Colour aerial photo showing an arable field with the archaeology seen as dark green lines against a generally paler background
Cropmarks of a probable Bronze Age round barrow near Harkstead photographed on 24-JUN-2009 (NMR 26350/11). Interpretation of other features in the vicinity is complicated by the underlying geology. © Historic England
Cropmarks of a probable Bronze Age round barrow near Harkstead photographed on 24-JUN-2009 (NMR 26350/11). Interpretation of other features in the vicinity is complicated by the underlying geology. © Historic England

Ipswich and the Shotley Peninsula NMP

This project used aerial photographs to improve the archaeological record along the A14 corridor north-west of Ipswich and on the Shotley peninsula to the south. The project recorded buried and surface remains dating from prehistory to the 20th century. This will provide important information to inform future management of change in these areas.

Landscape contexts

The whole project area was felt to have great potential for archaeological survey from the air due to the light soils and large areas of arable. The results confirmed this and the mapping from aerial photographs illustrated the long use of the landscapes here. This includes a wide range of types of sites such as prehistoric funerary monuments and prehistoric or medieval settlements and fields. More recent remains from the Second World War included the D-day marshalling camp at Bramford Hall.

Significant patterns of land use can be shown from the mapping from aerial photographs. For example, parts of the Gipping river valley to the north of Ipswich were clearly a focus for Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments – like so many other river valleys in this region. The remains of the mounds and earthworks that once lined the Gipping are now only visible from the air as cropmarks over the buried ditches that surrounded the monuments.  By mapping these remains we can see the differences in form and distribution of sites across large areas.

As well as the remains of early funerary monuments, the mapping from aerial photographs illustrated patterns of abandoned settlements, tracks and fields. Evidence from the prehistoric and Roman periods through to the medieval period was seen across the survey area.

The interpretation and mapping from aerial photographs is meant to be viewed with other information in the local Historic Environment Record. For example, the project identified buried remains of possible early medieval sunken-featured buildings (sometimes called Saxon grubenhauser) indicating a likely settlement. Significantly, this evidence seen as cropmarks was located close to finds of a Saxon date. Usually supporting evidence like this is  lacking and makes interpretation of these small, rectangular pit-like structures less certain.  Later medieval landscapes, including farmsteads, moats, ridge and furrow and field systems were also mapped during the course of this project, ensuring that there is better information for future research and management.

Changing landscapes

Areas of sands and gravels are a valuable resource that may be quarried away, and deep ploughing is a potential threat to buried archaeological remains. The survey area around Ipswich and along part of the A14 corridor was chosen because it is also under pressure from strategic development such as housing and road improvements. It was therefore felt that a better understanding was required of the form and extent of archaeological remains.

The landscape within the project area has changed as urban developments have expanded and infrastructure, such as the A14, has been built. A moated site at Tattingstone Hall disappeared when the Alton Water reservoir was constructed in the 1970s. The hall was demolished before the reservoir was created, but aerial photographs show that earthworks of the moat and associated fish ponds were still extant and filled with water before the surrounding areas flooded.

Contexts for scheduled monuments

The mapping from aerial photographs provided important contextual information for two scheduled monuments in the project area – Baylham Roman fort and town to the north of Ipswich, and the Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Freston on the Shotley peninsula.

The mapping of the Baylham Scheduled Monument, an extensive Roman fort and settlement site, brought together information from many different photographic sources. The site was photographed from the air extensively over many years and the mapping allowed features, sometimes only visible on one photograph, to be systematically recorded. The aerial photographs showed the roads within the settlement and fort area as either parchmarks or stunted growth of the crop. The two Roman forts are located towards the south of the settlement and the multiple ditches of each fort can be seen as cropmarks.

The Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Freston was transcribed from aerial photographs in 1995 and 2005 but the mapping for the Ipswich-Shotley peninsula project allowed the monument to be placed within a landscape wider context. The Neolithic enclosure is the earliest known monument here and the air photo mapping shows subsequent use of the area from the later prehistoric and Roman periods onwards. There are enclosures, trackways, pits and a sequence of field boundaries and ditches indicating settlements and land use over a long period of time.

The project

The project (6636 NMP Mapping – South Suffolk: Ipswich and Shotley Peninsula) was carried out between June 2013 and March 2015 by staff from Essex County Council, based at County Hall, Chelmsford, with support and assistance from staff at Suffolk County Council and staff at Historic England, Swindon. It was funded by the former English Heritage National Heritage Commissions Programme (NHPCP) now the Heritage Protection Commissions.

The project has made a significant contribution to the study of the historic environment across a varied archaeological landscape. 170 records were added to the Suffolk Historic Environment Record and 179 were amended. Combined with the results of previous projects we now have archaeological maps for the whole of the Shotley peninsula and a large area around Ipswich. For further information see the Suffolk Coastal NMP  and Suffolk ALSF NMP project pages and reports.

A report on the Ipswich and Shotley peninsula will be published shortly.

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

Archaeological Investigation