Map of Ipswich: 1610
Ipswich Historic Lettering: map 1610
This map is the work of antiquary John Speed (working with the Dutch engraver Hondius) and was created as an inset for a map of Suffolk published in 1610 as part of a series of county maps. See Links for Stephen Alsford's History of Medieval Ipswich website with its detailed commentary on features shown on Speed's map.

While Roman Ipswich (c. AD 43 to 450) remains somewhat vague, with villa remains found at Castle Hill (featured on the Channel 4 series Time Team) and other archaeological traces (building materials, pottery and coins) at Handford Bridge, the subsequent inhabitants have definitely left their mark on the town. From AD 450 to the 9th century Anglo-Saxon Ipswich (called "The first town in Anglelond" in Ipswich Museum displays) established much of what we now see in the central town plan. Ipswich was one of the first towns to prosper after the Roman rule ended. It was also one of the first 'English' towns to prosper under the newly arrived Angles. The Angles came from what is now Northern Germany in the 450s. They built a string of settlements along the Gipping, which later merged to form a town. The streets in the oldest part of town still follow the pattern laid down by its Anglian founders. This was confirmed by archeological digs conducted on the Buttermarket Shopping Centre site.

Ipswich became a thriving community rich with specialist craftsmen: a near complete 'Ipswich ware' kiln was discovered on the dig mentioned by Keith Wade and his team. Trading ships went back and forth over the North Sea to what are now German Rhineland and Holland. The Speed map above shows the line of the rampart-and-ditch defences which ran from Common Quay on the Wet Dock, northwards and joining with the line of Fore Street, curving around the north of the town, past the North Gate and West Gate and southwards to Friars Bridge to the west (the Little Gipping River and extensive marshland define the remainder of the defence down to Stoke Bridge). Even on this early map the lines of houses inside the rampart are echoed by those outside it. The double row of streets/lanes (inside and outside the rampart) appears on the town maps from the early 17th century right up until the destruction wrought in the early 1960s to the west of the Anglo-Saxon town when Civic Drive was built more or less on the line of Tanners Lane and Lady Lane across the Mount area of dense housing.

Today's street names imposed onto the 1610 map
Ipswich Historic Lettering: map 1610 captions
As an exercise in imposing the present day names onto the early 17th century street plan, this illustrates that the Middle Saxon and medieval layout of streets is largely unchanged in the 20th century. The main exception is the Civic Drive area.


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