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Dominican friary (remains of), and a section of the east precinct wall

A Scheduled Monument in Alexandra, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.055 / 52°3'17"N

Longitude: 1.1583 / 1°9'30"E

OS Eastings: 616632.152954

OS Northings: 244329.36115

OS Grid: TM166443

Mapcode National: GBR TMW.5NG

Mapcode Global: VHLBT.1M70

Entry Name: Dominican friary (remains of), and a section of the east precinct wall

Scheduled Date: 13 April 1949

Last Amended: 24 May 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002966

English Heritage Legacy ID: SF 32

County: Suffolk

Electoral Ward/Division: Alexandra

Built-Up Area: Ipswich

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Ipswich St Clement with St Luke

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The scheduled remains of the Dominican friary, founded in 1263 by Henry III, including early to middle Saxon and later domestic occupation, as well as part of the C10 town defences.

Source: Historic England


The scheduled area of the Dominican friary includes foundations and surviving walls of the friary church: the nave, walking place and choir, as well as the sacristy and chapter house to the south of the choir, and a section of precinct wall to the west of the junction of Lower Orwell Street and Fore Street.

The scheduled area occupies a roughly L shaped space laid to grass and paths. The friary walls are delineated by consolidated septaria and flint, with the ten aisle piers marked as squares in the same way; the walking place between choir and nave is a tarmacked path. The short arm of the L extends south into the space between housing blocks and contains the sacristy and chapter house. The foundations of the north wall of the church do not survive, and are not within the scheduled area, but the west and south wall stand up to about 0.25 metres. At the west end of the nave, the stonework that defines the altars to either side of the entrance to the walking place and choir stands to about the same height. A wall defining the east end of the choir, constructed of septaria and flint, roughly coursed, stands to about 1.5 metres. To either side of the west end of the choir are resonance chambers, marked out at ground level, but defined in part by a single course of stonework. There was a chapel to the south of the choir, but this is not defined by surviving masonry, and is not included in the scheduled area.

The sacristy is to the south of the west end of the choir. Its north and south walls stand up to 0.50 metres but the east wall, historically preserved as a boundary wall, stands to about 3.5 metres. The lower part of the east side of the wall is a patchwork of brick and stone, with septaria above. Its west face contains restored blind arcading with ashlar quoins, the four reconstructed arches of different form and height. The chapter house is attached to the south side of the sacristy, with north, east and part of its south wall remaining to about 0.50 metres.

About 20 metres to the east of the east wall of the choir is a short section of precinct wall, surviving as consolidated septaria to a height of about 0.30 metres. To the centre of the east side of the wall, its outer face, is a small semi-circular protrusion, described in the site summary as a small buttress or mock turret. In the course of excavation 42 metres of wall was exposed running from north to south. A further section of wall was discovered to the south at the Shire Hall Yard site in 1981-1982. It is considered that the west precinct wall lies under the pavement on the east side of Foundation Street.

The excavations that took place in 1979 and from 1983-85 found some evidence of prehistoric and Romano-British occupation, and of settlement from c.600 onwards. From c.720 settlement across the whole site, representing all periods before the construction of the Dominican friary, included pits, wells, boundary fences, as well as both sunken featured and surface post built structures. Evidence of industry was also found in the form of Mid-Late Saxon iron smelting hearths and part of the bank and ditch of the Late Saxon (c.900) town defences were discovered to the east of the site. Two cemeteries were also revealed, in one of which, to the north of the site, 95 burials were uncovered; its full extent was not exposed, and clearly continues to the north. The west claustral ranges of the friary, including the parlour and refectory were identified, and that part of the south claustral range within the excavated area was examined. Part of an intramural road running between the north and south gates of the friary was also exposed. All earlier examined archaeological deposits were fully excavated; the south and west claustral ranges are now under housing.

The scheduled area incorporates the plan of the friary church, including the nave and south aisle, the walking place, tower and choir, as well as the sacristy and chapter house to the south of the choir, set within a small park bounded to the north and south by housing. A freestanding section of the precinct wall to the east of the church, about 4 metres to the west of the junction of Lower Orwell Street and Fore Street is included within a separate area of protection. This measures about 5.5 metres in length, from north to south, and 2 metres across, at its widest point.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The remains of the church, sacristy and chapter house, of the Dominican friary founded in 1263, as well as a section of precinct wall to the west of Lower Orwell Street, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: the upstanding remains are characteristic of a Dominican friary church and associated structures, constrained to occupy a restricted site; they represent significant elements of the buildings of an urban monastic order immediately before the Reformation;

* Documentation: the site is particularly well documented both archaeologically and historically, and the significance and understanding of the surviving remains of the friary buildings are enhanced by the records of archaeological investigations carried out in the 1980s to exacting standards, and also by contemporary and later historical records;

* Group value: its remains represent the considerable presence of friaries and other religious houses in the urban landscape of the Middle Ages, both in Ipswich and in other towns and cities throughout England, and it has value as a comparator with other Dominican friaries, where they survive as records or as standing remains. It is also representative of the other religious houses of Ipswich: its shared boundary with the town defences, and its setting within a space determined by its urban location, are reminders of the close inter-relationship between social and religious aspects of life in the Middle Ages. The friary also forms a significant part of the rich and diverse nationally (and internationally) important archaeology of medieval Ipswich;

* Potential: the archaeological potential of the site is limited; although deposits may remain beneath the footings of the friary buildings and precinct wall, the main potential of the site is as a source of information, education and enjoyment of the historic environment.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blinkhorn, Paul, The Ipswich Ware project: ceramics, trade and society in Middle Saxon England, (2012)
Wade, K, 'The Urbanization of East Anglia – the Ipswich perspective' in Gardiner,, Flatlands and Wetlands: Current Themes in East Anglian Archaeology. East Anglian Archaeology (EAA) 50, (1993), 144-151
Wade, K, 'Ipswich' in Hodges, R, Hobley, B, The Rebirth of Towns in the West, (1988), 93-100
Scull, C, 'The Buttermarket Cemetery and the origins of Ipswich in the 7th Century AD' in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology , , Vol. 43, (2013), 144-151
Blatchley, J, Wade, K, 'Excavations at Ipswich Blackfriars' in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of , , Vol. ?, (1977), 25-46
Gilyard Beer, R, 'Ipswich Blackfriars' in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, , Vol. ?, (1977), 15-23
British History online A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2, accessed 18th Nov 2015 from
Ipswich 1974-1990 Excavation Archive, Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service 2015 , accessed 18th Nov 2015 from
Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service Historic Environment Record

Source: Historic England

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