The Ipswich Archaeological Trust


The formation of the Trust in 1982 was the idea of Keith Wade, then Suffolk County Council Urban Archaeologist. It arose out of a period of financial insecurity which seemed to threaten the future of Council funded archaeology. He approached various potentially interested parties including The Ipswich Society and Suffolk Institute for History and Archaeology and a charitable trust was formed.

The original trustees were:

  • DR J M BLATCHLY (President)
  • MR JOHN FAIRCLOUGH (Vice Chairman)
  • MR KEITH WADE (Hon Secretary)

The Trusts aims were stated in its launch newsletter: “Archaeology today is a highly complex profession but most people have an interest in the past if it has gone no further than finding out their family history. As with most subjects the more you know about it the more you can enjoy it- and archaeology is no exception.

The Ipswich Archaeological Trust has been formed to allow the people of Ipswich to find out more about archaeology and history of their town”.

  • To tell people about archaeological work in the town of Ipswich and related work activity elsewhere.
  • To encourage interest and publicise the results of archaeological work in Ipswich and elsewhere in the region. We publish a newsletter giving up to date information of locally current archaeological work. (An archive of PDF images is available…)
  • To organise activities for trust members. These include lectures, exhibitions, site visits and journeys to events or exhibitions of interest elsewhere.
  • To raise funds to promote the work of the trust.
  • To assist where possible with archaeological work in the town.

1982 was National Maritime year and a large exhibition “Ipswich the Port, Prospect & Retrospect” was held in what is now Ashton KCJ Solicitors Offices on the Wet Dock. IAT set up a display of the latest finds from excavations on the Anglo Saxon waterfront, and formally launched the Trust there on 15th October 1982.

By the time of the first AGM on 6 October 1983 136 people had become members of the Trust. In that year a Buildings Group was inaugurated to document “above ground structures”, particularly those revealed and at risk during building and development activity. This was headed by Bill Thompson. Amongst its achievements was the documentation and dismantling of an important 16th century medieval merchants house at 8-10 Waterworks Street. This was stored and subsequently re erected as Merchant House in Silent Street. The Trust has made it possible for members to be aware of and often present at all the important archaeological sites and discoveries, during a period when the origins of Ipswich have been more clearly revealed. Since 1986 the IAT has championed the concept of a purpose built centre celebrating the pivotal national and international role of Ipswich in the early history of the Nation. The idea being that all the archaeological material, revealed evidence and history would form the basis of a museum, themed visitor centre, Jorvik type, and also an academic English study centre. Over the years repeated overtures to local councils have proved unsuccessful, although the Ipswich 2000 initiative had broad input and support from heritage, business and academic interests. Once again the difficulties of engaging a financially fragile and timorous public sector undermined our case with the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Millennium Commission.

The IAT continues to believe that such a resource would be a valuable, if not essential, unique selling point for the Town. We hold a watching brief for any matter that we feel would undermine or devalue archaeological interests. These could include, amongst others, building development and planning ventures, education, museums, records and heritage matters. In 1999 the IAT joined other groups such as the Ipswich Society, and Suffolk Institute for History and Archaeology in deploring the desire of the Ipswich Borough Council to replace the Ipswich Museums Curator with a “Heritage Manager”. In taking legal advice and considering the possibility of a judicial review the IAT and some Committee members risked their personal money to form a joint fighting fund. The judicial review didn’t happen but the council did change its mind. Subsequently the Ipswich Museum was overtaken by the Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service. On 27 October 2007 the IAT celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a highly successful day conference at the St Nicholas Centre. This meeting summarised the work since 1974.

The IAT continues its work of making the local archaeological scene available to members and remains vigilant where threats are concerned. We remain anxious and watchful about the status of our local museums and County Record service and a succession of proposals for a Suffolk Heritage Centre. We remain convinced that Ipswich and the County would benefit greatly from a proper Anglo Saxon Gippeswic Centre.