Buried remains of Late Saxon and medieval town defences, and a section of C14 precinct wall to the Dominican friary of the Ipswich Blackfriars
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Location Description:
- Statutory Address:
- Lower Orwell Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1DY
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- Statutory Address:
- Lower Orwell Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1DY
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- Ipswich (District Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
- TM 16620 44199
The buried remains of Late Saxon and medieval town defences and a section of C14 Dominican Friary precinct wall that lie beneath a car park and a bus depot within a rectangular site aligned north-east to south-west. It is bounded to the north-west and south-east by Shire Hall Yard/Pleasant Row and Lower Orwell Street respectively and by a former 1960s bonded warehouse to the north-east. A 1980s extension to a 1950s bus depot overlies the southern quarter.
Reasons for Designation
The buried remains of the Late Saxon and medieval town defences and a section of C14 Dominican friary precinct wall, off Shire Yard, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: archaeological excavation has shown that the buried remains relating to the Anglo-Saxon and medieval town of Ipswich survive well as buried features;
* Diversity: the multi-period remains demonstrate occupation of the site from the Anglo-Saxon period onwards and will add to our knowledge and understanding of Ipswich, one of England’s earliest true towns;
* Documentation: the site is particularly well documented, with the results of two archaeological excavations increasing our understanding of the significance of the site;
* Potential: excavation has shown that the site has the potential to yield further archaeological information of national significance, particularly with regard to the Ipswich’s Saxon origins;
* Rarity: the precinct wall is a rare surviving component of a friary complex that, when combined with the ruined and buried remains of the scheduled friary buildings that stand to the north-west (NHLE 1002966 ), will add greatly to our knowledge of religious diversity in England in the medieval period;
* Group value: the significance of the site is enhanced by its group value with the other scheduled sections of settlement remains that will help to contextualise and understand Ipswich’s evolution, adding to our knowledge and understanding of the formation of the English landscape following the end of the Roman occupation.
Ipswich was one of a small number of trading settlements, generally known in Latin as emporia or in Early English as wics, which were at the forefront of urban regeneration in England from the mid-C7 onwards: the most successful, and those most usually cited also include London (Lundenwic), Southampton (Hamwic), and York (Yorvik). Excavations undertaken between 1974 and 1990 on 34 sites across the Anglo-Saxon and medieval town and into the medieval suburbs have produced abundant evidence of settlement and industry, providing insight into the chronology, nature and form of settlement and the town’s significant pottery industry.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Anglo-Saxon Ipswich was a new settlement, established in the early C7 on an area of gravel and sand at the head of the Orwell estuary. It pre-dates the beginnings of pottery production, which began in about AD 650, exploiting an extensive zone of London Clay to the north of the settlement and its cemetery. In the early C9 the town expanded towards the potteries, over the cemetery, apparently establishing the present street pattern, with buildings seen lining the frontage of St Stephen’s Lane. In the late C9 and early C10 a new type of cellared building was introduced, more widely spaced and set back from the street front, and this appears to have remained the dominant building form throughout the C10 and C11. The town’s first circuit of defences were constructed in the early C10, but by the mid-C11 it had outgrown these to form suburbs, suggesting a thriving urban economy. By the late C11, however, both documentary and archaeological evidence indicate economic retraction, with late-C11 cellared buildings in the Buttermarket and Foundation Street sites abandoned or destroyed, remaining waste until the C13. During the medieval period the town expanded again, with further growth of suburbs, but with much of the intramural area occupied by the churches and claustral buildings of the White, Grey and Black Friars. The town’s defences were also reconstructed in 1203, probably by deepening the existing ditch and raising the rampart.
Archaeological evidence of early economic activity in Ipswich indicates the presence of small scale craft industries: bone, antler, leather and horn working are represented, as well as cloth production. These are dwarfed, however, by the pottery industry that thrived from the mid-C7 to the C9, and by the scale of production of distinctive Ipswich wares traded as domestic pottery throughout the Kingdom of East Anglia, with more limited distribution outside the kingdom along major routes and on high status sites. From the mid-C9 until the C12 the potteries turned to the production of Thetford Ware. As well as trading its own locally produced goods, during most of this period Ipswich was an international port, acting as a redistribution centre for wares imported from the Rhineland and Flanders, and also from northern France.
The history of the rectangular shaped area of land bounded to the south-east and north-west by Lower Orwell Street and Shire Hall Yard/Pleasant Row respectively, to the north-east by an early 1960s bonded warehouse, (latterly the Gym and Trim health club) and with a 1980s extension to the 1950s Eastern Counties bus depot overlying the southern quarter, has been revealed by two archaeological excavations. The first was undertaken in August 1959 in the northern three quarters of the site, prior to the construction of the bonded warehouse, while the second took place between December 1981 and January 1982 before the bus depot was extended.
The earliest known feature identified on the site was a Romano-British ditch, uncovered by the 1981/82 excavation. It was found running in an arc across the south-west corner of the site, measuring 2.4m wide and 80cm deep. Evidence for the domestic occupation of the site in the Middle Saxon period (circa AD 700 to AD 850) was revealed with the discovery of five rubbish pits; one in 1959 and four in 1981/82. The pit uncovered in 1958 revealed 29 Ipswich ware sherds while the pits found in 1981/82 contained a total of 215 Ipswich ware sherds, 11 imported sherds, and a single sceatta coin. Although no identifiable structures were found from this period, it is thought that a group of post holes uncovered in 1981/82 could have represented the remains of a building. As all the deposits discovered in 1981/82 were found at a depth of 60cm below the existing ground surface, they were subsequently destroyed when the bus depot was extended. Both excavations uncovered the buried remains of the town’s Anglo-Saxon defences in the form of an infilled ditch of C10 date, running the entire length of the site in a north-east to south-west alignment. It was found to have had its east side removed when the medieval town ditch, which also survives as a buried feature, was cut on the same alignment in 1203. Although the associated ramparts have now been levelled, the medieval bank was recorded as standing to a height of circa 0.75m in the northern section of the site before it was razed by the early 1960s redevelopment. Documentary evidence also suggests that the medieval ditch was crossed by a bridge known as ‘Friars Bridge’ at an unidentified location within the site.
An infilled foundation trench for a town wall that was never built was also uncovered by the 1959 excavation. It was located between the medieval ditch and its rampart and is believed to have been dug between 22nd July 1352, when a licence was obtained from the Crown to strengthen and crenellate the town with a stone wall, and 1st November 1354, when the licence was surrendered.
A substantial wall, again running in a north-east to south-west alignment along the entire length of the site, was also revealed by the two excavations. By 1263 the Dominican Friary of Blackfriars had established their house a short distance to the north-west of the site and it is believed that this structure represents the friary's precinct wall which was built in the second half of the C14. It was found to have been built along the outer face of the medieval rampart, with two-thirds of its foundation overlying the mid-C14 foundation trench.
Documentary evidence from the Ipswich town records state that the defences were not repaired until 1554. They were further repaired in 1603 and a rubble layer uncovered by the 1959 excavation is believed to represent these works. The defences were repaired again in the Civil War, in 1643, when a letter from William Cage to the Bailiffs records them as being much decayed and trodden down.
Following the Dissolution the monastic buildings of Blackfriars were used for various purposes, and by the C17 they were, in part, a school and bridewell. It is believed that the proximity of the bridewell and a workhouse belonging to St Mary Key parish explains the presence of the burials that were discovered in 1959 in the upper levels of the rampart. Two shallow graves were found while a further five skulls, pelvic girdles and unidentified bones were found dumped in a heap at the base of a pit dug into the tail of the rampart.
By the time Pennington’s map of Ipswich was published in 1788, houses had been built over the site of the infilled medieval ditch, with the rampart laid out as small gardens behind each house.
By 1952 the houses had been demolished and a bus depot built at the southern end of the site. In the early 1960s a bonded warehouse was built at northern end with a car park standing to the south of it. The area between the bonded warehouse and bus depot, which was then used as a car park, was scheduled in 1977. In the early 1980s the bus deport was extended over the southern quarter of the site.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the buried remains of Late Saxon and medieval town defences and a section of C14 Dominican Friary precinct wall lying beneath a car park and a bus depot within a north-east to south-west aligned rectangular site. It is bounded to the north-west and south-east by Shire Hall Yard/Pleasant Row and Lower Orwell Street respectively and by a former 1960s bonded warehouse to the north-east. A 1980s extension to a 1950s bus depot overlies the southern quarter. The two sections are divided by a footpath which runs across the site in a north-west to south-east direction.
DESCRIPTION: the buried remains of the Late Saxon town ditch run in a north-east to south-west alignment along the entire length of the site. When sectioned in 1959, it was found to have a V-shaped profile and, although its east side had been removed when the medieval town ditch was cut, it was estimated to have measured 5m to 6m wide with a depth of between 1.5m to 2m.
The medieval town ditch of 1203 was also sectioned in 1959 and measured 5.5m to 6.1m wide and 3.5m deep. Although the ditch was exposed by the 1981/82 excavation, it was not excavated. On the west side of the ditch is the levelled rampart which probably overlies evidence for the Anglo-Saxon domestic occupation of the site.
The buried remains of a foundation trench for a town wall that was never built lies between the medieval ditch and its levelled rampart. Dug at some time between July 1352 and November 1354, it has vertical sides and measures 2.1m wide and 1.5m deep.
Running down the middle of the site in a north-east to south-west alignment are the substantial remains of a C14 friary precinct wall. It measures circa 1m wide and stands to a height of circa 2.1m, with the lower courses constructed from large blocks of septaria, while the upper section is of flint cobble with occasional bonding slabs of larger material. Its outer eastern face is lined with C20 brick. Although the wall principally survives as a buried feature beneath the car park and bus station, its top is visible as surface indentations in the car park in the northern section of the site.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduled area is intended to protect the known extent of the buried archaeological evidence relating to the buried remains of Ipswich’s Late Saxon and medieval town defences along with a section of C14 precinct wall belonging to the Blackfriars Dominican friary. It comprises a rectangular-shaped area bounded to the south-east and north-west by Lower Orwell Street and Shire Hall Yard/Pleasant Row respectively, to the north-east by an early 1960s bonded warehouse, (latterly the Gym and Trim health club), while a 1980s extension to the 1950s Eastern Counties bus depot overlies the southern quarter.
EXCLUSIONS: excluded from the scheduling are all fences, fence posts, gates, walls, the bus depot extension and the footpath running across the site. The ground beneath all of these items, however, is included.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- SF 189
- Legacy System:
- RSM - OCN
Books and journals
West, SE, 'Excavations at Cox Lane (1958) and at the Town Defences, Shire Hall Yard, Ipswich (1959)' in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, , Vol. 29, (1963), 233-303
Information from the Ipswich 1974-1990 Excavation Archive: Suffolk Council Archaeological Service: Shire Hall Yard, Ipswich - IAS6904, accessed 21 October 2015 from http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/ipswich_6904_2015/index.cfm
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing