Suffolk ALSF National Mapping Programme project
This archaeological survey mapped a range of archaeological sites dating from prehistory to the 20th century. Work was carried out across the Felixstowe peninsula and the Waveney Valley, two areas with a variety of stone types and gravels which may be subjected to future quarrying.
The identification and better understanding of the archaeology in these areas will help to inform planning decisions and offer better protection for these sites.
The survey was undertaken by Suffolk County Council to National Mapping Programme standards as part of the Suffolk Aggregates Assessment Project.
Central Felixstowe Peninsula
The freely draining soils and intensive arable agriculture meant that cropmarks were the main form of evidence visible on aerial photographs in this area; although some earthworks were visible on areas of heathland, survival was generally poor.
Early prehistoric sites were rare, an important exception being a possible Neolithic cursus in Kirton parish. The distribution of late Neolithic or Bronze Age barrow cemeteries was significantly expanded by the NMP project, throughout this area.
Later prehistoric sites and landscape features are well represented, most particularly by an extensive network of ditched road or track ways, their relationship with settlement sites presenting an important opportunity for future work.
Archaeological sites from the historic periods comprised possible medieval or post-medieval field boundaries, rabbit warren earthworks and park features. As with other coastal or near coastal areas of East Anglia, modern military remains form a significant component of the survey, and Martlesham Heath Aerodrome covered a substantial area of the project area.
This area had already been well documented by the county Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) and traditional development-led archaeological investigations. That the NMP survey has added significant detail to this data illustrates the value of aerial survey to areas potentially threatened by future aggregates extraction.
One site of particular interest was a rectangular ditched enclosure that has been tentatively interpreted as the terminal of a Neolithic cursus monument. It is on a south-west to north-east alignment and it is not clear whether the feature continues into the adjacent field to the north-east. Unusually the cursus does not appear to have a direct relationship with any other contemporary, or near contemporary, ‘ritual’ monument. The Kirton cursus is located roughly equidistant between two major rivers, no further than 750 metres from tributaries to the Deben and Orwell, therefore potentially displaying a key characteristic ritual association.
South Waveney Valley
The NMP results for the Suffolk side of the Waveney valley contrast greatly with the general patterns identified on the Felixstowe Peninsula.
The most noticeable difference is in the significantly lower proportion of sites of prehistoric and Romano-British date visible as cropmarks. This is mainly a consequence of the soils and geology of the area, which are generally not conducive to cropmarks.
The survey was most effective in enhancing the record for earthwork sites of medieval and post-medieval date. Most newly identified sites related to settlements, including a number of probable moated sites, and associated land management and communication features, including extensive water management earthworks.
Of particular interest is the evidence for reduction in settlement size and complexity. This shrinkage of medieval and post-medieval hamlets, and enclosure of common land, contributed to the dispersed settlement character of this area.
Manor Farm near Bungay is the focus for evidence of the shrinkage of a possibly once extensive hamlet. Earthworks and cropmarks visible on aerial photographs of the 1940s to 1960s record an area with a complex arrangement of enclosures, tracks, hollow ways, closes and possible house platforms. The complex evidence may be due to the piecemeal growth of the settlement, possibly in response to population growth pressures. Hodskinson’s Map of 1783, surveyed immediately before large-scale enclosure, shows a small settlement in this location, to the immediate west of ‘Bungay Upland Gr’, presumably Bungay Upland Green. The irregular form of the earthworks of the settlement may therefore be due to phases of piecemeal encroachment onto the green, and its subsequent contraction following parliamentary enclosure.
Military activity recorded during the project was significantly more localised than on the coast or on the Felixstowe peninsula. Anti-invasion defences were limited to two small areas of aircraft-obstruction and a handful of pillboxes, but civil defence measures were well represented in the towns of Bungay and Beccles. The greatest focus of military activity was in the environs of RAF Bungay.
Beyond the airfield itself there were other features associated with the defence of the area.
The key findings from the project can be found in two reports
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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.
Historic Places Investigation
Also of interest...
The aerial survey of the Suffolk Coast was an NMP mapping project. It forms part of the national scheme of Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey
Historic England experts use airborne remote sensing methods to identify, record and monitor the condition of heritage assets
We identify archaeological sites and landscapes using aerial photography, lidar, geophysics, earthwork analysis and excavation.