Video: Ghosts of Ipswich past revealed

EVIDENCE of medieval Ipswich has been unearthed on a building site.

Tom Potter

EVIDENCE of medieval Ipswich has been unearthed on a building site.

Archaeological work in Grimwade Street has uncovered a large medieval kiln where two semi-detached houses are due to be built.

The kiln which archaeologists believe made peg tiles, dates back to between the 15th and early 17th century.

Covering around 200 square metres, it was constructed from plain roof tiles laid one on top of the other.

Among the discoveries made so far are a number of glazed floor tiles, most of which are plain-glazed green, yellow and orange, but some decorated tiles are also being unearthed.

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The discoveries bolster evidence that the north east area of town was the location of pottery and building material production for a long period.

John Newman, from the council's archaeological service, said: “It represents a very interesting example of a pottery and brick/tile industry on the north eastern side of historic Ipswich.

“The earlier pottery kilns of Saxon date are around the Cox Lane end of St Helens Street and later kilns to the east, with 19th century brick and tile kilns in the area of the college.”

The dig has been funded by Rainbow Developments - the construction company in charge of the building work - and is the latest in a long list of historical excavations in Ipswich, piecing together our industrial past.

The Ipswich Archaeological Trust believes the Anglo-Saxon pottery industry was concentrated south of Carr Street and extended along the south side of St Helen's Street.

Stuart Boulter, senior project officer in charge of the excavation, said: “The earliest pottery kilns are under the Co-op. As time goes on, the location of the kilns moves further out of town.

“We tend to find tiles that haven't been fired properly and are thrown away because they weren't good enough to use.”

In 1982 a kiln was excavated in Fore Street, suggesting the pottery industry moved during the medieval period. Then, in 2002, a monitoring of building construction to the rear of St Helen's Street revealed a tile-built kiln thought to be post medieval in date.

The location would have been ideal with London clay available on what is now the Suffolk College site, and water from the stream running down from Spring Road.


The kiln in Grimwade Street is the latest in a long line of intriguing archaeological finds.

- In 2004 artefacts dating back 200,000 years were found in Stoke railway tunnel.

There was a geological layer of mammal bones of tigers and mammoths - most of the bones remaining where they had been deposited by water flow thousands of years ago.”

- In March of the same year, Channel 4's Time Team came to town to excavate the back garden of homes in Castle Hill, uncovering the secrets of a Roman villa that once stood in the area.

- In 2005 the foundations of medieval merchant houses were discovered at Cranfields Mill.

- More recently skeletons have been found on the Bond Street end of the County Hall site.

Radiocarbon dating indicated they were from as far back as 600-710 AD and 670-880 AD.

- Elsewhere, evaluation trenching on the UCS site in Duke Street confirmed that that area of the docks was not developed until after the Wet Dock was completed in 1842. Prior to that it was used for ship-building.

The cellar of a single house, dating to 18th century was located and exposed, including the remnants of an earlier, 17th century structure.