The Ipswich Archaeological Trust


by Keith Wade former Suffolk County Archaeologist

Further information may be found in the NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE (NL) and the IMAGE GALLERY (IG) when these abbreviations are added to the text

There have been four phases of archaeological investigation in the town:

* Phase 1 (1850-1950) Pottery and artefacts recovered from developments in the town were collected throughout this period by the Borough Museum (opened in 1847). Some derived from watching briefs carried out by Nina Layard (NL), including the construction of the first town sewers in 1884 and the redevelopment of the Carmelite Friary site and quay in 1899 (1898, 1899). Layard also excavated the important Early Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Hadleigh Road (Layard 1907). (IG)

* Phase 2 (1950-1974) In the late 1950s, the large pottery collection at the museum was studied by John Hurst and Stanley West. They concluded that most of it was Anglo-Saxon and made in the town (Hurst and West 1957). The earliest pottery, which they termed Ipswich ware(IG), was dated to the Middle Saxon period (c. 650-c. 850 AD) and this was followed by Thetford ware(IG) from c.850-1150 (so-called as it was first recognised in Thetford). During this phase, Ipswich Museum took a more active interest in the archaeology of the town. Watching briefs were carried out during developments in Carr Street (Smedley and Owles 1963 ) and on the site of the West Gate. The first professional and government-funded excavations were carried out by Stanley West at Cox Lane in 1958 and Shire Hall Yard in 1959 (West 1963). West established that Ipswich was a large settlement, covering at least 30 hectares, and international port during the Middle Saxon period. In the early 1970s it became clear that Ipswich was one of only a handful of trading settlements, displaying urban characteristics (emporia), in North-Western Europe during this period. This elevated the town’s archaeological status to one of international importance. At the same time, the Scole Committee identified that the archaeology of Ipswich was under serious threat from a potential development boom, and lobbied for the government and Local Authorities to make provision for its ‘rescue’ (Scole Committee 1973).

* Phase 3 (1974-1990): The Origins of Ipswich Project In 1974, the Suffolk Archaeological Unit was created, initially under the management of the Scole Committee for East Anglian Archaeology, and then Suffolk County Council. The Unit provided a countywide rescue archaeology service, and appointed Keith Wade to the post of urban archaeologist to monitor development in all the urban centres of Suffolk, with special reference to Ipswich. The Ipswich excavations formed part of a wider programme of research (The Origins of Ipswich Project) which included documentary research and the recording of standing buildings. Funding for this work came originally from archaeological grants from the Department of Environment, Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments, and supplemented later by Manpower Service Commission schemes, utilising firstly school leavers (Youth Opportunities Programme) and then unemployed young adults (Community Programme). From 1987, some three years before the introduction of Planning Policy Guidance: Archaeology and Planning (PPG) 16, limited developer funding became more available to supplement the Government and Manpower Service Commission money. The sampling strategy established for the excavation programme (Wade 1978) was achieved over a sixteen year period. A total of thirty-six archaeological excavations took place between 1974 and 1990. All the sites all lay within the historic core of the town with 27 within the Anglo-Saxon and medieval defences, and nine within the medieval suburbs. All the excavations were supervised by Tom Loader or John Newman under the overall directorship of Keith Wade. Unfortunately, none of these excavations has been fully published to date. However, extensive post excavation analyses were completed and the complete archive should be accessible via the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) website by the end of 2014. Short site summaries were published in the annual ‘Archaeology in Suffolk’ section of the Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History and short reports in East Anglian Archaeology (Dunmore et al 1975; Dunmore et al 1976). Synthetic works have also been produced (Wade 1988a, 1988b, 1993) and the the earliest phase of the St Stephens Lane / Buttermarket sites (the 7th century cemetery) was fully published (Scull 2009). Some reports on the Middle Saxon finds have also been published by the specialists, such as the pottery (Blinkhorn 1990 and 2012) and faunal remains (Crabtree 2012).

* Phase 4 (1991 to present) From 1991 onwards, all excavations were developer-funded following new planning guidance (PPG 16). The excavation of sites is now the subject of competitive tendering by developers and archaeological contractors based outside of Suffolk are now undertaking work in the town. There was very little development in the town over this period, apart from the redevelopment of the Ipswich docks, which was cut short by the financial crash after 2008. Important sites were excavated along the waterfront but as most of the developers went into liquidation, none of the sites have been analysed or published. Currently, as the economy starts to recover, excavation work is starting again. A large site was excavated at Stoke Quay, south of the river, in 2012.

(NL ) THE ANGLO-SAXON TOWN OF GIPESWIC * The 7th century Emporium

The earliest occupation is 7th century and comprises a settlement, north of the river crossing at Stoke Bridge, and a cemetery on the higher ground above it, south of the Buttermarket. The best evidence of this settlement came from the Greyfriars Road (Novotel) ( NL & IG ) site where two sunken-featured buildings and many rubbish pits were associated with handmade pottery and imported Frankish wares. * The Buttermarket cemetery (NL & IG) comprised 71 certain graves of men, women and children. An extensive radiocarbon dating programme provided a date range of c.610/635 to c.680/690 AD. Burial was commonly in coffins or containers and many of the graves were lined with wooden structures or linings, which is unusual in contemporary cemeteries in England. In two cases, the containers appeared to be small boats. Some of the burials were surrounded by penannular ditches, probably indicating that they were covered by mounds or small barrows. At least six individuals were buried with weapons or with dress jewellery and girdle assemblages. Three of the male burials had belt suites most closely paralleled in burials in northern France and Belgium. * The Middle Saxon Town (c.700-870 AD) Around 700 AD, give or take 20 years, the town expanded to cover about 50 hectares. This involved an extension over the heathland to the north, along a newly laid-out grid-iron pattern of streets, and centred on the market place (the Corn Hill), with a probably royal chapel dedicated to St Mildred and south of the river into Stoke. The economy was based on craft production and international trade. Craft production was dominated by the Ipswich Ware pottery industry. It was a large scale enterprise, concentrated in the north east corner of the town, along Carr Street, but outlying kilns have also been excavated at the Buttermarket and south of the river in Stoke. The importance of the Ipswich ware industry is shown by its distribution, which not only covers the entire Kingdom of East Anglia but as far as the West Country, Yorkshire, London and Kent. Most sites across the town also produce evidence of bone and antler working, spinning and weaving, and metalworking. Leatherworking too must have been common but evidence for it only survived in the waterlogged deposits of the waterfront. All sites produced evidence of international trade. Imported goods include hone stones from Norway, lava querns from the Rhineland and pottery from the Rhineland, Belgium and Northern France. This imported pottery is found in much larger quantities than found on inland settlement sites of this period. Over 6000 sherds representing over 900 vessels have been found to date. Most of this pottery probably represents foreign traders in residence but the fancier vessels were most likely in transit to the tables of the East Anglian aristocracy. The trade also included perishable goods such as wool or woven textiles going out and wine coming in. Wine was imported in wooden barrels, some of which have been found, re-used as the linings of shallow wells across the town. An example from Lower Brook Street matched the tree ring pattern of the Mainz area of Germany. Evidence for the townscape of the Middle Saxon town comes from the two areas of large scale excavation, south of the Buttermarket (St Stephen’s Lane) and either side of Foundation Street. At the Buttermarket, in the centre of the town, a continuous row of rectangular, surface-laid timber buildings was found hard up against the street edge. In their backyards, various crafts were in evidence including weaving, bone and antler working, metalworking (silver, copper alloy, iron) and potting in the form of a single Ipswich ware kiln A different picture emerged either side of Foundation Street, on the eastern edge of the Middle Saxon town. Here, there were fewer buildings, set back from the street and within fenced enclosures. Environmental evidence indicates more emphasis on agricultural activities including livestock and cereal cleaning. This implies that such a thing as a town centre, with more commercial activity, and a periphery with a more agricultural function, existed from the start of urban life in England, but this needs testing by further excavation. Christian burial grounds were also established at this period. One was certainly on the western margin of occupation in the Elm Street area where human remains, radiocarbon-dated to this period, have been found. Some churches were no doubt founded at this period. St Peter’s has been suggested as the Minster church and St Mildred’s, on the Corn Hill, was probably a royal chapel (sadly removed for the construction of the Town Hall in the 19th century). At this period, there was also much activity along the north bank of the river Orwell. A long sequence of timber waterfront revetments, from the 7th century onwards, were found in excavations at Bridge Street in 1981. The Middle Saxon waterfronts, of simple post and wattle hurdle construction, were little more than a bank protection, providing dry land on which to embark from the shallow draft boats of the period, such as that found at Utrecht. More complex timber structures were found more recently during excavations at the Cranfields Mill site, east of Bridge Street. *The importance of the Middle Saxon town Following the collapse of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, in the early 5th century, it is clear that town life disappeared. It was not until the early 7th century that it reappeared in the form of a series of emporia established around the North Sea coast. In what was later to become England, there was one such emporium in each of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Hamwic ( Southampton) served Wessex, Lundenwic (London) served various kingdoms before becoming the national capital, Eoforwic (York) served Northumbria and Gipeswic (Ipswich) served East Anglia and also Mercia, after it had established supremacy over the kingdom. Excavations in the emporia of both Hanwic and Lundenwic have shown almost identical settlements to that at Gipeswic. These are England’s earliest towns, with unbroken occupation up to the present day. Only Ipswich remains on exactly the same site The emporia on the European mainland are also well-known. Ipswich was trading mainly with Dorestad, on the river Rhine, Hamwic was trading mainly with Quentovic, in the Pas de Calais, and York mainly with the Scandinavian emporia at Hedeby (now in Denmark) and Birka, in Sweden. *The Late Saxon Town The Scandinavian invasion of England in 865 culminated in permanent settlement in Eastern England. Guthrum, one of the principal Scandinavian leaders, settled East Anglia from 879-880 and Scandinavian rule lasted until 920 when the West Saxons regained the area. This period (880-920) is a period of great cultural change in Ipswich which must reflect Scandinavian rule and settlement. The town was surrounded with defences for the first time, probably late in the period, as a response to the threat from Wessex. This involved the closure and diversion of some streets. A new building type, the sunken-featured building, was introduced and there is a very marked increase in craft activity. Metalworking included both iron smelting and smithing and copper alloy working. Moulds indicate brooch manufacture. It was also during this period that the Thetford ware pottery industry replaced the Ipswich ware industry. The industry remained in the north-east area of the town, along Carr Street and one kiln was excavated in St Helen’s Street. A further kiln was found in Turret Lane, south of the Buttermarket. Thetford ware industries were also later established in the new Anglo-Scandinavian towns of Thetford and Norwich. From the re-conquest by Wessex, in 920, to the Norman Conquest, the town grew very little but it remained in the top ten of the most important Anglo-Saxon towns. The street pattern was that inherited from its Middle Saxon predecessor, modified only by the construction of the town defences. The townscape at this period is more uniform with buildings set back normally 10-15 metres from the street front. The buildings continue to be sunken-featured but they increase in size and become two-storied with the sunken feature acting a cellar or half cellar. The economy continued to be based on craft activity and international trade. It acquired a mint by the reign of Edgar (959-975). Local and regional trade, westward to the east Midlands dominated the 10th century but international trade picks up again in the eleventh century. * The Norman Town The Domesday Book account of the town in 1086 shows a severe decline after 1066, with 328 of the burgess plots laying waste and only 110 burgesses left who could afford to pay their customary dues to the king. By the middle of the 12th century, the town had fallen to 21st in the national rankings. Part of this decline was, of course, because of competition from the network of towns which had been founded across East Anglia during the late Saxon period. This decline is well represented in the archaeological record. On the major sites of Buttermarket and Foundation Street, buildings go out of use in the late 11th/early 12th century and the sites are not redeveloped until the 13th century. Some of these buildings were burnt down, which preserved a wealth of construction detail and in some cases the contents of the buildings. The most likely cause of this decline was the suppression by William the Conqueror of a rebellion against him by the earl of East Anglia in 1075. * The Medieval Town The excavated evidence for this period is limited and can add little to the evidence provided by surviving documents. Two of the major excavations coincided with the precincts of medieval friaries and ground plans of both the Dominican and Carmelite friaries were recovered. Pottery kilns excavated in Fore Street show that pottery production continued during this period producing Ipswich Glazed ware from c.1270-1325. Keith Wade, October 2014 Bibliography Crabtree, P., 2012 Middle Saxon Animal Husbandry in East Anglia, E.Anglian Archaeol., 143 Blinkhorn, P., 1990 ‘Middle Saxon pottery from the Buttermarket kiln, Ipswich’, Medieval Ceramics 13, 12-16. Blinkhorn, P., 2012 The Ipswich Ware Project: ceramics, trade and society in Middle Saxon England (Medieval Pottery Research Group, Occasional Paper 7). Dunmore, S., Gray, V., ‘The Origins and Development of Ipswich: an Interim Report’, Loader, T. & Wade, K. E.Anglian Archaeol., 1, 57-67 1975 Dunmore, S., Loader, T. ‘Ipswich Archaeological Survey: Second Interim Report’, E. Anglian and Wade, K., 1976 Archaeol., 3, 135-140 Hurst J. G. & West S.E., Saxo-Norman Pottery in East Anglia, II, Proc. Camb. Antiq. Soc., L 1957 Layard, N. 1898 ‘Underground Ipswich’, East Anglian Daily Times, 28th September 1898 Layard, N F, 1899 ‘Recent discoveries on the site of the Carmelite Convent at Ipswich and the Old River Quay’, Proc.Suffolk Inst.Archaeol and History, X, 183-188. Layard, N, 1907 ‘An Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Ipswich’, Archaeologia 60, 325-52 Scole Committee 1973 Ipswich: The Archaeological Implications of Development Smedley, N., and ‘Some Suffolk kilns: IV. Saxon kilns in Cox Lane’, Proc. Suffolk Owles, E., 1963 Inst. Archaeology, XXIX, 304-335. Wade, K, 1978 ‘Sampling at Ipswich: The origins and growth of the Anglo-Saxon Town’, in Cherry, J.F., Gamble, C., and Shennan, S., Sampling in Contemporary British Archaeology (BAR British Series 50). Wade, K. 1988a ‘Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Ipswich’ in Dymond, D., and Martin, E. (eds), An Historical Atlas of Suffolk, 122-123 Wade, K. 1988b ‘Ipswich’ in Hodges, R., and Hobley, B. (eds), The Rebirth of Towns in the West, AD 700-1050, Counc. Brit. Archaeol. Res. Rep. 68, 93-100 Wade, K. 1993 ‘The Urbanisation of East Anglia: the Ipswich Perspective’ in Julie Gardner (ed), Flatlands & Wetlands: Current Themes in East Anglian Archaeology, E. Anglian Archaeol., 50, 144-151 Wade, K. 2001 ‘Gipeswic – East Anglia’s First Economic Capital 600-1066’, Ipswich from the First to the Third Millennium, The Ipswich Society, 1-6. West, S. E. 1963 ‘Excavations at Cox Lane (1958) and at the Town Defences, Shire Hall Yard, Ipswich (1959)’, Proc. Suffolk Inst. Archaeology, XXIX, 233-303.