A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1

east anglia

Saxon Period 410 - 1066 AD

After the Roman withdrawal, the eastern counties were overrun during the mid to late 5th century AD by invaders from the Continent. These came from three different tribes and parts of Europe; the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. The Angles came from the southern part of the Denmark peninsular, known as Schleswig Holstein, while the Saxons came from north-west Germany, now Lower Saxony. The Jutes, who it was originally believed came direct from Jutland, seem to have arrived via the Rhine Valley where evidence of their occupation has been found in recent years. It was the Angles who later gave their name to England, although we in this part also took the name, being East Anglia. The Saxons who moved into Essex, Sussex and into Wessex were really the Anglo-Saxons (i.e. the English Saxons) as the Saxons were the people of that race who stayed in Europe.

Signs of their presence is made clear by their cemetaries, which can be large. One which was excavated at Lackford (near Bury St Edmunds) contained over 1,000 cremation urns of the 6th Century AD, some with grave goods. One of their villages was excavated nearby at West Stow, only two miles from Lackford in 1965-72, and this was particularly interesting, as the seventy huts of which remains were found on the site, were often constructed over dug-out sunken floors.

About this time, the mid 6th century AD, the area now known as the county of Suffolk began to come into being. The people who lived in the southern part of the new Saxon kingdom of East Anglia were the South Folk. The boundaries were marked by two valleys that in the south was the Stour river which divided it from Essex, while in the north the Waveney river separated the South Folk (Suffolk) from the North Folk (Norfolk).

Modern Halesworth was founded in the Middle Saxon period and was probably situated on the side of the ridge close to the town river. The Late Saxon name for Halesworth was 'Halesuworde' a word probably derived from the Saxon word 'Healsword' meaning a corner of land with water on two sides. Our only evidence of this early beginning is a row of large post-holes and a few sherds of pottery known as 'Ipswich Ware', which suggests there were trading links with the growing commercial settlement at Ipswich. It seems likely that the area east of the church was a place for beaching boats, it was a bridging point, and used as a local industrial or craft zone.

Current excavations which have taken place behind Barclay's Bank (IP19 8LF), have uncovered remains of buildings which probably formed part of Saxon Halesworth. It is likely that the lower parts of the town centre, including sections of the Thoroughfare and Chediston Street, only became habitable later.

On the edge of the old 'Angel Bowling Green' (at the rear of the Angel), excavations also found a number of sherds of pottery known as 'Thetford Ware' which was manufactured and used in East Anglia from about 850 - 1150 AD. This shows a continuous use of this site over the Saxon period.


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