Medieval soils, oyster shells and tools found by archaeologists digging close to Wolsey's Gate in Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 16:38 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:38 19 May 2016
Sarah Lucy brown
There's been something happening right on our doorstep this week... and we've been looking into it. The digging of holes offers a tantalising glimpse of the past, and the chance to dream. Ellis Barker reports.
As we all know, Leicester discovered a king beneath a car park – and many people believe it brought their football team such good fortune that they won the Premier League.
It might be a bit far-fetched to hope for the same thing here in Ipswich – but there is an archaeological dig taking place under a town centre car park.
It’s happening at the Ipswich Star’s Lower Brook Street offices. The study comes ahead of redevelopment of the site, with the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star publications to move to a new headquarters in the summer. The dig is being undertaken by new site owner, Montague Asset Management LLP – the residential arm of The Churchmanor Estates Company plc.
A pit descending three metres has been excavated in the car park, hopefully deep enough to take archaeologists back to Anglo-Saxon levels. This part of Ipswich is believed to be the most historic of one of the longest-established English towns.
It is thought the car park was once gardens to nearby properties, and the site might have been part of Cardinal Wolsey’s short-lived grand college in his home town. The college’s water gate stands close by.
Undertaking the dig are Tam Webster and James Fairbairn, of Oxford Archaeology East. “We have got some medieval soils, bone, pot and tools,” said Mr Webster. “We were hoping to get to Saxon ground because Ipswich is famous for it. That’s the exciting thing – you don’t know what you are going to find.”
Mr Fairbairn added: “We are picking up things like oyster shell. It was a staple diet in the late medieval period. Everything we are finding is indicative of a low status medieval settlement. We have found bones, so we know people were eating meat. We are in the heart of Saxon Ipswich.”
The new site owners say they are committed to redeveloping and restoring it as part of the vision of linking the town centre to the waterfront. They are also carrying out an office development in Princes Street, Ipswich, for Birketts solicitors.
The EADT and Ipswich Star will move to a new office, Portman House, at the junction of Princes Street and Portman Road, in the summer.