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|Ipswich and suburbs at the close of the Middle Ages|
|This is a clickable imagemap.|
This map is the work of antiquary
John Speed (working with the
Dutch engraver Hondius) and was created as an inset for a map of Suffolk
published in 1610 as part of a series of county maps. (The additions in
colour are of course my own).
Line of the ditch/wall
The line (which I have indicated by a brown overlay on Speed's map) was clearly suggested in the topography of the streets into the 19th century (although less so with late 20th-century redevelopment), including street names like Tower Ditches and St. Margaret Ditches. According to a note in one of the Ipswich Domesday Books, the ditches were dug in 1203; but this does not rule out the effort simply being an enlargement or extension of an earlier line of defence. There are fairly frequent references to grants of parcels of the town ditch, particular along the northern boundary, where they are sometimes referred to as the "great ditches of the town". Walls are far less commonly mentioned and their extent is uncertain. In 1302 a burgess was granted a lease of part of the ditches, for 6d. a year, to be voided if the town were ever enclosed by a wall. We hear of town wall in St. Margaret's parish in a grant of 1315, and in St. Mary Elms parish in 1323. A change had occurred between the compilation of a custumal in 1291 and its translation into English in the fifteenth century, since the former refers to a watercourse called "Botflood" (the flooded town ditch?) passing along the side of a road, while the latter refers to it running alongside the wall. What wall-building there was may have focused on areas where the ditches were weakest and may never have proceeded to creation of a continuous line; the eastern and western sides of the borough clearly had walls, but it is less certain that the northern perimeter did.
No.4 in Speed's key, where it is named Old Bar Gate. The road from here led towards Norfolk.
No. 3 in Speed's key, where it is named Barre Gate. The same name (portas barratas) is found in a deed of 1343, in which the town authorities rented to Robert le Loyker a plot of land just north-east of the gate, where the town wall north of the gate began to curve eastwards; they reserved right of access to the wall for purposes of repair or defence. The gate's position at one end of the main street running through the town reflects its importance. Part of it was converted into a town gaol in the early 15th century, and was rebuilt to be more suitable for that purpose in 1449 at the expense of burgess John Caldwell. The road from here led deeper into Suffolk.
Possible site of the castle
The location of the relatively short-lived Norman castle is unknown. Some have argued that it lay outside the town defensive perimeter, to the north of Christ Church (and therefore off Speed's map), or just within the northern perimeter where the ditch could have served as part of the bailey ditch. The basis of these theories seems to be topographical: names (some post-medieval) such as St. Mary Tower, Castle Hill (a feature well north of the town), and the Tower Ramparts on the line of the northern defensive perimeter. However, it seems likely that a castle intended to overawe the citizenry would have been conspicuously placed and reasonably close to the town centre (as at Norwich), or at least on the edge of town not as far away as Castle Hill. Speed has on his map a feature that is not identified, yet clearly of some significance: immediately east of Cornhill a walled precinct fronted by sturdy wall with gate and towers (later part of a sizable residential complex). Might this have been part of the castle bailey? The curving line of Elm Street is suggestive of a route skirting a bailey, while the presence of St. Mary Elms is not necessarily a problem, since one of the three St. Mary's appears not to have existed at the time of Domesday, and St. Mary Elms is the likeliest canadidate. By contrast a location just south of the northern ditch, incorporating the ditch into its defences, could be expected to have left some mark on the line of the ditch, but no anomaly is evident. By Speed's time the grounds here suggested as the possible bailey site were apparently being used for an orchard. The absence of houses from a large stretch there of what was essentially the town's high street is apparent and otherwise difficult to explain. A location atop the slope leading away from the river, and not far from the central market, is plausible enough; the location proposed here would have commanded access to the river crossings at Handford (west) and Stoke (south). A Shirehouse Hill is heard of frequently in the 15th century, when parcels of land there were being leased to private citizens, and as early as 1309 this is doubtless connected with the site of the county court, for which a new building was constructed in 1397; its location, downslope near the quayside, would not be strategically as desirable for a castle, and it is doubtful the "hill" would have been the old mound for a keep. The relatively early disappearance of the castle, in 1176, may explain why there seems to be no memory of its site in topographical names; although there is reference in 1486 to a plot of land in Ipswich called "Erlebegotes" (Earl Bigot's), the location is not identified and it might have been buildings the earl is said to have owned at the quayside.
The routes of streets strongly suggest the location of gates (or at least routes across the ditch) here, although no trace of their names remains on historical maps; they were probably lesser gates than the those marking the entrance into the town of the crossroads that was the early focus for settlement. The Ipswich Domesday book, in regulating fees for the carriage of merchandize, makes reference to sacks of wool passing through the East Gate, North Gate and West Gate. The topography of the town suggests that the likeliest location of the East Gate would have been at the end of Carr Street. There may also have been a gate further south, midway along the eastern stretch of ditch/wall, although neither the road approaching this point from within the town, nor the road leading directly east out of the town were of major importance, and we would expect any gate there to have been mentioned in the 14th-century description of the four wards of the borough (since the boundary of two of the wards passed through that point). Roads heading eastwards from the town led to the Suffolk coast. A Bull Gate is shown on Speed's map in the northern stretch of the defences, but its proximity to the West Gate and the fact that the gate leads only into fields (there was no road beyond it) show it as of minor significance.
|COMMUNITY SPACES, STREETS AND STRUCTURES|
Common meadow and marsh
A large area of somewhat marshy ground west of the Gipping belonged to the burgesses in common; the northern part in particular, being drier, was used for pasturage. The common meadow included Portman Meadow, dedicated in 1200 to pasturing the horses of the town councillors; before 1200 and through the 14th century it was known as Odenholm meadow, although by the 1440s it was being called Portman's Meadow. It was accessed via a ford and later by Friars Bridge.
This was a roughly triangular area of ground just east of North Gate; in 1315 it was itself referred to as a highway. A meeting-place of roads, even though its centre was built on by Speed's time, this large open area was still described in later times as a "green", a term itself suggesting a meeting-place of people. The name implies it an early location for the folkmoot, although we cannot be sure whether this might have been a burhgemoot or a shire-moot serving not just Ipswich but other hundreds of east Suffolk. The fact of it being in the populous parish of Holy Trinity usually a dedication of some importance supports the possibility of a folkmoot located here; although by 1200 (when, and perhaps because, Holy Trinity had become a priory and was subsequently superseded by St. Margaret's) the community meeting-place had apparently shifted to St. Mary Tower. The parish is occasionally referred to as St. Margaret in Thingstead, which may suggest that the churchyard absorbed some of the land previously used for the folkmoot.
Westgate Street/Tavern Street/Carr Street
This set of streets, essentially one east-west high street through the town, running along the ridge atop the slope leading down to the riverside, appears to have been the basis for the foundation of the settlement, and the focus for initial habitation in the 7th century. Westgate Street, leading from the gate to the town centre at Cornhill, was not often referred to by name in the Middle Ages; but when it was we find the name Burgate Street at first, and later Barregate Street. It is not certain whether the street name derives from "burh" (which would reinforce the early significance of this highway) or from the barred gate at the west end. In the early 14th century Carisshstrete was the name for the eastern part of this highway, and perhaps the central part too (there seems to be no medieval foundation for Tavern Street).
No. 8 in Speed's key. As the name indicates, the focus of the grain market. The town centre, where one of the most ancient town churches stood and also the location of the moothall/tolhouse and later the hall of Corpus Christi gild (successor to the Merchant Gild).
The name suggests it may have been built contemporary with or shortly after the establishment of the Franciscan friary (although it might have had a different name earlier). The only evident purpose of the bridge was to provide access to the community pasturage on the far side of the Gipping.
No. 9 in Speed's key, Brook Street was the principal north-south route through the town, connecting the main east-west route with the western end of the quayside. This role would have made it an early feature of the settlement. It has been hypothesised that the name of this street derives from the watercourse that ran down its centre (a feature supportive of early settlement). However, the name is more likely associated with being a route to the neighbouring manor of Brooks to the north; some medieval spellings of the name (Brokesstrete) support this.
S in Speed's key. Archaeological evidence seems to indicate that a quayside revetted in timber existed from the Middle Saxon period. Successive phases of timber and wattle revetting are evidenced, as there took place gradual reclamation of land from what was once river. It may have been the case that, when built, the churches of St. Peter and St. Mary Quay stood close to the riverbank. The quay proper, from where the borough porters transported landed goods to the marketplaces or merchants' warehouses, stood immediately outside the defensive perimeter of the town. In 1306 Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, died seised of the quay and the houses there. By 1398 it seems to have been in the hands of the king. By the 15th century the quay was outfitted with a crane and a public latrine.
Speed shows two structures on the quayside, neither identified in his key. One is clearly a crane. This was in existence by 1454, when borough authorities required that all outsiders bringing merchandise to Ipswich for sale have their goods weighed by the crane; but there were probably a series of cranes on the quayside: repairs to the crane was an item in the 1446/47 chamberlains' accounts, and a replacement had to be built in 1477. The other structure, judging by its location, might well be the precursor to the later Customs House. In 1433 a grant of land referred to the nearby "Houses of Office" on the quay. One of these may have been the Woolhouse which in 1448 was specified by borough authorities as the only place at which wool might be bought and sold, and which in 1451 was farmed out (along with collection of customs at the quay and the fleshhouse, operation of the weighing beam, and other sources of revenue) to John Bole.
Q in Speed's key. A bridge across the Orwell connecting Ipswich with the suburb (held by the Abbot of Ely) of Stoke, where many burgess held fields and other property, was certainly in existence in the late 13th century: in 1301 the will of Thomas Aylred assigned an annual rent towards the maintenance of the bridge, to be administered by the bridge's custodian this not so much charity as gratitude, reflecting the fact that Thomas, as a holder of property in both Ipswich and Stoke, must personally have benefited from the existence of the bridge. However, the fact that Saxon Ipswich ware has been found in Stoke and the mention in Domesday of at least one, if not both, of Stoke's parish churches, creates the suspicion that some kind of crossing facility would have existed far earlier. In the 1430s John Caldwell offered to renovate the bridge at his own expense if townsmen would contribute to the maintenance. Access into the town via the bridge was protected by some kind of barrier by the 15th century, for an ordinance of 1477 placed the keys to the bridge in the custody of the bailiffs. Possibly the "Peter's Bridge" towards whose maintenance the borough assigned, in 1378, the rent from a tenement, it was also referred to on occasion as Ipswich Bridge and Port Bridge. By the 15th century, it appears to have been perceived as two separate bridges, the one closest to Ipswich called North Bridge and that closest to Stoke being called Stoke Bridge; the reason for this is not evident from Speed's map but relates to a peninsula (created by a watercourse lying between the Gipping and Orwell) which provided a midway foundation for the linkage between Ipswich and Stoke. In the 19th century the intermediary watercourse was filled in and the northern part of the bridge, landlocked, disappeared.
R in Speed's key. Where ended the narrow peninsula, mentioned above as the dividing point of two bridges providing a route between Ipswich and Stoke, Stoke Mill was built. By 1446 there were two mills at this location, one for grain and one for fulling one of these perhaps being the "New" Mill.
Speed does not reference this on his map, and the location of the mill is not clearly indicated in any medieval record that I have read. However, it was a water-powered mill and is frequently referred to in conjunction with the common meadow/marsh on the west bank of the Gipping in the 1340s, when the borough was leasing the mill to private citizens, Odenholm meadow was jointly leased out with it; at that time Horswade Mill was said to be in a ruinous state. A deed of 1388 is concerned with a plot of land lying between a (river?)bank connecting Horswade Mill and Stoke Bridge and the road connecting the Barre Gates and Friars Bridge; based on this, on a feature on Speed's map showing otherwise isolated buildings at the end of a side-road leading to the Gipping, and on the evidence from later maps (which show one of those buildings extending to the river's edge), I am tentatively hypothesising that this may represent the mill location, directly across the river from the common meadow. Horswade served as the official place where burgesses were supposed to have their grain ground, judging from a borough lease in 1308 of the (tolls paid at) the mill. It was distinct from the New Mill, another building that was separately leased out by the borough; the leasing of both mills is referred to as early as 1286.
Erroneously indexed on Speed's map as Z. It is referred to under this name in 1323, but may have gone under different names at different times. A little further west was a second bridge (across the Gipping) serving the townspeople and, as the name suggests, replacing an earlier ford at the location; the bridge may have been in place before the Conquest.
X in Speed's key. The earliest reference to such a school in Ipswich was in March 1477, although there are references to schoolmasters in the early 15th century. Whether the location was the same as that in the time of Speed, however, is a matter of conjecture. In 1483, prominent townsman Richard Felawe bequeathed a building, adjacent to (which could mean opposite) the gate of the Dominican friary, to serve as a community schoolhouse and as a schoolmaster's house; this might approximately correspond with Speed's placement, if we compare with Pennington's map of 1778, which locates the schoolmaster's house across the (Foundation) street from the friary, although by that time the grammar school itself was immediately north of the friary. Speed seems to have the school a little far north.
St. Mary Tower
E in Speed's key. Two churches dedicated to St. Mary are recorded in Domesday, without further distinguisher, other than that one was held by the burgess Culling and the other by Tumbi it being common in Anglo-Saxon England for churches to be built and owned by private individuals. The reason for the name is evident enough from Speed's map. Its possession of a sizable tower (from which curfew was rung), the wealth of the parish and the church, the later attendance there of the town bailiffs, and above all the community meetings held there in 1200, all suggest this to have been the chief parish church of late medieval Ipswich. By the same token, its churchyard would have been a likely spot for the borough folkmoot. It was the second most populous parish in 1381, containing about 12% of Ipswich's taxpayers.
G in Speed's key. Mentioned in Domesday as being held by Turchil and Edric, but as having been held, in the time of Edward the Confessor, by a freewoman, Lefflet.
H in Speed's key. Mentioned in Domesday as being held by Godric. Only a small parish, catering primarily to residents of Brook Street.
M in Speed's key. Mentioned in Domesday as being held by Ascar; at that time the river's edge was probably much closer to the church than today. The Augustinian priory of St. Peter and St. Paul was established nearby around the close of the reign of Henry II; the founder is unknown, although the king was claiming its patronage by the time of Henry III. The priory was fairly wealthy by the end of the 13th century, holding the appropriation of the churches of St. Peter, St. Nicholas, and St. Clement. Royal licences to acquire property in mortmain allowed for a period of expansion into adjacent properties in the early 14th century. The Priory was dissolved in 1526 (by which time it was also holding the church of St. Mary Quay) in order to allow for Cardinal Wolsey to construct his short-lived college on the site.
(image of St. Peter's)
St. Mary Quay
N in Speed's key. Believed to be in existence by the end of the 11th century, but not necessarily one of the St. Mary's mentioned in Domesday. It was clearly established to serving increased population around the quayside. Yet, despite the importance of the quayside, the Poll Tax of 1381 indicates that this parish was not heavily populated. Much of the fabric of the church now standing dates from the mid-15th century.
St. Mary Elms
F in Speed's key. If the two St. Mary's mentioned in Domesday are, as seems likely, St. Mary Tower and St. Mary Stoke, this suggests St. Mary Elms may not have come into existence until the late 12th century.
(image of St. Mary Elms)
Likely a pre-Conquest foundation, quite possibly dating as far back as the 8th century. The church itself is rarely mentioned, particularly after the early 14th century, although its cemetery is referred to in 1420 and the parish as late as 1465, along with the cemetery. References to St. Mildred's are noticeably fewer than to other of the parishes within the defensive perimeter. It may have been in gradual decline for some time: perhaps part of the population originally served had been displaced by the building of the castle (as at Norwich) and had moved east into St. Mary Tower and St. Margaret parishes; events such as a fire in the fleshmarket ca.1319 (the western part of which would likely have been in St. Mildred's parish) may not have helped matters, and depopulation resulting from the Plague and its recurrences would have reduced the base of tithe-paying parishioners further, to the point where the church may have had difficulty supporting itself. The parish may have been a small one from its origin; a royal tallage of 1228 lumped it in with St. Mary Tower for purposes of listing taxpayers, while in 1309, when men were chosen from each parish to elect a town council, with different numbers of electors according to the size of the parish population, St. Mildred's was not listed at all. The church building was subsequently absorbed into the moothall property; it survived into the 19th century, when pulled down to be replaced by a new town hall. Judging from parish boundaries, it looks as though St. Mary Tower parish was extended to absorb the part of St. Mildred's east and south of Cornhill, while the western portion was added to St. Matthew's.
L in Speed's key. Not mentioned in Domesday, it likely came into being in the following century, to serve residents spreading along the road connecting the town centre with Stoke. However, there may have been an earlier church with a different dedication on the site. The parish contained the timber market (perhaps located south of the Franciscan friary?).
St. Edmund's chapel
A chapel dedicated to St. Edmund de Pounteney (Pontigny) was located between Lower Brook Street and Foundation Street (an earlier name for which was St. Edmund Pounteney Lane), with its rectory on the corner of Rosemary Lane. This was an unusual dedication, referring to an Archbishop of Canterbury canonized in 1248. It is first mentioned in Ipswich records in the last decade of that century, when a member of one of Ipswich's most prominent families was its chaplain; burial privileges were evidently associated, since its cemetery is mentioned in 1338. Originally belonging to St. Peter's Priory, in the 15th century it was consolidated with St. Helen's.
St. Mary Stoke
P in Speed's key. It was probably one of the St. Mary's mentioned (without any distinguisher) in Domesday, whose entry for Ipswich clearly includes Stoke.
Mentioned in Domesday as being held by Lestan the priest. It was located at the southern end of Stoke, but decayed and disappeared during the Middle Ages (it was still in existence tempore Edward II), which is why it is not acknowledged on Speed's map. Nearby was the leper hospital of St. Leonard's, a poor foundation probably reliant on alms.
C in Speed's key. Probably built in the 12th century, when the church of Holy Trinity was turned into a priory (there would otherwise be no sense to have two parish churches immediately adjacent). The most populous parish judging from the Poll Tax of 1381, containing 19% of those taxed; this was partly because it was a large parish, incorporating Carr Street and its surrounds within the defensive perimeter as well as a suburban area. Again, in a parliamentary aid of 1463, St. Margaret's had the highest assessment of any parish (just edging out St. Mary Tower) and had 3 assessors, compared to 2 for each other parish.
K in Speed's key. The suburb just outside the defensive boundary was established in the late 12th century, probably as a result of growing settlement in the vicinity of the quay. It was one of the more populous parishes in 1381.
I in Speed's key. A suburban church in the hamlet of Caldwell, it is believed to have been in existence by the end of the 11th century. It seems to have been annexed to the combined hospitals of St. Mary Magdalene and St. James (see entry under Hospital of St. James).
D in Speed's key. Believed to be in existence by the end of the 11th century. The parish included a chapel dedicated to All Saints and St. John's Hospital.
St. George's chapel
B in Speed's key. Mentioned in Domesday, not as part of the Ipswich entry proper but in the same half-hundred, as part of the hamlet of Baylham where several burgesses were already established. This suburb never developed much and remained one of the borough's smallest parishes in 1381. In 1451 a St. George's fair is heard of, although whether connected with the chapel, I cannot say.
Holy Trinity Priory
A in Speed's key. A church with this dedication is identified in Domesday, as being held by Alnulf the priest. It may have been the precursor of the building that later served as the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity, established tempore Henry II. It was, at the time of Domesday, presumably a parish church, but must have been a priory when St. Margaret's (its replacement) was built on adjacent land. The first priory building was constructed in 1177. At the beginning of the 13th century it held the borough churches of Holy Trinity, St. Lawrence, St. Mary Tower, and St. Mary Elms, along with other churches and lands in the vicinity; by the end of the century, it also held St. Margaret. The Priory was sometimes known, as early as tempore Richard II, as Christ Church. Taken over by the Crown in 1536 and acquired by a London merchant a few years later, the priory ruins were rebuilt into a manor house now called Christchurch Mansion.
T in Speed's key. The Greyfriars, or Friars Minor, were established in Ipswich early in the reign of Edward I; in 1284 townsman Robert de Orford bequeathed them a small sum of money. The founder was Sir Robert Tiptot (died 1298) of Nettlestead and wife. Not much is known of the friary, although it covered a fairly large tract of land in what was otherwise a relatively uninhabited section of the town (on land once marshy), and left a memory in several topographic features in the post-medieval period; for example, the street leading along the edge of the precinct became known as Grey Friars Road, an easterly approach to the site is still (at least the surviving part) known as Friars Street, while the bridge leading across to the common marsh was known as Friars Bridge (by at least 1419). The friary was suppressed in 1538.
V in Speed's key, but he misidentifies the convent as the Blackfriars. The Whitefriars probably established themselves in Ipswich around 1278; townsman Robert de Orford bequeathed them a small sum of money in 1284. Settlement of Carmelites here was perhaps the result of a decision of the provincial chapter held at Norwich in 1278, and the new community could have drawn its initial members from the Norwich Carmelite house. The friary absorbed a large area of the town just south of the town centre, bordered by Queen Street on the west and St. Stephen's Lane (on the west side of St. Stephen's church) on the east. The fact that provincial chapters were often held at Ipswich in the 14th century indicates the friary must have had the capacity to accommodate a large number of guests and, indeed, the central structure shown on Ogilby's map (1674) confirms this, although the church was rebuilt in the third quarter of the 15th century. It was suppressed in 1538.
W in Speed's key. A Dominican friary, dedicated to St. Mary, was established at Ipswich by Henry III, who in 1263 purchased a property there for the initial buildings. During the 13th century, there were perhaps over fifty friars in the community. John Ogilby's map of Ipswich in 1674 (the first large, detailed, to-scale plan of the town) shows a "Friery Garden" to the south of an unidentified building, which is called Christ Hospital apparently some kind of almshouse on Speed's map (and again so identified on Pennington's map of 1778). This was a surviving reflection of a large precinct built up by the Blackfriars over the course of the Late Middle Ages, stretching from the church of St. Mary Quay to the south, what was later called Foundation Street on the west, the town defensive line on the east and an uncertain distance north perhaps as far as the north-eastern corner of the defensive line. King and borough permitted considerable expansion of the friary property on condition that the burgesses had access to the adjacent town ditch (and later the walls) for purposes of repair, and the friars' promise to assist with maintenance of the wall and two gates on the north and south sides of their property, through which public access was to be allowed. The line of houses shown by Speed on the east side of this precinct, where once a town wall would have stood, presumably did not come into existence until after the suppression of the friary in 1538. There is a reference in 1462 to a road running between Blackfriars Bridge and the quay; it is not clear where this bridge may have been located, unless it led out of one of the eastern gates, across the town ditch.
Hospital of St. James
Little is known of this except from incidental references. It lay in the suburban part of St. Margaret's parish, probably on the border of St. Helen's parish, and near a lane (itself perceived as running roughly north-south) leading to St. Helen's. Based on this I have hypothesised that Speed may have represented the hospital (without identification) as a building shown set back a little from the road, separate from the main line of residences; these buildings were just barely within the boundaries of St. Margaret's parish and were backed by an area of unoccupied land not clearly associated with any parochial jurisdiction. The hospital housed both men and women and was intended for lepers. Besides St. Leonard's (see entry under St. Augustine), there were two other leper hospitals in Ipswich, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene (in the vicinity of St. Helen's church) and St. James; that of St. Mary Magdalene was first mentioned in 1199, when the king granted it a fair to be held on the day of St. James Apostle, on its own land. In the 14th century the hospital of St. James was united with it, to be administered by a single master. In addition we hear of a hospital which sheltered the poor (1339) in the suburban part of St. Matthew's parish, and a Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1414) in St. Margaret's parish.
|Created: June 12, 1999. Last update: January 23, 2001||© Stephen Alsford, 1999-2003|