Ipswich invasions timeline
Invaders and tribes

Why was Ipswich a target for so many raiders and invaders in history? The following selective timeline is based largely on
Sylvia Laverton's book The early settlement of a unique Suffolk region (see Reading list).

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 Roman Empire.

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 tides.

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 forties.

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.

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Viking invadersAD 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 (later
Augustine of Canterbury) 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 Mediterranean. 

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 Wessex dynasty.

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. After the invasion of AD 869 Ipswich fell under Viking rule. The earth ramparts circling the town centre were probably raised by Vikings in Ipswich around 900 to prevent its recapture by the English; they were unsuccessful.

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 Danish 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 , apparently intent 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. Cnut's forces entered the orwell and sized Gipeswic.  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 (1042-1066) died, succeeded briefly by Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex. In September Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, aided by Tostig (
Harold Godwinson's brother, now a sworn enemy), invaded England, but they were defeated and killed by Harold on 25 September at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, near York. Three days later William of Normandy (c.1028 - c.1087) landed in England. Harold Godwinson's defeat by the army of William brought to an end 600 years of Anglo-Saxon rule. King William I was crowned King of England in December. 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. Gipeswic was ruled by Roger Bigod (died 1107), Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.

A.D. 1069. Sweyn of Denmark sailed up the Orwell, but was defeated by Roger Bigod, Robert Malet and Ralph Wader, near Ipswich.

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 1086 ('now').

A.D 1101. Henry I (c.1069 - 1135), the fourth son of William the Conqueror who was killed in a hunting accident in August 1100, had himself crowned a few days later, taking advantage of hios brother Robert's absence on crusade. Robert invaded England in 1101 Henry, with some popular and baronial support, agreed an amicable settlement. Robert relinquished his claim in return for Henry's territories in Normandy and a large annuity. But his chaotic reign of Normandy prompted Henry to invade. He routed Robert's army at Tinchebrai in 1106, capturing Robert and holding him prisoner for life.

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 Conquest.

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 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

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.

The Germanic peoples are a category of north European ethnic groups, first mentioned by Graeco-Roman authors. They are also associated with Germanic languages, which originated and dispersed among them, and are one of several criteria used to define Germanic ethnicity. The terms Germanic peoples/tribes and Germani are therefore used by modern scholars to avoid confusion with the inhabitants of present-day Germany (‘Deutschland’), including the modern German (‘Deutsche’) people and language.

Vikings were the seafaring Norse people (a North Germanic ethnolinguistic group of the Early Middle Ages, during which they spoke the Old Norse language) from southern Scandinavia – present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

To illustrate the complexities of
the early history of continental Europe, here are some further expressions.
Gauls (as referred to by their enemies, the Romans) were of Celtic origin, who were distinct from Germanic tribes who were also in modern-day France. They maintained a stronghold in France, but as a loose knit nation of tribes, and a culture, from 500 BCE to about AD 500, when, after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west of Europe, were set back by many Germanic attacks. Through time, the Gauls mixed with the Germanic cultures and others, and would eventually become the mix of people which compose of today’s modern France, along with other ethnicities mixed in. While the concentration of the Gallic peoples proper resided in modern day central France, the Gauls were actually an extended group that spanned all the way to Italy, Netherlands, England, and Ireland, and were known by the ancient Greeks in the days of the humble beginnings of the Roman empire.

Franks were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the Lower Rhine and the Ems River, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Western Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples. Still later, Frankish rulers were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.

The Merovingian dynasty was the ruling family of the Franks from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as ‘Kings of the Franks’ in the Roman army of northern Gaul. By 509 they had united all the Franks and northern Gaulish Romans under their rule. They conquered most of Gaul, defeating the Visigoths (507) and the Burgundians (534), and also extended their rule into Raetia (537). In Germania, the Alemanni, Bavarii and Saxons accepted their lordship. The Merovingian realm was the largest and most powerful of the states of western Europe following the breaking up of the empire of Theoderic the Great.

We now leave you to pursue your own researches into this cauldron of history...

See also:
Grand Ipswich timeline for two thousand years of the town's history;
Christchurch/Holy Trinity Priory timeline;
Wolsey's College timeline;
Historic Maps page for a note about the Ipswich claim to be the earliest continuously settled town in England;
Kings and Queens timelines (which includes architectural styles).

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