“Ipswich ware” pottery made for the first time in over 1,000 years

“Ipswich ware” jars and pots, first made 1,400 years ago in the English town, are being fired again in a replica Anglo-Saxon kiln thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This new experimental archaeology project is being led by Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, to investigate how Anglo-Saxon pottery was once made in Ipswich. The new kiln has been built and fired by studying archaeological remains excavated from the Buttermarket in Ipswich, something never attempted before. Only two kilns have ever been excavated in Ipswich, the other was discovered at Stoke Quay.

The recreated Anglo-Saxon kiln during firing. Photo courtesy Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service

Ipswich ware pottery was made in the town from c. AD 680-870. Jars, cooking pots and pitchers were the most commonly-made items, simple in design and grey in colour. They were mass-produced and distributed throughout eastern England, and were some of the first of their kind in post-Roman Britain.

“These projects are important, allowing us to test archaeological hypotheses by replicating historical methods and techniques based on evidence from excavations,” says Faye Minter, Suffolk County Council’s Archaeological Archives and Projects Manager. “This can give invaluable insight into our history – the lives, skills and industry of people who lived in the past.”


“The results so far suggest that there was a high level of skill, knowledge and significant resources needed to successfully produce Ipswich ware, much more than we anticipated. There is more for us to learn and already the volunteers have come up with a plan for a second firing later this summer to test more theories.”

In partnership with Hands on Heritage experimental archaeology site, and Keith Wade from the Ipswich Archaeological Trust, Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service has collaborated with volunteers and local organisations to make replica Ipswich ware pots using historical methods. To fire the pots a replica kiln was built in Tunstall, which took three days. In April it was set on fire over a 27-hour period, with 100 beautiful hand-made pots surviving the process.

Pot being removed from the recreated Anglo-Saxon kiln after firing. Photo courtesy Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service

Local volunteers from the Anglian Potters have been researching Ipswich ware pottery over the past year and conducting experiments with raw clay processing and making replica pots with children from Rushmere Hall Primary School in Ipswich.

“It is wonderful to see that the finds from our local excavations and archaeology, are bringing together local people, schools and organisations over 1,000 years later,” notes Councillor Melanie Vigo di Gallidoro, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Protected Landscapes and Archaeology. “Not only is the project providing a better understanding of Suffolk’s important past but is giving the local community a hands-on opportunity to discover more about their heritage, connecting them to the Anglo-Saxon way of life.”


This experimental work is part of the community archaeology project ‘Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South-East Suffolk’. It is run by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, and funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, who awarded a grant of £517,300 for the four-year project.

To find out more about the ‘Rendlesham Revealed’ project visit:

Top Image: Pots being stacked in the recreated Anglo-Saxon kiln before firing. Photo courtesy Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service