A second season of excavations at Rendlesham, Suffolk, has revealed the remains of a 1,400-year-old royal hall built for the first kings of East Anglia.
The Venerable Bede specified in their 8th-century writings that the Saxon Kings of East Anglia ruled from a royal residence at Rendelsham.
Precious metalwork and coinage recovered during a pilot project of systematic survey and small-scale excavations, carried out in 2008-2017, provided the first evidence of the Anglo-Saxon settlement.
The foundations of the large and elaborate timber hall were unearthed in the summer of 2022 during excavations by the community archaeology project Rendlesham Revealed, run by the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, working with Cotswold Archaeology and volunteers from the local community, and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Two large trenches were opened at the site – the precise location of which has not been disclosed in order to protect the archaeology – revealing the foundations of the timber hall, which measures 23m in length and 10m wide, and lies in a royal compound spanning six hectares. The team excavated a boundary ditch surrounding the compound, which is set within a larger settlement of more than 50 hectares.
A wide array of Saxon artefacts including dress jewellery and fragments of glass vessels and pottery were uncovered, along with a wealth of animal bones (comprising mostly cattle and pig) that offer evidence of food preparation and feasting.
The compound, which is thought to probably contain the remains of other monumental halls, would have been where the first Kings of the East Angles, accompanied by their household and armed retinue, received diplomatic envoys, distributed gifts, held feasts, and administered justice.
It has been suggested that the site could have some association with the nearby ‘princely’ burial mound at Sutton Hoo.
‘The results of this season’s excavation are of international importance,’ said Professor Christopher Scull, principal academic advisor for Rendlesham Revealed. ‘Rendlesham is the most extensive and materially wealthy settlement of its date known in England, and excavation of the Hall confirms that this is the royal residence recorded by Bede.’
The site has now been backfilled, and post-excavation analysis of the finds will begin soon.
Visit heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/rendlesham to find out more about Rendlesham Revealed.