Mezz Floors is based in the lovely market town of Haverhill, Suffolk. We’ve been here for a number of years now and we appreciate the town for its people and its charms. However, it also hides a fascinating 2000-year old history as a settlement for Iron Age people, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Normans, which we thought we’d dig into a bit.
Iron Age to Roman
Archaeologists have found evidence of Iron Age settlement in what is now Haverhill. Some ancient artefacts that shed light on just how long ago there were people enjoying the sights of Haverhill (the sights would certainly been a bit different 2000 years ago).
When the Romans arrived in Britain in 55BC under the command of Julius Caesar, the area encompassing Haverhill was under the control of two different tribes of Britons, to the north were the Iceni (the tribe famous for later being led by Boudicca during the Roman conquest) and to the south were the Trinovantes.
In the period between Caesar’s expedition and the full-scale invasion in AD 43 by Claudius, some of the Trinovantes were absorbed by another tribe called the Catuvellauni. This tribe fought the invasion and were defeated while the Iceni stayed out of it, until an uprising in AD 47. There was then a more serious revolt in AD 60 under Boudicca. There’s evidence of a battle that happened near Haverhill in AD 60 in which the Iceni and the remaining Trinovantes joined forces and managed to lay siege to Colchester, smashing the garrison there. The Iceni were eventually defeated.
By AD 61, the Romans were now in control over the area where Haverhill now stands. There’s archaeological evidence of Roman buildings in the area, with a dig in 2013 revealing an Ancient Roman farmstead from the 1st or 2nd Century AD. They built roads and various settlements around the area, including at Wixoe, which is regarded as a major settlement by archaeologists.
In 410, the Romans left Britain to defend their homelands from barbarian attacks. For the next 500 years, records are a bit sparse, given the nature of the Dark Ages.
Anglo-Saxon and Norman
Haverhill got its name during the Anglo-Saxon period, when the area was conquered by a marauding Danish pirate named Haver. He was born Hjalmar, but his Danish father and Norwegian mother meant that his compatriots named him Halfdane, or Haver. The pirate went onto to kill King Edmund (who Bury St Edmunds is named after), conquer Wessex and force King Alfred to sue for peace. Haver then drowned when his fleet ran into trouble off the Irish coast.
Haverhill isn’t mentioned by name until the Domesday Book of 1086. Since about 1050, it had been an Anglo-Saxon market town and it was about then when the church was built. Given the fact that it’s about halfway between Cambridge and Sudbury, the initial settlement here was mainly for selling provisions to travellers.
After the Norman invasion of 1066, Haverhill was given by William the Conqueror to the Bishop of Bayeaux, Richard of Clare and Tihel of Helean. The medieval town was developed around Burton End, where there was a church dedicated to St Marys. The 1086 Domesday Book entry recorded 54 households and 20 woodland pigs in Haverhill.
There was an excavation in 1997 of the old Burton End church. 355 individual graves were found and upon analysing the skeletons, the Norman-era residents of Haverhill were found to live to about 45 and suffered from osteoarthritis and dental disease.