholar Bede. The development of an animal sanctuary will see the site expanding its mission and the story it tells, incorporating new information to show how Anglo-Saxons lived and worked with animals, and how this has changed over the centuries.
Already a non-working farm, the animals have no demands placed upon them. They are not slaughtered or used for milk, eggs and other products, and are free instead to live out their lives. The expansion of this working practice gives priority to the interests of the individual animals, a move which embraces the mission of the charity to ‘change places and change lives’ and is a first for the UK-wide Groundwork Federation.
Leigh Venus, Operations Manager (Culture and Heritage) for Groundwork STAN, responsible for the direction and development of Jarrow Hall said:
“Turning our already non-working farm into an animal sanctuary feels brilliantly inevitable. A natural next step in our evolution, this is a fundamental change born of the mission of Groundwork to create better places and to positively impact all lives where we operate, which for us includes the lives of animals who rely on us for their care and wellbeing. As a charity, we are always looking for new ways to fulfil our mission. By moving animal lives to the heart of what we do, we open up an exciting new opportunity both for the trust and for our unique animal residents. It’s the start of what will be a long journey, but one that is very worthwhile for our site and, of course, the animals themselves.”
With the transition already underway, the dedicated grounds team are gearing up to make changes to enhance and develop the farm, with the aim of giving all of the animal residents lives which are as natural and as enriching as possible. Leigh continued:
“The team here are excellent, and they’ve already rescued many animals like Tilda from some pretty dire circumstances, nurturing them back to full health and happiness in the beautiful surroundings we are fortunate to be able to share, allowing them to live in peace.”
Jarrow Hall is now fundraising for Tilda and the other animals on the site, with the money raised going towards their care, the development of their housing and improvements to the environment around them.
Looking to take its place alongside other animal sanctuaries across the world, Jarrow Hall has received expressions of goodwill from people committed to animal well-being. Kim Stallwood, an animal rights advocate, theorist, author and consultant has decades of professional experience in leadership positions with some of the world’s foremost animal advocacy organisations. He said:
“It is wonderful news whenever I hear of the creation of a new animal sanctuary that can provide a happy long-term haven for animals, offering them a life free from exploitation and cruelty. As Jarrow Hall and Groundwork STAN begin to put the interests of animals first and start the transition towards an animal sanctuary, I wish them all the best on their journey.”
Alex Burnett, Programme Lead at Jarrow Hall responsible for the farm and education, was brought up on a small farm, later becoming an assessor and tutor for Groundwork before taking on his current role when the visitor attraction opened almost two years ago. Alongside Tilda, a few weeks ago the farm welcomed two excellent new additions; two baby goats born on the farm and adding to the existing complement of Old English goats. He said:
“We have a wonderful team here of full and part-time staff alongside a network of volunteers, a team that includes some of our special educational needs learners who provide invaluable support both for our staff and for the animals. Tilda and the babies have already become an indispensable part of our farm animal community. Tilda in particular has grown in a few short weeks from a shy tentative kid to a big personality who bristles with confidence. We have a thriving and growing animal community here on the farm with many of the animals true to those known in the Anglo-Saxon period. The history we are custodians of remains at the core of our site, so we’ll work to balance the needs of the animals with the historical and educational remit of Jarrow Hall, bringing in expertise to help us develop.”
Dr Shirley Goodyer, an ecologist and expert on the primitive goat and a leading member of the British Feral Goat Research Group, said:
“I’m delighted about Jarrow Hall’s decision to become an animal sanctuary; I’ve been in touch with Alex Burnett for two years about British Primitive goats, an animal that has probably been native to Britain since at least Neolithic times more than 5,000 years ago. The feral herd in the Cheviot Hills around the College Valley the only herd of its type to appear on DEFRA’s Native Breeds at Risk Register, so I was delighted about the opportunity to place one of these goats in the excellent educational setting of Jarrow Hall. Having lost her mother soon after birth, Tilda had to be bottle-fed and handled from a very young age so would be able to have a well-adjusted, happy life at Jarrow Hall.”
The animal community at Jarrow Hall features 22 sheep – including two recently-rescued lambs called Charlie and Eric – four Dexter bullocks, two Berkshire pigs, two Iron Age pigs called Ruarie and Hilda and two Hungarian Mangalitsa Long Haired pigs called Gwen and Ruby. It also has two Saanen Goats, two Muscovy ducks and a moody barn owl called ‘Huff’. Alex is looking forward to enhancing the experience for all of the animals he and his team care for:
“We have extensive grounds and a small team with a limited budget so we have to be very considerate of individual needs when reviewing which animals we can take in, but for everyone here it’s a labour of love, and we’re all pulling for each other to make sure the animals get everything they need. As we work towards becoming an accredited sanctuary, we can provide a lifelong home for animals, unlike shelters which can only offer temporary accommodation. Beyond caring for the animals and putting their interests first, one of the most important jobs sanctuaries have is education. We will use this new development to enhance the story we tell about our Anglo- Saxon predecessors, how they lived and worked with animals and what our relationship with animals is today.”
This will be a project which will take place over the next couple of years as Alex and his team work with other animal sanctuaries, incorporating the new remit into upcoming consultancy work grant-funded by the Heritage Lottery Resilient Heritage programme, awarded to Jarrow Hall to help them plan for the long term.
“We’re always working to balance the needs of academics and the visiting public wanting to learn about the Anglo-Saxons and the time in which they lived, so as we work on this project we welcome visitors of all kinds to come to Jarrow Hall throughout the summer and beyond to meet the animals and learn all about them from our dedicated team.”
Jarrow Hall is also looking to offer animal lovers the opportunity to support their development into an animal sanctuary, and to help care and provide for the animal residents. For more details on how to donate call 0191 424 1585 or visit justgiving.com/campaign/jarrow-hall- animal-sanctuary