Ruins of unknown building found at abbey

UNTIL now, no-one knew of its existence - with it remaining hidden during surveys of the area.But archaeologists, helped by local youngsters, have unearthed evidence of a mystery ancient building at the site of Leiston Abbey.

By Sarah Chambers

UNTIL now, no-one knew of its existence - with it remaining hidden during surveys of the area.

But archaeologists, helped by local youngsters, have unearthed evidence of a mystery ancient building at the site of Leiston Abbey.

The building, on the south side of the abbey complex, appears to have been of high status - as fragments of coloured black, red, blue and clear glass have been found, along with walls which are plastered inside.

However, its function is unknown, and the building has not been documented before.

Diggers have also discovered a second medieval burial on the north side of the church, lending weight to the idea that a cemetery existed on that side - contrary to general medieval practice.

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A body from the medieval period was found in the same area during a similar project at Easter. Once examined in situ, the skeleton will be covered over again.

This week, Jezz Meredith and Duncan Allan of Suffolk County Council's archaeology department have been working alongside youngsters from CYDS, a Leiston and Saxmundham-based youth project, on a dig at the abbey.

The second medieval body, which may be that of a monk, was found on the final day of the dig yesterday .

The abbey moved to the site from Minsmere in 1360, and was dissolved less than two centuries later in 1536.

Mr Meredith said they were pleased with the discoveries, which shed new light on abbey life.

“It has been fantastic,” he said. “We found a wall with a plastered internal surface. It also shows a recess in the wall, but all the broken painted glass was within that area where the recess is.”

The discovery was of a completely unknown building which has not been documented, he said.

He had expected to find something like a kitchen in that area, but what they had found appeared to be of too high status for that function, he said.

“This is a complete surprise, with fragments of beautiful hand-painted glass. What we think has probably happened is that in the 16th Century at the dissolution of the monasteries, the demolition boys have been in and smashed the glass,” he said. “It's very probably we have got some sort of high status building there.”

He added: “If we can do more projects with young people I think that would be a real way forward with us in the archaeological service.

“The problem is we are running out of time, but that's always the case.”

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