Archaeological preservation is a key element of ScottishPower Renewables’ (SPR) wind farm developments off the Suffolk coast.

As part of its promise to complete all survey and construction work sensitively, SPR has liaised with local and national partners, uncovering some fascinating finds along the way – including the uncharted wreck of a German First World War submarine.

One of the most interesting discoveries was a wrought iron anchor found at the bottom of the southern North Sea during survey works for the East Anglia ONE offshore wind farm.

The anchor was put on temporary display at Ipswich Museum in 2022 and attracted over 300 visitors in one afternoon.

“While we initially thought it could be as early as Roman, it is a bit younger at 500-600 years old, but cutting-edge imaging of the internal structure shows that it bridges the gap between the medieval method of hand forging and the earliest industrialisation,” said Brandon Mason of Maritime Archaeology Ltd, the retained archaeologist for East Anglia ONE.

“It’s the missing link in the process of creating a piece of technology that changed so little in its external appearance over two millennia, and one we wouldn’t have discovered without the careful development of the wind farm and the resourcing to study this find.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Brandon Mason with the unique anchor found during survey works for East Anglia ONEBrandon Mason with the unique anchor found during survey works for East Anglia ONE (Image: SPR)
Brandon works closely with consents compliance project manager Mark McMullin (right) and SPR’s offshore development team to ensure any impact on the offshore historic environment is minimised.

“The project also has a fantastic working relationship with advisors at Historic England, undertaking monthly updates with them since I have been involved from 2015,” Brandon said.

Most of the offshore archaeological work is based on remote sensing – utilising geophysical techniques such as side sonar, magnetometry or sonar bathymetry.

This enables archaeological exclusion zones to be designated around sensitive features which are respected by all vessels and activities, and which are monitored through repeat survey every few years.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark McMullin, consents compliance project manager at ScottishPower RenewablesMark McMullin, consents compliance project manager at ScottishPower Renewables (Image: SPR)
Extensive archaeological work has also been completed along the onshore cable corridor connecting SPR’s wind farms to the National Grid electricity network.

This activity is now in progress for East Anglia THREE, with fieldwork on East Anglia ONE carried out in 2017 and 2018.

The largest set of archaeological excavation areas was on the Deben peninsula in Bawdsey, where up to 500 years of continuous Iron Age and Roman settlement left behind tens of thousands of shards of pottery, a large quantity of animal bone (including a fragment of whale bone), and evidence of salt-making.

“A number of ditches found during the same excavations marked out domestic enclosures representing lost fragments of medieval Bawdsey, and perhaps also a domestic enclosure on the outskirts of the poorly documented medieval port of Goseford,” said Marta Menchi, senior project manager (offshore development).

“Not far to the west near Martlesham, across the River Deben, charred grain found in a pit has provided very early evidence of cereal cultivation from about 5,400 years ago, during the early Neolithic period.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Marta Menchi, senior project manager (offshore development)Marta Menchi, senior project manager (offshore development) (Image: SPR)
Traces of medieval buildings were found further inland, as well as some dating to the late Bronze Age.

“Settlements of this period have until recently been hard to identify archaeologically, but the linear character of the East Anglia ONE corridor has provided an opportunity,” said Marta.

All the onshore discoveries are now being analysed by The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU), while the underwater finds are being cared for by the Maritime Archaeology Trust and the Mary Rose Trust.

East Anglian Daily Times: All of the archaeological finds are currently being analysed by experts ahead of publication and archiving in 2026All of the archaeological finds are currently being analysed by experts ahead of publication and archiving in 2026 (Image: SPR)
The programme is set to conclude in 2026 with the publication of reports, books and journal articles, plus the archiving of artefacts and records with Suffolk County Council.

“You never know what you’re going to find”, said Marta, “so we always expect the unexpected!”

Mark added: “Ultimately, it’s about sharing what we’ve uncovered about the region’s past while delivering a cleaner and greener future. It’s exciting to be part of that.”

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This article is part of LOCALiQ's Clean & Green campaign, which aims to promote our region as the biggest in the UK and Europe for all forms of renewable energy.