Why are we looking at Rendlesham?
Rendlesham is a parish in the south-east of Suffolk on the east side of the Deben valley. Unusually the name is recorded in a written text before the 11th century.
Bede, an Northumbrian monk writing in the 8th century, refers to an East Anglian royal settlement at Rendlesham in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum or 'History of the English Church and People’:
'Swithelm, the son of Seaxbald, was successor to Sigeberht. He was baptized by Cedd in East Anglia, in the royal village called Rendlesham, that is, the residence of Rendil. King Aethelwold of East Anglia, the brother of King Anna, the previous king of the East Angles, was his sponsor.'
Historia Ecclesiastica, Book III, Chapter 22
Extract from Cotton MS Tiberius C II by permission of the British Library
The christening Bede described probably took place around AD 660, showing that the ‘vicus regius’, the royal settlement, was at Rendlesham in the second half of the 7th century. Rendlesham is also only a few miles up the River Deben from the major Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo. These probably royal graves date from the early 7th century.
There has been much speculation by archaeologists about where in Rendlesham parish this royal place was located. In the early 19th century a cremation burial in a pottery urn of 5th- or 6th-century date was found at Hoo Hill (RLM 006 on the Suffolk Historic Environment Record).
Some evidence was collected by fieldwalking during the early 1980s, which showed that there were Early and Middle Saxon pottery sherds (7th–9th century) on fields between St Gregory’s Church and Naunton Hall. In 1982 a small-scale excavation revealed Middle Saxon ditches and a Late Saxon ditch and pit (RLM 011). However, there was little to suggest that this was a particularly wealthy settlement.
During the 2000s the landowners at Naunton Hall were alarmed by frequent evidence of people digging holes in their fields at night, damaging crops and presumably stealing metal artefacts. The SCC Archaeological Service was consulted and, because of the potential significance of a rich site in this part of Rendlesham, suggested some survey work. The aim was to discover what might be being damaged and stolen by the thieves and to discourage them.