Monument record BSE 252 - Cattle market, Bury St Edmunds

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Evaluation identified a small amount of medieval and post-medieval features and evidence of late 17th-early 18th century buildings. Later excavations revealed Medieval chalk extraction pits and Post Medieval wells, building plots and dwellings. The site became the location of the livestock market during the 19th century.


Grid reference Centred TL 8510 6431 (135m by 154m)
Map sheet TL86SE


Type and Period (23)

Full Description

2005: An evaluation of the site of the former cattle market demonstrated that the existing car parks have been universally built up over earlier deposits and there is little evidence of truncation of the archaeological levels. The earliest features were a large rubbish pit, which produced 13th-15th century pottery and a possibly medieval well, but beside this there was little indication of occupation activity prior to the demolition of the town defences (15m to the east and outside the development area) at the time of the dissolution. Evidence of late 17th-early 18th centuries buildings were found fronting St Andrew's Street probably the remains of those shown on Thomas Warren's map of 1741. Away from the street frontage the trenching suggested that much of the development area was pastoral until the transfer of the cattle market from the centre of town. A paved surface of well-laid yellow bricks over a strata of rammed chalk topped with a gravel dressing is evidence of the original cattle market surface which coincides with the area of the animal pens shown on the 1880s OS maps (S1).

2006-2007: The site of the former Cattle Market was excavated following the earlier evaluation trenching and prior to the construction of a new shopping area. The site lies immediately outside the Medieval town defences and it was situated on open land primarily used as gardens and orchards during the Medieval period. The earliest datable features on the site were Medieval features and chalk extraction pits. During the later medieval period the town started to expand beyond the town walls. This process was accelerated with the dissolution of the Abbey in the 16th century. During the post-medieval period buildings developed along the St Andrew's Street frontage. Initially these building plots were predominantly barns and stables but during the later 18th century domestic buildings followed, remodelled on several occasions. Plot boundaries could be identified and these moved little over several hundred years and a notable correlation between the plot boundaries and well locations was observed. The presence of complete horse and pig carcasses on land to the rear of these properties however, shows that most of the area was still undeveloped at this time. Several inns owned land on the Cattle Market site for livery of horses and staff accommodation, although no inns were shown to have been present on the site itself. Finer pottery from the 17th and 18th centuries demonstrated growing affluence and changing social habits in the town. In the 19th century the site became the location of a purpose built livestock market following ‘The Act to Prevent the Cruel and Improper Treatment of Cattle’ in 1822. Subsequent legislation drove the additional land purchases, and almost continuous development and redevelopment of the site during the later 19th and early 20th century. Evidence of the 19th and 20th century Cattle Market surfaces survived largely intact (S2)(S3).

Sources/Archives (3)

  • <S1> Unpublished document: Gill, D. and Breen, A.. 2005. Archaeological Evaluation Report, Former Cattle Market, Bury St Edmunds, BSE 252.
  • <S2> Unpublished document: Duffy, J & Gill, D. 2009. Archaeological Excavation Report: Site of the Former Cattle Market, Bury St Edmunds.
  • <S3> Unpublished document: Duffy, J.. 2007. Archaeological Assessment Report: Site of Former Cattle Market, Bury St Edmunds.

Finds (36)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Aug 17 2018 10:20AM

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