Will Ipswich’s own Time Team find out about Gipswic’s origins?

Archaeologists have started work on the oldest part of Ipswich , formerly the St Peter’s Warehouse

Archaeologists have started work on the oldest part of Ipswich , formerly the St Peters Warehouse site at Stoke Bridge, before redevelopment. Clare Jackson at the dig. - Credit: Archant

A team of archaeologists have moved on to what could be one of the oldest sites in the oldest English town in the search for more clues about our Anglo Saxon past.

The team has hit the water table below Victorian brickwork.

The team has hit the water table below Victorian brickwork. - Credit: Archant

The site of the former St Peter’s Warehouse building beside Stoke Bridge is thought to be one of the oldest parts of the town that was founded as Gipswic in the Dark Ages.

But historians and archaeologists have never been entirely clear whether that land existed when the town started life as a small settlement – it may have been at the bottom of the river.

The site was bought by Ipswich council last year and should be redeveloped as an attractive entrance to the Waterfront area – but before that happens the archaeological team has moved in to find out what they can find.

Most of the bricks they have found so far have been Victorian or even more recent – but in one area they are finding evidence of Medieval life in the town.

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Archaeologist Clare Jackson said: “The first thing we need to do is to work out which bricks come from which era and try to sort them out. There is also an issue because we have hit the water table because some of this is land that was reclaimed over the centuries.”

While the first settlement was set up beside the first bridge across the river – roughly at the site of what is now Stoke Bridge – it is known that much of the land currently being examined was under water.

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Wolsey’s Gate was a “watergate” opening on to the river that came up to what is now College Street in Tudor times. The area was also where the rivers Gipping and Orwell met in previous centuries.

Ms Jackson said medieval pottery fragments were being found in part of the site beside College Street and other items that had yet to be dated were still being turned up.

She will be telling the council what has been turned up later this week before a decision is made about what should happen next at the site.

It had been cleared and used as a temporary car park for several years following the 2000 fire that destroyed the Victorian St Peter’s Warehouse.

The borough is hoping to find a developer to come up with a landmark building for a site that is regarded as one of the most important in the town because it will mark the gateway to the Waterfront area.

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