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.