This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

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.

Colour aerial photograph showing numerous arable fields with some main roads and a railway line
Cropmarks near Levington photographed on 30-JUN-2009 (NMR 26361/33) © Historic England

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.

Colour map showing archaeological features in red and green against a stylised background shaded by height
NMP mapping of the Felixstowe peninsula illustrating a landscape of later prehistoric or Roman roads and boundaries which may have influenced later patterns of land use. NMP mapping © Suffolk County Council/Historic England

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.

Colour map showing archaeological features in green against a greyscale map background
NMP mapping of a rectangular ditched enclosure tentatively interpreted as the terminal of a Neolithic cursus monument. © Suffolk County Council/Historic England

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.

Colour aerial photograph showing extensive gravel workings bordered by a plantation in a river valley with a road and railway
Sand and gravel workings along the Waveney phptographed on 25-SEP-2003 (NMR 23296/06) © Historic England

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.

Colour map showing archaeological features in green and red against a greyscale map background
NMP mapping of Manor Farm near Bungay, the focus for evidence of the shrinkage of a possibly once extensive hamlet. © Suffolk County Council/Historic England

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.

Black and white vertical aerial photograh showing an airfield with
RAF Bungay photographed on 06-SEP-1946 (RAF/106G/UK/1716 4076) Historic England RAF photography

Beyond the airfield itself there were other features associated with the defence of the area.

Extract from black and white vertical aerial photo showing trefoil earthwork structure with other circular structures around
Searchlight battery to the east of RAF Bungay photographed on 06-SEP-1946 (RAF/106G/UK/1716 4074) Historic England RAF photography

The key findings from the project can be found in two reports

The Aggregate Landscape of Suffolk: The Archaeological Resource

The Aggregate Landscape of Suffolk: The Archaeological Resource

Published 1 March 2010

Report from the Suffolk ALSF NMP mapping project Blocks 1&2 - Felixstowe.

The Aggregate Landscape of Suffolk: The Archaeological Resource

The Aggregate Landscape of Suffolk: The Archaeological Resource

Published 1 March 2010

Report from the Suffolk ALSF NMP mapping project Blocks Four & Five: The Waveney Valley.

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.

Was this page helpful?


Group of people standing on a stony mound
Historic Places Investigation

Research Group

Also of interest...

  • Colour  showing concrete bunker on a grassy sand dune with beach in front and arable field behind

    Suffolk Coast NMP

    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

  • Colour aerial photograph showing a small high-winged aircraft flying over arable fields. To the left is a small plantation

    Airborne Remote Sensing

    Historic England experts use airborne remote sensing methods to identify, record and monitor the condition of heritage assets

  • Colour aerial photograph showing a pattern of darker green lines on a background of a yellow in a field under crop


    We identify archaeological sites and landscapes using aerial photography, lidar, geophysics, earthwork analysis and excavation.