Battle Abbey was established on the top of the hill that formed a central part of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The battlefield is now an integral part of the English Heritage site and visitors are able to walk the slopes where interpretation boards help to explain the different stages of the engagement.
The new viewing platform adjacent to the site of the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo is developing. At the moment it looks rather stark against the tree line but the plan is to blend it into the background.
The 2014 temporary tower gave a totally new perspective on the site. I very much hope that the new tower will help visitors to understand a little bit more about the site.
Visitors to the cemetery at Sutton Hoo sometimes find it hard to visualise a ship under the mound. The NLHF supported project has allowed a ship sculpture to be inserted in the courtyard next to the cafe and shop. The central part maps out the finds on the ‘burial chamber’.
This contrasts with the reconstructed display in the original exhibition at the site.
I have been reviewing the summer and thinking about the key heritage sites in Suffolk. I have put the ten locations in a broadly chronological order.
Sutton Hoo. The Anglo-Saxon ship-burial site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the UK. The spectacular finds are displayed in the British Museum.
The Abbey of St Edmund. The abbey precinct contains the ruined abbey as well as two impressive gatehouses. The present cathedral stands alongside the former abbey church.
Blythburgh church. Suffolk has numerous medieval churches but Blythburgh is probably one of the most impressive. The setting with the marshes enhances the visit.
Lavenham, Guildhall. The Guildhall at Lavenham stood at the heart of the medieval community.
Clare Castle. It is hard to beat a castle that has a (disused) railway station in its outer bailey. The castle provides good views over Clare with its splendid church.
Orford Castle. The castle at Orford provides a wonderful platform to view part of the Suffolk coast including the twentieth century Cold War remains on Orford Ness.
Ickworth. The Rotunda at Ickworth dominates the landscape and can be viewed from the Italianate gardens.
Museum of East Anglian Life. This outdoor museum in Stowmarket brings together different elements of rural life in the region. The riverside walk provides a good opportunity to spot wildlife.
East Anglia Transport Museum. This gem of a museum provides train, tram and trolleybus rides, exhibits of signs, and displays from the now dismantled Southwold railway.
Newmarket, Palace House. Newmarket is synonymous with horseracing and the exhibitions have everything from Greek pottery to modern art, physiological displays, and memorabilia. Visitors can even take an automated ride.
This is very much a personal list, and it reflects some of the key locations.
Some investigatory excavations were taking place at National Trust Sutton Hoo this last week in preparation for the construction of a viewing tower adjacent to the mound where the ship burial was excavation. This HLF funded project will enhance the public experience of what is one of the most important archaeological sites in Suffolk.
Archaeologists from MOLA have been investigating a Bronze Age ditch feature (with some contextualised pottery).
In 2015 a temporary scaffolding tower was erected to see how it changed the way that the public viewed the mounds.
I have noted before the 1922 Office of Works guide to Old Sarum. In 1965 H. de S. Shortt prepared an illustrated guide to Old Sarum for the MPBW in the format that had been produced in the 1950s for other sites in State Guardianship. The cover is based on the 1819 map prepared by Henry Wansey. One of the first features is a double page spread (pp. 4–5) providing a plan for the castle, the outer bailey and the original cathedral. The guide starts with the situation, noting paintings by John Constable (reproduced in the centre pages), before moving into the historical outline with sub-sections on prehistory, Roman-Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and then later periods. It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell. There is then a guide to the remains, both the inner bailey, as well as the old cathedral. There are two appendices: A note on the name of Old Sarum; Saint Osmund; Excavations at or adjoining Old Sarum.
The guide continued to be in print until 1990. The plan of the castle had been placed on a foldout sheet inside the back cover.
The 1990 guide has the Gateway logo.
Derek Renn prepared the English Heritage guide (1994). The two main sections are ‘What to see’ (no longer, ‘a tour’ or ‘a description’), and ‘The story of Old Sarum’ (not ‘a history’). A pictorial ‘tour’ is provided in the centre pages. It contains sections on prehistory, Rome, as well as the Normans. One section addresses ‘From city to rotten borough’.
Renn had earlier prepared the MPBW souvenir guide to Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall (1969), and the English Heritage guidebooks for Orford and Framlingham Castles (1988), Goodrich Castle (1993).
The latest English Heritage guide is by John McNeill, with fold out plans inside the front and back covers. The two main sections are the tour, and a history, with features on the demolition of the cathedral and beneath the ramparts, showing some of the early investigations of the site.
The Saxon Shore fort of Reculver in Kent is in the care of English Heritage. Parts of the Roman fort has been eroded into the sea. In the 7th century the fort became the site for the foundation of an Anglo-Saxon minster. The site was placed in Site Guardianship in 1950.
Stuart E. Rigold wrote a short guide to the site in 1971. This followed the format of the DOE concertina card guides (see also Hardknott Roman fort; Hetty Pegler’s Tump). There are 6 columns of text (the fort, the minster) on one side (with a small plan of the fort and church), a series of images including a plan of the 7th-15th century ecclesiastical structures.
The present English Heritage guide by Tony Wilmott covers the two Saxon Shore forts in Kent, Reculver and Richborough.
The National Trust has been awarded £1.8 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund to enhance the visitor experience at Sutton Hoo. One of the projects will be to create a 17 m high viewing tower to give some visitors views of the burial ground. Tranmer House, overlooking the cemetery, will be the home for a new interpretative exhibition.
Battle Abbey, Sussex. The Abbey was founded on the site of William I’s victory at the battle of Hastings. It seems likely that it was founded at some point after 1070, and the choir of the new abbey was consecrated in 1076. The completed abbey was consecrated in February 1094. The first four monks came from the abbey of Marmoutier Abbey in the Loire. [EH]
Boxgrove Priory, West Sussex. Founded c. 1117 from abbey of Lessay in Normandy. [EH]
Westminster Abbey. The Pyx Chamber is in State Guardianship. [EH]
Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Suffolk. The monastery was the resting place of the body of king Edmund killed in 903. The Benedictine abbey was found in 1020. [EH]
Colchester, St John’s Abbey, Essex. The abbey was founded in 1095 to the south of the town. The 15th century gatehouse is in State Guardianship. [EH]
Isleham Priory, Cambridgeshire. The priory was founded c. 1100. The priory church is in State Guardianship. [EH]
Denny Abbey, Cambridgeshire. Founded in 1159, and passed to the Knights Templars in 1170. [EH]
Binham Priory, Norfolk. The priory was founded in 1091 from St Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire. [EH]
Abbotsbury Abbey, Dorset. The abbey was founded in 1044. [EH]
Ewenny Priory, Glamorgan. The Benedictine priory was founded by Maurice de Londres in 1141. It was founded from the abbey of St Peter in Gloucester that had links with the earlier church at Ewenny established 1116-26. [Cadw]
The North-East and Yorkshire
Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire. The first monastery at Whitby was established by Abbess Hild in 657 at the prompting of king Oswy of Northumbria. The Synod of Whitby was held in 664. The monastery was probably destroyed during the Viking raids c. 867. In the years after the Norman conquest the monastery was established, probably c. 1078, by Reinfrid, from the Benedictine monastery of Evesham. The church was constructed c. 1090. [EH]
Jarrow Priory, Tyne and Wear. Founded from Durham between 1075-83. [EH]
Finchale Priory, Durham. The origins lie in the hermitage of St Godric that continued until 1196 when it became a priory linked to Durham Cathedral. [EH]
Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland. The first monastery was founded in 635. It was destroyed by a Viking raid in 793. In 1069 St Cuthbert’s remains were brought to the island from Durham to protect them during the Norman raids of the north. After 1083 Benedictine monks linked to Durham arrived at the older monastery site on Holy Island. The church was probably constructed from the 1120s. [EH]
Tynemouth Priory, Tyne and Wear. The first monastery at Tynemouth was probably established in the late 8th century, part of the kingdom of Northumbria. It was important as the burial site of king Osred II of Northumbria. The monastery was probably destroyed in 875. A church on the site was destroyed during the early years of the Norman conquest, and the location given to the monks of Jarrow some time after 1074. A new church was built in 1083. Some after 1090 the monastery was given to the Benedictine abbey of St Albans in Hertfordshire by Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumberland. [EH]
Wetheral Priory, Cumbria. founded in the early 12th century. [EH]
Dunfermline Abbey, Fife. Founded c. 1070, perhaps as the earliest Benedictine community in Scotland. The abbey was established in 1128. [HES]
Iona Abbey. The Benedictine community was established in 1200. [HES]
There are preparations underway at Sutton Hoo for the ‘Summer Solstice’ weekend. One of the displays includes (reconstructed) material from Switzerland that was contemporary with the Sutton Hoo burial.