An excavation and subsequent watching brief by OA East on land to the rear of Thingoe House, Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, revealed a stratified sequence spanning the medieval to modern periods.

Much of the site, especially within the floodplain, was utilised for gravel extraction and rubbish disposal in the 12th-14th centuries. In addition to the extensive quarry pits, evidence of a medieval kitchen range extending back from Mustow House was uncovered, represented by numerous ovens/hearths. An adjacent pit contained a smashed but almost complete Grimston jug and a high density of charred barley and other cereals. By the later medieval to early post-medieval period (16th-17th centuries), presumably after the Dissolution, encroachment onto the backplots had begun, indicated by the presence of a number of rectangular buildings and associated flint-and-mortar lined cess-pits.

The rectangular cess-pits were internally-rendered and between 1m-2.2m deep and, although largely infilled with demolition rubble, the primary 'cessy' deposits have produced a wealth of mineralised remains that can tell us about the diet and living conditions of the inhabitants. Food remains include grapes/raisins, figs, apples/pears and possibly strawberries and cherries, found alongside less savoury items such as fly pupae, woodlice and millipedes. Interestingly two of the cess-pits produced shards of very delicate Venetian-style glass vessels. The animal and fish bone assemblages from the cess-pits and other features will also give us a fascinating insight into the inhabitants and their activities – an unusual find is the skull of a polecat!

A beautifully-constructed stone-lined well was also revealed, which contained a complete tin-glazed apothecary jar and a group of large pottery vessels that may be early (17th century) plant pots. Numerous garden features (planting beds, paths, walls, a brick well) were also recorded across the excavation areas that span the early post-medieval to modern periods, many of which can be related to gardens depicted on 18th and 19th century maps.

The excavation was carried out for CgMs Consulting on behalf of its client McCarthy and Stone in advance of a new assisted living complex.


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