Ipswich invasions timeline
Why was Ipswich a target for so many raiders and invaders in
The following selective timeline is based largely on Sylvia Laverton's book The
early settlement of a unique Suffolk region (see Reading list). Work in progress on
100 BC - AD 43. Late
Iron Age. Tribal kingdoms with regional centres (oppida) emerged. An
area including south Suffolk, north-east Essex and Hertfordshire was
occupied by the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni (the Iceni territory
lay further north). Immigrant Belgic tribesmen from Gaul* strongly
influenced the culture of Britain, though areas further north including
the Iceni territory, were largely outside the influence of
‘Belgicisation’. [*Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron
Age that was inhabited by Celtic tribes, encompassing present-day
France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, Northern Italy, as
well as the parts of the Netherlands, Central Italy and Germany on the
west bank of the River Rhine.]
55 and 54 BC. Julius Caesar
sent expeditions into Britain, exacted promises of tribute and
concluded some treaties with local tribal kings. The south and east of
England grew increasingly through exchange and trade with Gaul and the
Early years of 1st century AD.
Cunobelin, king of the Catuvellauni, acquired Trinovantian territory
and gained immense power and wealth through his command of key trade
routes to the continent. These included links via the Colne and Stour
estuaries, used most probably by his own ships. Cunobelin minted coins
in Camulodunum (Colchester) – the capital of the Trinovantes.
c.AD 40. King Cunobelin died.
AD 43. Roman legions of the
Emperor Claudius invaded, destroyed the Iron Age oppidum at Camulodunum
and build a legionary fortress there from which Colchester developed as
the first Roman town in Britain.
AD 60-61. Boudicca, queen of
the British Celtic Iceni tribe, led a devastating revolt against the
Roman Empire, destroying Camulodunum, Londinium (London) and Verulamium
(St Albans). Eventually the Roman forces defeated the Britons under
Boudicca in the Battle of Watling Street, somewhere between London and
Shropshire. Roman rule of England was re-established and spread into
Wales and southern Scotland: Britain became Britannia, a province of
the Roman Empire. Road networks, towns, a money economy, markets and
efficient systems of administration and taxation were stablished over
the following 100 years.
c. AD 100-409. Ipswich had a
number of Roman buildings, the most notable a villa at today’s Castle
Hill. The dominance of Roman Camulodunum (Colchester) may account for
the relatively small number of Roman remains found in Ipswich. Westgate
and Tavern Streets constitute part of the Roman road from Camulodunum,
via a Roman settlement at Combretovium (on the banks of the River
Gipping close to Baylam) to Caistor-by-Norwich).
c. AD 250. Piracy had become a
serious threat, so a chain of Roman forts was built on the east coast
from Brancaster on the north Norfolk coast down to Porchester in
Hampshire. Forts at Walton (Felixstowe), now often referred to as
Walton Castle, and another believed to have existed at Walton in Essex
were well-sited to protect the Deben, Orwell and Stour estuaries. Both
forts have been swallowed by the sea, although remnants of stone are
said to be visible on Felixstowe foreshore during particularly low
c. AD 300-367. A prosperous
Britain was invaded by Picts and Scots and harassed by barbarian war
bands until order was restored by Theodosius The Elder; Rome’s western
empire was disintegrating under internal tensions and threats to the
central provinces from the east.
AD 410. The last Romans left
Britain. By that time economic activity in East Anglia had declined,
some sites were abandoned and by AD 420 the use of coinage had ceased.
Farming seems to have continued with output sufficient to sustain the
reduce demand by the now substantially reduced population. It is likely
that some areas remained under Romano-British control well into the 5th
century, possibly with some protection from Anglo-Saxon mercenary
settlers. The people lived longer in the decades after Roman Britain
because they were not being taxed. Despite this boost in lifespan, most
women could still only expect to live until around 35 because of the
dangers of childbirth, while men were usually dead by their early
AD 450-500. Britain’s
population was a complex ethnic mix of native Britons, barbarians
already present as Romano-Germanic mercenaries, and disbanded units of
the Roman army (of various ethnic origins). They were joined by
Germanic and Scandinavian people from the continent. These incomers,
whether they came as invaders or immigrants is still a matter for
conjecture, had the country under Anglo-Saxon control by the end of the
5th century – this lasted until the Norman Conquest of 1066.
‘Anglo-Saxon’ is an umbrella term, largely used in retrospect and
mainly applied to Germanic settlers. Initial settlements had expanded
in East Anglia, Kent and Sussex.
AD 550. King Wuffa (a
diminutive form of the Old English word for ‘wolf’), if he was an
actual historical figure, and his men arrived on the ‘Saxon Shore’.
Within two generations his family had established themselves as Kings
of East Anglia, the most powerful in southern England. Judging by the
contents of the burial ship at Sutton Hoo – probably for Wuffa’s
grandson, Raedwald – they were one of the richest. Raedwald’s palace
was at Rendlesham and the wic
town which served it was a dozen miles to
the south-west, now known as Ipswich.
AD 597. Augustine arrived in
Kent charged by the Pope with the task of converting the country’s
pagans to Catholicism. The Christian faith had initially been
introduced by the Romans and had, despite persecution in the 3rd
century, kept a foothold in Britain.
c.AD 624. Death of the Wuffinga
King Raedwald, whose power and influence spread beyond East Anglia.
Though he accepted Christian baptism, he was buried in pagan splendour
in one of the ship burials at Sutton Hoo, across the River Deben from
Woodbridge. Under Raedwald, it is thought that Ipswich became a major
Anglo-Saxon port and the grave goods at Sutton Hoo suggest far-reaching
trade and exchange routes to Scandinavia, France, Italy and the Eastern
AD 865. The eastern side of the
country was invaded by Danish armies, whose men remained as settlers in
the north and midlands. But the Danes beat stubborn resistance from the
AD 869. This date marks the end
of the Wuffinga rule of East Anglia when King Edmund (about whom almost
nothing is known) was murdered by the Danes. His remains were placed in
church in Beadoriceworth (Bury St Edmunds) in the 11th century and the
town grew in religious influence, becoming a place of pilgrimage,
visited by a number of kings.
AD 878. King Alfred fought and
held the army of the Danish King Guthrum in Wiltshire; under the
agreement that followed, Alfred accepted the Danish occupation of
eastern England as a fait accompli.
Guthrum agreed to withdraw his
forces to East Anglia which he was to rule as king. This ‘sharing out
the land’ in AD 880 resulted in East Anglia becoming part of the
territory falling under Danish rule: the Danelaw, although the number
of Danish settlements in East Anglia was small.
AD 921. East Anglia was
reconquered by the Wessex King Edward the Elder and became known as the
Eastern Danelaw, its western borders protected by a series of dykes and
large areas of marshland.
AD 990s. A new series of short,
sharp (Viking) pirate raids began. In 991 a much larger force ravaged
Ipswich and then encamped in Essex on Northey Island east of Maldon in
the Blackwater Estuary. Money paid to the Viking raiders to buy them
off only encouraged further widespread attacks. [Definition. Viking: Any of
the Scandinavian (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) seafaring pirates and
traders who who travelled by sea and raided and settled in many parts
of north-west Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries. Derived from
the Old Norse víkingr, from vík creek or from Old English wīc ‘camp,
dwelling place’. They did not wear horned helmets.]
AD 1010. Ipswich was sacked
again. When in 1013, King Swein (Sweyn) Forkbeard of Denmark invaded ,
on conquest, he was not opposed by Danish England. Although his attack
on London failed, the whole nation appears to have regarded him as king
in all respects. The English king Aethelred fled to normandy, only
returning after Swein had died in 1014.
AD 1016. After Aethelred’s
death his son Edmund was involved in several encounters with Cnut,
Swein’s son, finally losing the battle fought in October at Assandun
(unidentified) in Essex. Edmund died in November 1016 and Cnut was
accepted as king of England.
AD 1042. Death of Cnut. After
the brief reign of the two sons of Cnut, Edward the Confessor, the last
king of the House of Wessex, became de
facto ruler of England in this
year. He restored English law, government and taxation where Danish
custom had been the rule.
AD 1066. Edward the Confessor
died, succeeded briefly by Harold Godwineson, Earl of Wessex. His
defeat by the army of William of Normandy in the same year brought to
an end 600 years of Saxon rule. King William I was crowned King of
England in December of this year. He instituted fundamental changes to
the old-established system of land tenure, replacing Saxon landholders
with Normans. (Note that the Normans were descended from Vikings who
were given feudal overlordship of areas in northern France – the Duchy
of Normandy – in the 10th century. In that respect, descendants of the
Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe.
AD 1086. Completion of the Little Domesday Book, recording in
detail for Norfolk, Suffolk and
Essex the names, estates, assets, manpower, value and taxable acreage
as it was at the time of Edward the Confessor ('then')
and again in
Words used to describe invaders:
The Anglo-Saxons are a
people who have inhabited Great Britain from the 5th century. They
comprise people from Germanic tribes who migrated to the island from
continental Europe, their descendants, and indigenous British groups
who adopted some aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture and language.
Historically, the Anglo-Saxon period denotes the period in Britain
between about 450 and 1066. The history of the Anglo-Saxons is the
history of a cultural identity. It developed from divergent groups in
association with the people's adoption of Christianity, and was
integral to the establishment of various kingdoms. Threatened by
extended Danish invasions and occupation of eastern England, this
identity was re-established; it dominated until after the Norman
The Angles (Latin: Anglii) were one of the main Germanic peoples
who settled in Britain in the post-Roman period. They founded several
of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, and their name is the root of
the name England. The name comes from the district of Angeln, an area
located on the Baltic shore of what is now Schleswig-Holstein.
The Saxons (Latin: Saxones, Old
English: Seaxe, Old Saxon: Sahson, Low German: Sassen, German: Sachsen,
Dutch: Saksen) were a group of Germanic tribes first mentioned as
living near the North Sea coast of what is now Germany (Old Saxony), in
the late Roman empire.
The adjective ‘Saxon’ is often used rather loosely as shorthand for
‘Anglo-Saxon’. “Ipswich is the first Saxon town” may have validity, but
really refers to the first Anglo-Saxon town. Anglo-Saxon is a fairly
modern term referring to people from Germanic tribes in a number of
places who invaded places such as East Anglia, but were able to see the
positive aspects of such places and take them on, improve them, set up
The Frisians are a Germanic
ethnic group native to the coastal parts of the Netherlands and
Germany. They inhabit an area known as Frisia and are concentrated in
the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Groningen and, in Germany, East
Frisia and North Frisia (which was a part of Denmark until 1864).
The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutć were a
Germanic people. According to The Venerable Bede, the Jutes were one of
the three most powerful Germanic peoples of their time in the Nordic
Iron Age, the other two being the Saxons and the Angles.
The Jutes are believed to have originated from the Jutland Peninsula
(called Iutum in Latin) and part of the North Frisian coast. In present
times, the Jutlandic Peninsula consists of the mainland of Denmark and
Southern Schleswig in Germany. North Frisia is also part of Germany.
The Jutes invaded and settled in southern Britain in the late 4th
century during the Age of Migrations, as part of a larger wave of
Germanic settlement in the British Isles.
See also our Historic maps
page for information on the claim of Ipswich to be the earliest,
continually-settled town in Britain.
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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