This metal hand - a votive offering? - was supposedly found in Blythburgh and is in Southwold Museum
Archaeological evidence for the history and development of Blythburgh has arisen in several different ways. There have been casual finds over the centuries, often incompletely and intriguingly recorded. More systematic field walking and metal detecting is making a more recent contribution. There have been professional excavations in connection with planning applications.
The first significant archaeological project was the excavation of the priory site in 2008 for the Channel 4 'Time Team' TV programme. This was followed by more work there by the county archaeologists. From 2017 to 2019 a test-pitting programme by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) looked at 36 sites in village gardens and nearby.
THE PRIORY SITE. Excavation by Wessex Archaeology, 2008, for Channel 4 TV 'Time Team' programme.
From the SUMMARY of the Wessex Archaeology report.
This was the first intrusive archaeological work undertaken within the Augustinian priory site. Little is known of its layourt or development, although a number of small evaluations have taken place within the vicinity of the site, and several scattered finds have been recovered. At least two inhumation burials were located, pre-dating the priory complex. They were radiocarbon dated to AD 670-780 and AD 890-1020 respectively. What may have been the ditch surrounding the complex was also revealed. Two early graves had been disturbed by the construction of the church nave, probably in the 11th or 12th century, and by the extension of the single-celled church by the addition of a crossing tower and extended chancel. The recovery of a 14th century brooch from a burial at the easten end of the extension provides a possible latest date for rhe chancel.
The associated cloister was situated to the north instead of the south which is more usual.
Neither the eastern nor western end of the church could be identified because of the extensive demolition and robbing of material, and the small nature of the evaluation trenches.
The layout of another Augustinian priory, Norton Priory, is illustrated below.
Link to the Wessex Archaeology Report.
TEST-PITTING 2017-2019 Access Cambridge Archaeology
SUMMARY from ACA report
Three two-day test pit excavations were undertaken in the village of Blythburgh, in east Suffolk, between April 2017 and May 2019. In that time a total of 36 1m2 archaeological test pits were excavated by 90 school pupils from six local secondary schools as part of the Independent Learning Archaeology Field School (ILAFS) programme run by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) out of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.
The test pitting in Blythburgh revealed a range of activity dating from later prehistory through to the modern day, both supporting what has already been found through historical research in the parish as well as providing new archaeological evidence. The nature of the test pits allows excavations in otherwise inaccessible places for the normal methods of commercial archaeological investigation, and it showed that some earlier phases of occupation in Blythburgh still exist under the present settlement, despite modern development.
A relatively large number of lithics were found from Blythburgh, hinting at the presence of previously unknown activity under the current village and possibly contemporary with the later prehistoric monuments situated along the valley of the River Blyth. No Iron Age or Romano-British pottery were excavated from any of the test pits, but further evidence for the Middle Anglo-Saxon original settlement here was found from at least two distinct areas, the largest being close to the crossing of the river, in the area of the White Hart pub today. This was seen to continue through the Late Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods, including in the latter, a large expansion of the settlement was found in relation to the construction of the priory in the 12th century. Blythburgh was affected by the various socio-economic factors of the 14th century, including the Black Death, after which it slowly recovered during the post medieval, but likely remained small, as seen today and never recovered its prosperity and wealth of during the medieval period.
Link to the ACA Report.
Other Blythburgh Archaeology (reviewed 2017)
Key to abbreviations
BLB: Parish Reference Number.
HER: Historic Environment Record.
NMR: National Monuments Record Excavation Index.
PSIAH: Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History.
SMR: Suffolk Sites and Monuments Record.
TM: Ordnance Survey map reference.
The Suffolk HERs can be accessed via heritagegateway.org.uk. Searching with ‘Blythburgh’ generates 151 results. Can search with ‘Blythburgh plus road or property name’ for specific record.
Maps giving site locations (BLB numbers) can be accessed through the District Council planning pages.
GENERAL INFORMATION (These entries have been located by the TM references).
‘… ancient Britons who became subject to the jurisdiction of the Romans; several urns supposed to be the repositories for the remains of those people (some of whose coins being found near) were discovered by men digging up old foundations to clear ground after a fire in 1678.’
Gardner, 1754, p.119.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF1891.
‘Several Roman urns were here dug up about the year 1678.’
Kirby, 1764, p.129.
No date. Polished axe head. Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (4000 – 2201 BC). ?north west of priory site.
TM44957530. BLB 002. SF1877.
No date. Chipped flint axe. ?New Delight Walks.
TM454732. BLB 009 SF1886.
No date. Locking key. Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). Ipswich Museum 1920-54.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF 1902.
No date. Pottery, C15-16th sherds. Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). Ipswich Museum 1947-74.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF 1901.
No date. Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (BC 4000 – 2201) flint scrapers and choppers.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF1889.
Victoria County History, Suffolk, 1, 1911, p.256.
No date. Early Neolithic to Early Bronze Age (BC 4000 – 2201) flaked axe head.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF1888.
PSIAH, 27, 1956, p.113
No date. Human bones reputably found on housing estate gardens. ?Highfield.
TM453750. BLB Misc. SF1896.
No date. Buckle and thumb impressed vessel base from site at south end of village. Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). ?Isokon.
TM45387505. BLB Misc. SF1903.
1927. OS 1:2500 map. Rectangular enclosure containing, probably, two semi-detached cottages and two outbuildings. Gone by 1971. ?Lyon’s Farm.
TM43877660. BLB 029. SF15877.
1965. Scatter of Post Medieval (AD 1540 – 1900) pottery and glazed tiles. ?West of A12 north of bridge.
TM45137558. BLB 004. SF1880.
1970. Small group of small rectilinear enclosures shown on OS. Possibly modern and agricultural? ?Lyon’s Farm.
TM43637644. BLB Misc. SF16860.
1971/77. Cropmark. Ring ditch or circular enclosure about 40m dia. Trackway and field boundary. ?Ling Hill, Henham.
TM44187696. BLB 14. SF11940.
1979. Cropmark. ?Double-ditched sub-rectangular enclosure on Walberswick/Blythburgh parish boundary. ?North east of Westwood Lodge.
TM46507408. BLB 015. SF11943.
1977. Cropmark. Rectilinear field system. ?East of Hinton Lodge.
TM44907320. BLB 007. SF1884.
1978. Cropmark. Ring ditch and linear marks. ?East of Hinton Hall.
TM44407250. BLB 010. SF1887.
1979. Cropmark.. Small rectangular enclosure (about 30m x 10m) within larger complex (BLB 020). ?South of Hinton High Poplars.
TM43897136. BLB 019. SF13854.
1979. Cropmark. Rectangular enclosure with small sub-rectangular enclosure in SE corner. See also BLB 019. ?South of Hinton High Poplars.
TM43857127. BLB 020. SF13855.
1984/5. Metal detecting. Casket mount of gilded alloy. Norwich Castle Museum. ?Between A1095 and Bulcamp Marshes.
TM466765. BLB Misc. SF18309.
1985. Cropmark. Large circle seen in ripening barley. ?Union Farm.
TM447765. BLB 017. SF12050.
1991. Scattered finds from metal-detecting. Medieval to Post Medieval (AD 1401 – 1600). Copper alloy spur; two silver C16th pennies; Six/seven Nuremburg type tokens (late C15/16th); two copper alloy double buckles (LMed/C16th) and assorted coinage and thimbles. ?Field Blind Lane – Dunwich Road.
TM450747. BLB 018. SF12478.
1991. Scattered finds from metal-detecting. Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). Lead pilgrim’s ampulla, scallop shell shape, ?Walsingham; two long cross pennies, one of ?Edward. ?Field Blind Lane – Dunwich Road.
TM450747. BLB 018. SF12480.
1991. Scattered finds from metal-detecting. Roman (AD 43 – 409). Colchester derivative type brooch; Constantine period coin; one other ?coin. ?Field Blind Lane – Dunwich Road.
TM450747. BLB 018. SF12480.
PSIAH, 37, 1992, p.372.
About 1994. Possible round barrow on heathland, south west of Westwood Lodge.
PSIAH, 38, 1995, p.336.
TM46257355. BLB 028. 15572, 1999.
1999. East Coast Searchers’ Rally. Roman coin and two brooches; Medieval coin and buckle; post Medieval thimble. ?Blythview, formerly Blythburgh Hospital.
PSIAH, 39, 2000, p.499.
TM43927635. BLB 035. SF18795.
1999. East Coast Searchers’ Rally. Small fragment of socketed axe head. Late Bronze Age (1000 BC – 701 BC). ?Blythview, formerly Blythburgh Hospital.
PSIAH, 39, 2000, p.499.
TM439763. BLB 035. SF18795.
About 2003. Gilded bronze gusset plate, Saxon. ?North west of priory site.
PSIAH, 40, 2004, pp.487, 492.
TM45137543. BLB 016. SF12052.
About 2011. Damaged lead pilgrim’s badge, Medieval. ?The Street north of A12.
PSIAH, 42, 2012, pp.506, 508.
TM45207530. BLB 025. SF14937.
2014. Evaluation before building of new houses. Seven trenches dug. Single Late Medieval ditch. Evidence of quarry pits in five of trenches. Pottery finds suggest main activity in Medieval period with also Prehistoric and Roman finds. Single Middle Saxon sherd found in association with metal assemblage (?spear heads).
SCCAS Report 2014/99.
TM45257506. BLB 094.
1978. Evaluation during building of new houses. Medieval and early post-Medieval pottery in foundation trenches.
TM45407510. BLB 008. SF1885.
1 Angel Lane
1979-80. Scattered finds in topsoil during laying out garden. Six clay pipe bowls (late C16th – late C17th) and numerous fragments of stems; Nuremburg type token (Late C16th – C17th); George III Irish halfpenny 1766. Pottery not evaluated.
Alan Mackley. Not reported.
Blyth View (former Hospital/Workhouse/House of Industry)
About 2002. Evaluation of former burial ground prior to development. Used 1767-1920. Estimated 2000 burials.
PISAH, 40, 2003, p.350.
TM43957628. BLB 033. SF16980.
About 1976. Roman (AD 43 – 400) tile and salt works.
TM468763/47487655. BLB 003. SF1878.
PSIAH, 34, 1977, p.73.
1977. Cropmark. Small square enclosure on Bulcamp marshes.
TM471764. BLB 006. SF1883.
2013. Monitoring of foundation and services trenches for extension. Small area of cobbled yard or path, Post Medieval (AD 1500- 1900). Few large extraction pits. Few pottery sherds Roman (AD 43 – 409) and Medieval (AD 1066 -1539), from upcast subsoil depsits. Post Medieval (AD 1540 – 1900) pottery.
TM45257514. BLB 089.
Wolsey House, formerly Hempland
1980. Trench excavated prior to building of house. Evidence of hearths, post-holes, pits and a ditch, of Post Medieval date (AD 1066 – 1539).
TM45327516. BLB 011. SF801.
2002. Monitoring groundworks. No significant archaeology.
SCCAS report 02/59.
Holy Trinity Church
2015. Bone/ivory (probably walrus) chess piece found under the floor, c200mm in height; probably early Post-Medieval, C17-18th.
copyright John Newman
John Newman, 2017.
1991. Evaluation during construction of extension. No significant archaeology.
2002. Evaluation during development. No evidence of any occupation in antiquity.
2014. Monitoring footing trenches. Possible pond or quarry pit at southern end of site.
TM45137523. BLB 091.
2012 Evaluation during building of extension. Evidence of quarrying in C18th – early C19th. Two sherds of glazed red earthenware, C18th.
John Newman Archaeological Services Report 2012.
TM45137527. BLB 080.
2003-4. Evaluation during underpinning and alterations to house. Under house, fragment of wall, probably post-medieval, pre-dating existing building. Human mature male bone fragments.
PSIAH, 51, 2005, p.112.
SCCAS Report 2004/100.
TM45107526. BLB 060.
Unnamed site. ?Mill Farm
2010. Single evaluation trench. Backfilled quarry of uncertain date.
TM4540074960. BLB 077. SCCAS Report 10/45. NMR.
Field bounded by Blind Lane
1992-3. Found metal-detecting. Medieval to Post Medieval (AD 1501 – 1700). Silver half groat (Eliz. I); two silver pennies; two bronze buckles (?Med.); two Nuremburg tokens; silver soldino from Venice. C16th silver shilling; four Nuremburg tokens and a cut half; bronze halfpenny; bronze coin Spanish C17th. 54 bronze coins C18-20th; bronze buckles; suspension rings; military shoulder fittings; thimbles; harness fittings; lead weights; toy fragments; lead token.
TM452747. BLB 023. SF14503.
1992-3. Found metal-detecting. Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). Two inscribed seal matrixes of C13th; twenty six silver coins of C13-16th; five bronze strap ends or strap fittings fragments; two small bronze buckles; bronze folding clasp fragment.
TM452747. BLB 023. SF14502.
1992-3. Found metal-detecting. Roman (AD 43 – 409). At a tighter group TM 453748 than Medieval finds. Twelve coins (six of C4th); bronze head-stud type brooch; fragments of three Colchester derivative brooches; one Langton Down type. Six coins C2nd, C3/4th. Bronze disc brooch fragment; bronze disc brooch fragment, decorated, enamel missing.
TM452747. BLB 023. SF14501.
Before 1984. ?Edward III (1307-1327) silver farthing. Moyses Hall Museum.
TM47. BLB Misc. SF1513.
2005. Monitoring extension groundworks. No significant archaeological activity.
TM4537075070. BLB 062. NMR.
2014. Evaluation before building in south part of garden. Beaker rim sherd, early Bronze Age.
Report, John Newman Archaeological Services, June 2014.
TM45447474. BLB 093.
London Road (A12)
About 1760. Large quantity of human bones found when digging for clay in field ‘Which now  adjoins the E side of the Turnpike Road, opposite the church’.
(Note that before the building of the turnpike in 1785, London Road between, roughly, Wenhaston Lane and Priory Road, did not exist. The fields now beyond the church carpark and that alongside Chapel Road were continuous. The level changes in the Chapel Road field could be attributable to this digging. ‘Quarry’ pits seem to be common in Blythburgh. Clay would have been spread on sandy soil to improve its condition. Clay would also have been needed for the repair of river banks. It would have been necessary to source it as close as possible to the point of use, to avoid the very high cost of moving heavy materials by road. AM)
Becker, 1935, p.19, quoting Davy MS, British Museum.
1763. Five hundred bodies found in field near the church. Plague pit or charnel pit when church enlarged?
TM4575. BLB Misc. SF1895.
About 1879. During building of embankment for bridge, at time of construction of Southwold Railway. ‘Endless skeletons found’. East of road.
(This suggests the intriguing possibility that Anglo-Saxon Blythburgh extended into what is now Angel Marsh. AM)
Becker, 1935, pp.19-20.
TM4574. BLB Misc. SF12166.
1970. 200 yds south of Church Road/Priory Road junction. Skeleton by hedge with feet to north-east.
TM45107510. BLB 005. SF1882.
1988. Small field near junction with A1095. North of Angel Marshes. Scatter of Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539) sherds, bricks, nails and one iron key.
TM45207610. BLB 012. SF9137.
(When in possession Mr and Mrs Ferguson). Two inhumation burials.
TM45257538. BLB 001. SF1876.
2012. Archaeological monitoring revealed eight whole or part graves, Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539). Not excavated.
TM452753. BLB 082.
White Hart Inn
2001. Evaluation during development of holiday accommodation. Roman tile (AD 43-409); Middle Saxon (AD 650 – 849) pottery; Late Saxon (AD 850 – 1065) pottery; Medieval pottery (AD 1066 – 1539); Medieval to Post Medieval (to 1900 AD) brick and tile; Medieval animal remains. Site outside Saxon burgh and Roman and Saxon finds possibly associated with Roman river crossing.
PSIAH, 40, 2002, p.215.
TM453754. BLB 038. SF19258.
White Hart Cottage (1 Station Road)
About 2000. Monitoring during development. Found four pits cut into underlying sands. Post-medieval date. Post Medieval bronze jetton and Medieval to Post Medieval pottery.
PSIAH, 40, 2001, pp.86-7.
TM45317535. BLB 036. SF19032.
2014. Geo-archeological investigations/borehole survey, adjacent west of A12, prior to flood alleviation work. Limited human activity at sample site with evidence of clearance late in sequence.
PSIAH, 43, 2015, pp.443-4.
1999-2000. Human bone fragments found in garden.
TM45157639. BLB 001. SF1876.
The Priory (House)
2007. North-west to south-east aligned grave containing articulated skeleton, at least late or post medieval date, found before building of rear extension to house. No medieval evidence.
PSIAH, 51, 2008, p.516.
During work on the floor of 'The Chapel', at the west end of the building, a small rectangular masonry structure was found, with smooth internal faces, possibly used as an ossiary.
PSIH, 44, 2017, p.132.
PSIH, 44, 2018, p.305.
('The Chapel', then a cottage, was incorporated into The Priory house created by John Seymour Lucas RA in the early 20th century. The footings of the walls have been identified as medieval but the rectangular structure, not in alignment with the building could, it has been suggested, be from an earlier building, possibly Anglo-Saxon. Blythburgh was a destination for pilgrimages to the relics of King Anna and his son (d.654) until the 12th century and an intriguing link is possible. AM)
The Priory Site.
About 1780. When materials excavated for use in construction of new turnpike. ‘… beneath the debris were discovered … Encaustic tiles bearing the emblems of the Zodiac &c.’
PSIAH, 8, 1894, p.425.
Found before 1902. Leaf from a bone writing-tablet. Anglo-Saxon C8th. British Museum.
TM452754. BLB Misc. SF1892.
Webster and Backhouse, 1991, p.81.
1968. C14th glazed floor tiles bearing arms of Ufford family from end C13th. Ipswich Museum.
PSIAH, 32, 1970-72, pp.276-9.
1987. North-west of scheduled site. Found metal-detecting. Scatter of Medieval (AD 1066 – 1539) coins, bull of Pope Martin IV (AD 1281-85), a noble coin weight, French jettons, dogs head bronze spout, lozenge buckle, gilded strap end with letter ‘R’, gilded box mount and sherd of Early Medieval (Saxon AD 410 – 1065) grey ware.
TM45137543. BLB 016. SF12051.
1992. One sherd Ipswich ware (Early Medieval/Dark Age AD 410 – 1065).
TM452754. BLB 001. SF13107.
2008, October. Excavations within ruins of church and supposed ancillary buildings, and precinct, for Channel 4 TV Time Team programme. Seventeen trenches excavated. At least two inhumation graves radiocarbon dated to AD 670-780 and Ad 890-1020, predating construction of nave of church. Pre-historic saddle quern; Romano-British roofing tile; numerous skeletons (male, female, children, foetal); green and yellow-glazed floor tiles; pottery from Ipswich/Thetford type (C9-11th) onwards; copper alloy brooch C14th and five other copper alloy objects; medieval and modern glass; two silver pennies (AD 1300-1310); lead window came fragments; nails, blades and chisel; bones from small mammals and birds (no fish); oyster shell; prehistoric worked flint; fired clay; iron-working slag.
Wessex Archaeology report 68742 September 2009.
2010-11. Further work by English Heritage to establish layout of buildings.
2012. Further work by SCCAS. Northern cloister confirmed.
SCCAS Report 2012/084.
TM45207540. BLB 081.
PSIAH, 43, 2013, pp.94-5.
1990. Small scatter Medieval pottery, C13-14th. ?North of A1095, opposite Blythview (then Blythburgh hospital).
TM44027659. BLB 037.
Lime kiln mapped on 1st edition OS map (1837). Post Medieval (AD 1801 – 1900).
TM471768. BLB 022. SF13795.