Ipswich is one of England’s oldest towns. Originally ‘Gipeswic’, the settlement was founded as an Anglo-Saxon trading place at the junction of the Rivers Orwell and Gipping in the late 6th or early 7th century.

The 7th-century settlement, covering an area of approximately 15ha, was located on the north bank of the Orwell at crossing point that later became Stoke Bridge. In the early 8th century, the settlement developed on a grid-iron pattern of metalled streets to perhaps some 50ha. It has been suggested that it also expanded south of the river during this time.

Excavations north of the river revealed evidence for dense occupation associated with metalworking, antler-working and a pottery kiln that was producing Ipswich Ware pottery, including highly decorated flasks or bottles. Evidence for metalled streets was recovered in excavations on the eastern edge of the town.

The character of Ipswich changed again around the middle of the 9th-century. The growth of new towns at Norwich, Thetford and Bury St Edmunds may have provided significant competition. Ipswich was briefly under Danish rule between 879 and 917. A circuit of defences constructed in the early 10th-century appears to have disrupted the 8th-century street system.

OA-PCA’s excavations at Stoke Quay revealed the evolving burial practices of the community. A 7th- to early 8th-century barrow cemetery stretched along a bluff facing the river.

A Middle Saxon settlement of the 8th to 9th century date overlay the cemetery. As at London, Southampton and York, the wic showed strong influences from Frankia and Scandinavia. The settlement was laid out in three broad plots, the northernmost being the most urbanised.

It was in this plot, closest to the river, that the later church and cemetery was located. During the Late Saxon and medieval periods, the site was dominated by the church and cemetery of St Augustine’s, the precise location of which had been lost for 500 years. However, its history has now been traced, revealing a story that stretched from the 10th to the 15th centuries.