Area of Middle and Late Saxon town, off Greyfriars Road


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Immediately W of the Hotel Novotel, Greyfriars Road
Statutory Address:
Greyfriars, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 1XG


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Statutory Address:
Greyfriars, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 1XG

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Immediately W of the Hotel Novotel, Greyfriars Road
Ipswich (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TM 16250 44136


The buried remains of an area of Middle and Late Saxon town, off Greyfriars Road.

Reasons for Designation

The buried remains of an area of Middle and Late Saxon town, off Greyfriars Road, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Potential: excavation within the immediate vicinity of the scheduled area has shown that the site has the potential to yield further archaeological information of national importance relating to Ipswich’s Saxon origins;

* Documentation: the results of two archaeological excavations within the immediate vicinity of the scheduled area allows the archaeological potential of the scheduled area to be predicted with reasonable accuracy;

* 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, thereby adding to our knowledge 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 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.

In 1977, when it was scheduled, the site traditionally interpreted as an area of Saxon town off Greyfriars Road was occupied by a car park. In the early 1980s a new stretch of Greyfriars Road, constructed as part of the ‘Stoke Bridge and Approaches’ road scheme, split the area into two. While no excavation is known to have taken place prior to the construction of the road, the archaeological deposits that now lie beneath it can be predicted with reasonable accuracy on the basis of evidence from the site immediately to the north, which was excavated in 1986/87 prior to the building of the Ipswich Hotel Novotel. The excavations were restricted to the sections fronting Greyfriars Road and St Peter's Street, the area on which the hotel would stand, along with a separate trench on the west side of the site. The earliest features identified were two sunken featured buildings and nine rubbish pits attributed to the Early Middle Saxon period (circa AD 600-AD 700/720). The pits were defined by pre-Ipswich ware in the form of handmade wares and/or C7 to early-C8 imported wares, the latter being North French Blackwares and gritty/early Badorf wares that are thought to be contemporary with the Mayen industry.

Two main phases of occupation were identified from the Middle Saxon period (circa AD 700-AD 850). The first phase of circa AD 750-AD 825 was defined by seven pits, a well and the boundary ditches of two fenced enclosures, all identified by Ipswich ware in their fills. A possible building lay in the south-east corner of the western enclosure adjacent to St Peter's Street. The second phase of circa AD 825-AD 850 was represented by ten pits and a V-shaped boundary ditch measuring circa 2.1-2.4m wide and circa 1-1.2m deep. The stratigraphic and pottery evidence of this east-west aligned ditch indicated that it was cut late in the Middle Saxon period and not infilled until the Early Late Saxon period. Its lower layers were found to contain silts or sand, indicating an initial natural filling, while the upper layers contained occupation waste in the form of 167kg of animal bone, 191 bone objects, over 600 sawn antler offcuts and semi-finished comb pieces, all indicative of an antler working industry, principally manufacturing combs. In addition, the recovery of 91 iron objects and 32kg of metal slag also suggests that an iron smelting industry was present. It is believed that the ditch was a major boundary feature with its location and silty lower fill suggesting that it probably acted as a flood defence, with the site lying close to the original north bank of the River Orwell. A 3m wide strip of land devoid of pits on the north side suggests that this was probably covered by a bank. A further eight pits and a well from this period could not be allocated a phase.

The Early Late Saxon period (circa AD 850-AD 900) was illustrated by 49 pits, a ditch, a small cemetery and a single linear feature. At least three phases were identified on the basis of the pottery content of these features and their relationship with the small cemetery. The first phase of circa AD 850-AD 860 was a continuation of the second Middle Saxon period phase and is defined by two pits and a ditch of unknown function, all characterised by Ipswich ware and very small quantities of Thetford ware. The pits were cut by burials from a later cemetery from the second phase. It comprised ten inhumation burials of which two were adult males, four adult females, three adults of unknown gender and one female adolescent. Two pits, both of which cut the phase one ditch, can be allocated to a third phase, with one pit found to contain a penny of Charles the Bald, probably lost circa AD 905-10. The further 37 pits cannot be allocated a phase. Although no structures were found from this period, it is possible that they could have been destroyed by buildings erected on St Peter’s Street in the post medieval period.

Three sunken featured buildings and seven pits were attributed to the Middle Late Saxon period (circa AD 900-AD 1000), defined by Thetford ware and St Neot’s ware. The lack of any coins of this period and the small number of associated pits suggests a restricted period of occupation, maybe not starting until the late C10. As the three sunken featured buildings were found crowded together at the north end of the site, with no features found to the south of them, then this could possibly indicate flooding, which could explain the sparse occupation during this period.

The early medieval period (circa AD 1000-AD 1200) produced 61 pits and three sunken featured buildings, the latter with a large amount of pottery from their backfill but relatively low amounts of early medieval ware.

No buildings were found from the late medieval period (circa AD 1200-AD 1450), but the presence of 25 rubbish pits imply their existence. The widening of St. Peter's Street in the early C20 and the damage from post-medieval buildings could possibly explain the lack of any buildings fronting the street, with the distribution of pits supporting this conclusion.

The late medieval transitional phase (circa AD 1450-AD 1600) was represented by thirty pits, spread across the whole site, apart from the south-west corner, with a concentration in an east-west line across the centre. As with the earlier late medieval phase, any structures on the St Peter’s Street frontage could have been removed by the post-medieval buildings or lie under the 5m strip of early-C20 road widening.

A large cellared building fronting St Peter’s Street, three outbuildings, a well and 11 pits were found to belong to the post medieval period, probably of C18 or C19 date. The east side of St Peter’s Street has a high survival of timber framed buildings, mainly dating to the C17. Those on the west side were removed, early in the C20 when the street was widened.

In 1987 construction work began on the Ipswich Hotel Novotel with the Anglo-Saxon archaeology revealed by the excavation being destroyed. In 2016 this section was removed from the scheduling.

In 1989 the island site bounded by the old Greyfriars Road to the north (now a cul-de-sac) and the new Greyfriars Road to the south was excavated prior to a proposed development which was never realised. The earliest known features dated from the Early Middle Saxon period (circa AD 600-AD 700) and comprised two pits characterised by handmade pottery. A total of 138 handmade sherds were recovered from the site. Three other pits also belonged to this period as they are cut by Middle Saxon period (circa AD 700-AD 850) features, but they had no finds associated with them. The rest of the Saxon period was also represented by further pits and post-holes with a sunken-featured structure being attributed to the Middle Late Saxon period (circa AD 900-AD 1000). One linear feature, one foundation trench with postholes and twenty-nine pits were found belonging to the early medieval period (AD 1000-AD 1200). A complex of post and stake-holes, either belonging to, or later than, this period, were located in the north-west corner of the excavation area. Most contained no pottery, but a number of stake holes and post holes cut early medieval pits. A large pit with sloping edges was found from the late medieval period (circa 1200-1450). The lowest layer contained a dark grey sticky clay loam tinged with green sand while the other layers included pale grey/luminous green sand, implying that it was used from the disposal of industrial waste. The site lies close to the River Gipping channel and the Stoke Mills where such processes might be expected, three further pits were also recorded and dated to circa 1450-1600. With the archaeology now being excavated, the island site was also removed from the scheduling in 2016.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the buried remains of an area of Middle and Late Saxon town, off Greyfriars Road.

DESCRIPTION: excavation of the site prior to the building of the Hotel Novotel in 1986/87 (see HISTORY) revealed a rich and important sequence of Anglo-Saxon occupation, including evidence for the early-C7 origins of Ipswich, the only area to date where structural occupation evidence has been found. Although the remains have now been removed, it is believed, on the evidence of the finds and observations, that they also extended across the area now occupied by the hotel car park and its grounds, along with a small section of the realigned Greyfriars Road, where they survive as buried features.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the scheduled area is intended to protect the archaeological evidence relating to the buried remains of an area of Middle and Late Saxon town that lie beneath the car park and grounds of the Ipswich Hotel Novotel and a small section off Greyfriars Road. It is possible that nationally important archaeological information may extend beyond the boundary of the scheduled area to the north and west. As the presence of such remains has not been demonstrated, these areas would be more effectively managed through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

EXCLUSIONS: the surface of the road, pavement and hotel car park are excluded from the scheduling. Also excluded are the car park barrier, bollards, lamp posts and road signs. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
SF 193
Legacy System:


Information from the Ipswich 1974-1990 Excavation Archive: Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service: Greyfriars Road (Island site), Ipswich - IAS5204, accessed 26 November 2015 from
Information from the Ipswich 1974-1990 Excavation Archive: Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service: St Peter's Street, Ipswich -IAS5203 , accessed 26 November 2015 from
Suffolk County Council Historic Environment Record, Full Monument Report for SMR number IPS 215 - MSF 10271, Greyfriars Road, Ipswich


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

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