Monument record BSE 052 - Cathedral Centre and North Transcept (Sax)

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Excavations on site of proposed Cathedral Treasury and North Trancept.


Grid reference Centred TL 8561 6414 (36m by 53m)
Map sheet TL86SE


Type and Period (8)

Full Description

Trial trench 5 x 8m excavated on site of proposed Cathedral Treasury. Courtyard surface, probably part of the Palace Yard of the Abbey found at depth of 1.5m. Beneath this were a series of cobbled surfaces built on rammed sand and bounded on the W by a substantial N-S ditch. This possible road aligns with the projection of Northgate Street and possibly indicates a N-S road linking Northgate and Sparhawk Streets. A pit and possible beam slot were also recovered. Pottery from these and the road-ditch was Thetford and St Neots (S1).
1988-1989: Full details of excavation not yet available (see S3 & Assessment Report S2) though N-S road shown to post date gully with Thetford ware suggesting a 10th-11th date for the road surface.
August 1999: Full details of excavation not yet available (see S4 & Assessment Report S2) further trench excavation revealed two intercutting phases of substantial post hole in trench construction building associated with Thetford (& St Neots?) ware in pre 1130 context and suggesting expansion of Abbey complex W of the N-S road earlier than expected. Details in archive & (S2-S4).

1988-1999: The earliest evidence of activity were Saxon features thought to pre-date the formalising of the Saxo-Norman town. On the Cathedral Centre site, they were sealed beneath the earliest of the road surfaces and on the North Trancept site they cut the ancient buried soil horizon (See MSF6755), but were sealed beneath the occupation soils which accumulated during Late Saxon occupation of the site. The features included parallel ditches creating a corridor which anticipates the alignment of the road. The next phase is marked by the creation of the structured road which ran north-south across the site and was glanked on its western side by a large ditch. The road was metalled with graded flint pebbles over compacted sand and was an enduring thoroughfare. The road was the axial route through the town, running in from of the Abbey Church and separating the Abbey on its east side from the town on its west. It may be contemporary with the layout of the gridded town, which occurred in 1080. There is evidence of at least three surfaces and three re-cuts of the roadside ditch, and that the road continued in use until the beginning of the 12th century. The abandonment of the road is marked by the cutting of features through its surface and the infilling of the last roadside ditch. The development of buildings over its line occur from the 12th century.

On the North Trancept Site, a ditch ran north-south across the site containing dark silty loam with with common charcoal and burnt clay fragments, and this produced Thetford and St Neot's Ware pottery suggesting an 11th century date. Several pits and a post hole were also seen. Sherds of Thetford and St Neots ware pottery were recovered from the post hole. A Late Saxon occupation layer was seen which comprised a rich dark loam with occupational debris including pottery, animal bone, shell and charcoal as well as building debris such as clay and degraded chalk. The large pottery assemblage dated to the Late Saxon Period. Evidence of large timber buildings were dated to the 11th-12th centuries; there were two successive short-lived buildings built on the same spot. 'Post-in-trench' was a Late Saxon style of construction and the pottery from the post-demolition infill dated to the 11th century. The cutting of narrow ditch marks the abandonment of the large building after the 12th century.

See also MSF6755 Preh, MSF24515 Med

Sources/Archives (6)

  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Archaeology in Suffolk 1983 & 1999, PSIA, 35 & 39, 1984 & 2000, 327 & 515.
  • <M1> Unpublished document: Suffolk Archaeological Service. Parish file.
  • <M2> (No record type): Excavation archive:.
  • <S2> Unpublished document: Gill, D.. 2005. Archaeological Assessment Report,The Cathedral Precinct Yard Excavations, 1988 and 1999, Bury St Edmunds, BSE 052.
  • <S3> Bibliographic reference: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Archaeol in Suffolk 1988, PSIAH 37 (1), 1989, 71-2.
  • <S4> Bibliographic reference: Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology. Archaeol in Suffolk 1999, PSIAH 39 (4), 2000, 515.

Finds (2)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

May 14 2018 2:58PM

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