Lidgate in Suffolk has achieved an accolade placing it on equal footing with such historically important sites as the Tower of London. Following a summer of research by Lidgate Archaeology Group, Historic England has agreed to widen the Scheduled Ancient Monument site of Lidgate Castle, in recognition of the national importance of the remains of a medieval town known as a ‘planted borough’ that began to grow up in its foothills, as well as its historic importance as a 12th Century defensive site.
With its Roman villa at one end and the C12th Castle site at the other, as well as beautiful medieval St Mary’s church and many Listed dwellings, Lidgate offers archaeologists and historians a treasure trove of opportunities to understand our past. Now thanks to this announcement by Historic England the almost uniquely undisturbed area around the one of Suffolk’s few castles will be better protected.
The Scheduling has now been enlarged to include the whole of the Inner and Outer Bailey as well as the wider earthwork remains of the later C16th fortified manorial complex including the Bailey Pond. This re-assessment of the extent and importance of the castle remains has been made possible by various investigations including topographical survey, trial trenching, geophysical survey, LiDAR (remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth), map regression analysis and aerial photography, the latter helped by this year’s wonderful dry summer.
Data gathered strongly suggests that the surviving remains of the Castle extend far beyond the previous scheduled area. Parts of the external banks of the inner and outer castle bailey, the banks and ditches defining the C16th remodelled fortified manorial complex, building platforms and terracing south of the church and the Bailey Pond all lay outside the previous protected area.
According to Historic England, “All these features have a high level of archaeological potential to further improve our understanding of the castle and the social and economic context in which it functioned.”*
Commenting on the importance of the site, Professor Mark Bailey of the University of East Anglia, one of the world’s leading authorities on medieval England, said:
“Lidgate represents the only example in the county--and one of the few examples in the country--of an undisturbed medieval market place and planted borough in pristine archaeological condition. All other medieval boroughs in Suffolk still exist as towns and so their archaeological record has been mostly lost through constant rebuilding. This makes Lidgate a site of first rate importance.