On the making of Anglo-Saxon Getelds (tents).
Have you always wanted a tent that's easy to put up, has no guy ropes, just a couple of poles and yet has a floor space of 24' x 16' ? If so your prayers are answered. You need an Anglo-Saxon geteld.
Historical background.
There were several styles of tent used prior to the 12th. C. in Europe, as can be seen from manuscripts, psalters and other such documents. We are , I feel, most familiar with the Norse 'A' frame and the round or oval pavilion. There is however a third style of tent used both on the European continent and commonly used in England by the Anglo-Saxons. The so named 'geteld'.
This particular tent was very similar to the Norse 'A' frame with the following distinctly different additions. In the geteld you have a central ridgepole, supported by vertical internal posts, and at each end of the typical "A' frame shape you have an additional bell end. There seems to be either a sewn sleeve or an attached ridgepole cover on the outside of the tent, through which the ridgepole passes, projecting out at each end. it is in many ways similar to what we call the French "bell wedge" tent. The fragmentary nature of the research suggests that openings could be either in the bell ends, or at the junction of the bell ends with the side panels (see figure 1). This has led members of the English Anglo-Saxon re-enactment society Regia Anglorum to take a broad view of what constitutes a tent, and they permit a side opening geteld version (see figure 2). This side opening creates a versatile awning which can be lowered in inclement weather or at night. One of the very appealing features of all getelds is that they require no guy ropes for support, relying instead on the structural stability created by the canvas which passes over the ridgepole and is then firmly anchored to the ground. Getelds are self supporting structures even when the side opening awning feature is in use. (it should be noted that when using the side opening feature two guy ropes per supporting posts are required on the awning. These are the only guys required and only used when the awning is up.) With the side opening feature the bell ends provide out of the way adequate storage space with resulting unimpeded access to the rest of the tent.
Anglo-Saxon Geteld Making
The following plans are for a geteld with side opening and two bell ends.
The overall dimensions are 14' 4" long at the ridge pole, 8' high and 16' wide. the bell ends extend outward an additional 4' at each end giving you a total ground length of 22' 4" approx. For this tent you will need about 136' x 60" of canvas. It should be noted that to make a bell end opening geteld, you simply sew the A section to the B section which had been left open when making a side opening geteld. Now you leave the centre seam of the bell end unsewn adding ties and weather flaps as required.

Cutting list for canvas including 2" for seams.
A 60" x 24' 5" x 3 pieces...........Main tent
B 60" x 10' 6" x 2 pieces...........These get cut into 2 diagonally
C 60" x 9' 6" x 2 pieces .............These get cut into 2 diagonally
D 36" x 15' x 1 piece....................Ridge cap
E 60" x 12' x 8 pieces...................Flaps
F 12" x 11' 41/4" x 2 pieces.....Weather flaps

Cutting list for the wood (2'' x 4'' or round natural poles)
1 ridgepole @ 16' (2 @ 8' spliced with a metal sleeve or lap jointed and bolted together)
2 tent poles @ 8' with a metal spike that goes into the ridgepole, although we know this is not historically correct. It has been suggested that a simple loose mortice and tenon joint could have been employed. We added a third pole in the centre to support the spliced ridgepole.
You will also need two extra poles , not necessarily 2" x 4", to support the side opening, and two double guy ropes. A third pole, slightly longer than the other two, used in the centre of the awning will help to divert any water sideways and away from the geteld.
Ties and tent peg anchors
Historically it would appear that rope was probably used for the tent peg anchors. We chose to use webbing for our anchors, approx. 50'. This gives you one anchor every 18" @ 6" per anchor. We used 3/4" cotton twill tape for all closure ties, and two different weights of webbing. the lightest for the ridgepole ties and the heavy duty for the tent peg anchors.
Twill tape for ties, approx. 100' per tent. ties 12" long.
Tent pegs about 46. This seems a lot but remember that the canvas acts as the stabilizing force and you do not need any guy ropes (except when you open the side).
Ridepole cap.
Looking at some modern reproductions of getelds it appears that a tube through which the ridgepole passes, is created by stitching along the top of the tent(see figure 3 ). This in our opinion puts all the stress onto the stitching and not onto the canvas. From historical research it seems to us that a separate ridgepole cap was added over the top of the existing geteld, (see figure 1) We decided to use this method.
This cap, will be attached by ties to the main tent canvas, and at each end of the ridgepole where it projects outward, it will also be tied down. This will ensure that any gap created by the ridgepole passing through the canvas, will be protected from inclement weather. It was commented that perhaps these two holes historically gave ventilation in case of a small fire being used in the tent.
General information.
Canvas.--We used 14 oz. pre-treated canvas, that is water, and mildew proofed and flame resistant. You could use untreated canvas waterproofing it yourself but as yet I have not heard of anyone having success in doing this. Our advice is pay the extra and get it pre-treated. Roland Williamson (Regia Anglorum UK.) feels that too many white canvas tents tends to create a boy scout looking camp; he has a red ochre geteld. We chose to purchase a yellow ochre coloured canvas. Make sure that you have good quality strong canvas because it's strength is what holds up the geteld. When designing we took into consideration the dimensions of the fabric, ie. it was 60" wide so we made a two or three paneled geteld. Remember, selvedges don't fray.
Seams--We initially allowed two inches for all seams although in retrospect we feel that perhaps this was excessive. We would recommend a half inch on one side with one inch on the other, to make a half inch folded seam.
It certainly helps in creating a more historical look if natural round timber poles are used rather than commercial two by fours. (Note- pine is better than spruce.) I personally used round cedar posts throughout, they are both light, strong, and reasonably rot resistant. Our ridgepole is spliced and bolted together giving us easier to manage lengths for transportation.
Tent pegs.
Manuscripts suggest that both iron pins and wooden pegs (ash preferably) were used and even stones to hold the tent down. (Utrecht Psalter 9th.C.. see fig. 1)
To erect this tent we use the following scenario. We lay out our 15' x 25' tarpaulin on the area in which the geteld is to be erected. This gives us the location for the first stakes. Unfold the geteld and put in stakes at the four corners of the side panels and the centre seam of the bell ends. The ridgepole is bolted together and passed through the inside of the geteld. The two end posts are fitted into the ridgepole (you are now inside the geteld). One or two people per post simply lift up the ridgepole, supporting posts and geteld until these posts are vertical. The central pole is now put in place. At this point the geteld is self supporting. You now go around putting in all the other anchor pegs.

Having used numerous tents and being constantly appalled by the vast quantity of poles, guy ropes and extra canvas required for most period tents, it is a constant pleasure to have such a simple and versatile geteld. It is in my opinion the best tent we have ever used. (See fig.4)

Sewing instructions .1
Pre-assemble ( sew ties on, turn edge seams etc.) as much as you can prior to actually sewing the pieces of canvas together; it makes for easier handling later.
Premeasured and mark out all your canvas using a chalk line prior to beginning sewing.
The following is the order in which we actually made our getelds.
1) Sew onto the three individual "A" sections the following.
a) Inside ties for the ridge pole, backed by an extra piece of canvas for strength. These ties should be six inches down from the centre line on the "A" sections and at twenty inches apart and at all seams.
b) On the outside, the ties for the ridgeole cap. Because these may take more stress we created a false seam by folding the canvas and inserting the ties into this fold, this ensures strength. Again, twenty inches apart and at all seams. These are placed fourteen inches down from the centre line.
Note. the ties at the seams are added when stitching the "A" sections together.
2) Sew the "A" sections together (adding ties at seams).
3) Sew the anchor webbing ties for the tent pegs on both bottom edges of the sewn together "A" sections. These should be eleven feet two and a half inches from the centre line. Again we created a false seam and inserted our webbing ties into this seam. You finish up with three thicknesses of canvas at this point, plus the webbing. These anchors take all the stress. The loops of these anchors are inserted into the folded canvas from the bottom, with the loop downwards, thus the stress is on the canvas and not pulling against the stitching. The important measurement here is the length of the canvas going over the ridgepole and making the "A frame", ie. 22'5" that is eleven foot two and a half inches from the centre line both sides, we have allowed an extra 12" per side for the weather flap. Some of this will be used when creating the two false seams. So the weather flap will not now be 12", don't worry about this, it's the eleven foot two and a half inches that is important, whatever is left over will be the weather flap.
4) Hem the bottom edges of the joined "A" sections.
5) Weather flaps (11' 4 1/2" x 12")x2. These are the ones that tie onto the side opening. (they are sewn onto the bell ends later). Turn and sew the edges, and at the same time insert into the long seams the cotton ties 18" apart for closure. By stitching into the seam you create much greater strength. I suggest that all seams should be turned to the inside of the geteld . When measuring for the placement of the ties start from what you decide will be the top of the weather flap.
6) Bell ends.
Sew two section "C" together, and then on either side of these, add one section "B". Do this twice and you now have the two bell ends. The important measurements here are the two outside edges of the "B" section, 134 1/2", and all the four panels are 54" wide at the base. We have allowed extra for seams . Ensure that you have pre-measured and laid down your chalk lines prior to sewing.
7) Weather flaps for the bottom of the bell ends. (54" x 12")x8
Turn and sew one long side and both ends of each of the 8 pieces. You then sew one of these weather flaps onto each of the four pieces that make up each of the bell ends, and, at the same time you add the anchor webbing for the tent pegs. These are 18" apart and also at each seam. (Where "B" and "C" sections meet). As before they point downwards and are stitched into the seam. The anchor webbing ties are approx. 6" of webbing each.
8) Weather flaps for the side opening. (Pre-assembled) There is one per bell end. Ensure that you have them arranged so that the seams on the bell ends are inside. These flaps start about 18" down from the apex of the bell end and go right down to the bottom. This provides clearance for both the ridgepole cap and the side opening. Note. Make sure that when sewing these flaps on that the ties on the edge being sewn to the bell end remain outside the geteld. You now have two completed bell ends.
9) You now sew the bell ends onto the main canvas. Start at the bottom and line up where the false seams and anchor tie line meet. (We did not stitch the last 6" at the top when joining the bell ends to the main canvas, this allows the ridgepole to pass through the bell end. The resulting triangle of canvas was folded over inside and stitched down. This not only finishes it off neatly but adds greater strength. You still need to turn the edges of the "A" section for the last 6" at the top). You will need to sew a double line of stitching as you will have done on all seams. When sewing the "B" sections onto the "A" sections you stop 6" from the top centre line, and then start sewing again 6" down the other side for 18" only, this allows your geteld to have a side opening feature.

10) Closure ties. these go into the edge seam of the "A" section that lifts up to form the side opening awning. Because of variables in making seams, and the canvas stretching on the diagonal cut, we left this until the last. What we did was to lay out the geteld and use the already sewn on ties on the bell end as our measurement to ensure that they corresponded. One set of ties goes into the turned edge of the awning, whilst a corresponding set are sewn in 12" from this edge but on the inside of the awning.
11) The ridgepole cap (180" x 36") From the centre of this canvas make a false seam 14" down on each side from the centre line, and into this fold sew in your ties. these are 20" apart and should correspond with those already on the "A" section of the geteld. After this, turn and sew all edges.

Foote the Potter.

Please note.
For members of the S.C.A. there will be a few getelds based upon these plans at Pennsic 2003. Should you be interested in getelds you are welcome to drop by at merchant space No 7 "Feat of Clay" (on Bow St.) where Foote the Potter has his geteld..

The dual personas of Baron and peasant allow Foote the Potter to take humorous advantage of most situations in which he finds himself.
David Clarke is a professional potter and sculptor having retired from a teaching career in the visual arts.

Photo's from Regia Anglorum UK. Figures 2 + 3
Photo from Mary Clarke (Grainne du Bois D'Or) Fig. 4

Regia Anglorum UK web page files (http://www.regia.org/)
Utrecht Psalter (Fig.1)
Rolli (UK Regia Anglorum) historical research/ref. (yolli@lineone.net)