Suffolk History

Suffolk and the Ice Age

Suffolk’s chalky clay soils are formed from ’till’ or ‘boulder clay’—this is material that was scraped up by the great Anglian Glaciation about 470,000–430,000 years ago and then left behind when the ice sheet melted. In places this layer is nearly 70 metres thick. Nearly all of Suffolk was covered by the Anglian Glaciation but no subsequent ice sheets reached this far south—the last glaciation, which ended about 10,000 years ago, only reached the north Norfolk coast. On either side of the clay till are areas with sandy soils. These are the result of ‘outwash’ from the melting glaciers and of windblows from the main glacial deposits.

Early history

Suffolk has the earliest site offering evidence of tool-making in the whole country at High Lodge near Mildenhall. Flint tools made by Homo heidelbergensis half a million years ago, in a warm interval during the Ice Age, have been found there. As the ice sheets melted, the sea level rose and Britain eventually became an island in about 6000 BC. By 4000 BC Neolithic people—who had learned to grow crops and keep animals—had arrived in Suffolk. These New Stone Age farmers favoured sandy soils (which we think of as less productive) because they are easy to cultivate. The heavy clay soils of central Suffolk probably remained largely forested until the latter part of the Iron Age, in the final centuries BC. The Romans landed in AD43 and ruled Britain for nearly 400 years. Boudica’s revolt in AD60-61 is notorious. Her people, the Iceni, lived in Norfolk and the northern half of Suffolk. (more…)