The Story of Viking Ipswich

Archaeological excavations in 2012 uncovered three hundred Saxon skeletons at a grave site close to Stoke Bridge, further adding to the history of Anglo-Saxon Ipswich. Due to a lack of written sources there is little firm evidence about life in Anglo-Saxon Ipswich or the town under the control of Viking and Norse invaders. What is loosely known is that Norse invaders arrived under King Wuffa in around 550 CE. Establishing themselves as Kings of East Anglia and becoming one of the richest and most powerful dynasties, with the mounds at Sutton Hoo and the palace of King Raedwald (Wuffa’s Grandson) at Rendlesham being important locations in Anglo-Saxon England. Life in the period was tough and many died young and never travelled further than their local villages. However, Ipswich was becoming a hub of activity, trading with many areas of Europe.

At the time of Raedwald’s death in around 624 CE, Ipswich had become prosperous with trade routes to Scandinavia, Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean. This prosperous period, known as the Wuffinga rule of East Anglia, came to an end around 869 CE when King Edmund was killed by another wave of invading Danish and Norse invaders and buried in Bury St Edmunds. Following this, during the late tenth century the town was ruled under Danelaw and in 991 CE Vikings raided the town; there is no evidence that the town was razed as they continued their raids down the Essex coast until their victory at the Battle of Maldon. Although uncommon, raids continued during the years between 991 and the Norman Conquest, with an estimated 5 incidences during this period. The last Viking raid was defeated by Roger Bigod, a Norman noble who was made Sheriff of Suffolk and Norfolk by William the Conqueror.

Bigod also built a large manor and a quay on the waterfront, rumoured to be where the Ipswich Maritime Trust Window Museum stands today. He is also rumoured to have built a wooden castle in the town. It is likely to have stood between the church of St Mary at the Elms, Museum Street and King Street and not at Castle Hill, which was the site of a Roman villa.

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  1. George Fuller says

    About 4 years ago I went on a ‘Intrepid group’ 9 day tour of Russia.

    At Novgorod I noticed a notice and map in English showing the main scope of the Hanseatic League that included Ipswich. The rest of the group – mostly Australians – were not impressed when I pointed this out!

    In the Viking era, as you probably know, the river that passes through Novgorod forms part of river connections that gave the Vikings a trade route to Byzantine.

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