An archaeological evaluation (December 2015) and excavation (March 2016) were carried out on the site of the Guildhall Feoffment Primary School, off Bridewell Lane in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. This report provides a quantification and assessment of the site archive and considers its potential for further analysis.
The archaeological horizons remained well preserved in places. Notably though, preservation of medieval features only appears to have occurred where they were reasonably deep. This was because in some places there were modern foundations and services, whilst in the 18th-20th centuries site was gardens/allotments and then a timber yard, suggesting that it had been somewhat disturbed. It was recorded on site that postmedieval pits and subsequent levelling phases had truncated the upper horizons of medieval features. Shallower features (such as postholes or smaller pits), as well as
any potential medieval occupation soils may have been entirely destroyed by this activity.
Four sherds of Roman pottery and seven sherds of Late Saxon pottery form the earliest evidence from the site, recovered from later contexts. However, the first indication of more substantial occupation comes in the 11th-12th century, indicated by a larger pottery assemblage, an antler gaming counter and other finds. Into the 12th-14th century, a number of quarry pits were excavated and the feature of greatest interest, a building of unspecified function with flint and mortar foundations, was constructed. The majority of the pottery assemblage was of this period, with associated bulk finds of
animal bone, various land and sea mollusc remains, fired clay (possibly from oven type structures), roof and floor tile, mortar and lavastone. Following this, the building appears to have been quite thoroughly demolished, being infilled with a range of domestic refuse and demolition material, the latter presumably derived from the structure itself. Further series of late medieval or post-medieval pits were then excavated and followed by a phase of definitively post-medieval pits and postholes (17th-c.19th/20th century) with associated backfilling and other levelling layers dominating the site. These contexts produced a range of pottery, decorative tiles, animal bone, CBM, window and bottle glass, iron nails, tobacco pipes and slag.
An unusual assemblage of small finds was collected from the site, the rarest of which were medieval/late medieval. Fragments of an alabaster vessel are particularly special and in this case are unprovenanced, but may have a religious association. A well preserved copper alloy chain (one of the longest recorded in England) was also recovered and is currently thought to be late medieval and whilst its function and date are still uncertain, it may be of religious usage. A number of fragments of coloured medieval window glass and a lead window came are a potentially interesting indicator
as to the nature of the building, as are a series of iron objects, which may prove with further analysis, to be related to the structure. Other small finds of interest include an antler Saxo-Norman carved gaming counter, a medieval spindlewhorl, late medieval bone button making waste, antler working waste, a 15th-16th century boy bishop token and a 15th-16th century glass bead (probably from a rosary). Post-medieval small finds include a pin, a Charles I rose farthing, a bone spoon handle and a range of other metal items. A range of undated small finds include a ring, a series of sheet, strip and wire metal items, a shelly limestone mortar fragment, a piece of sandstone and several other metal pieces.