The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available. West Suffolk has been placed at 122nd in England: Ipswich is at 87th, and East Suffolk at 98th. West Suffolk’s strengths have been identified as Culture and Memories (69th) and Landscape and Natural Heritage (72nd). Surprisingly, given the importance of Bury St Edmunds, the Historic Built Environment is placed at 165th and Museums, Archives and Artefacts at 173rd.
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.
The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership has received £9,900 from the HLF to develop its interpretation of the abbey precinct (“Abbey of St Edmund project gains National Lottery backing“, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Press Release, 8 June 2018).
The money from the Heritage Lottery Fund will help prepare for the work that will take place after those studies are completed, by enabling the Heritage Partnership to develop organisational capacity and establish an independent not-for-profit organisation. It will also be used to procure management consultancy, skills training and IT equipment and to enable lessons to be learned from the success of another project at a former Benedictine Abbey elsewhere in the country.
That in turn will mean that it will be better positioned to raise funds in the future while also developing the capacity required to deliver on major heritage and education projects.
The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership is led by St Edmundsbury Cathedral in collaboration with St Edmundsbury Borough Council and representatives of Suffolk County Council, Historic England, English Heritage, the University of East Anglia, the University of Suffolk, the Bury Society and several local community groups as well as specialist architects, historians and archaeologists.
The RSA Heritage Index is using the erection of blue plaques as one of the indicators of heritage in a locality (‘Cultures and Memories’). I realise that these numbers could be out of date. The Ipswich Society lists 22 for Ipswich (see Open Plaques), whereas the Bury Society lists 8 for Bury St Edmunds. Other parts of the county also mark individuals, e.g. Aldeburgh, Woodbridge.
Historic England has indicated that the tennis courts located immediately to the east of the crypt of the abbey of St Edmund can be moved and relocated on the other side of the river (“Historic England approves relocation of Abbey’s tennis courts“, BBC News 8 March 2018). The abbey and its precinct is subject to two consultancy studies (see here).
The Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership is seeking to record and interpret the remains of the Benedictine abbey in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Richard Summers will be talking about the work of the partnership on Wednesday 21 February 2018 at 4.30 pm in the Waterfront Building of the University of Suffolk. The event forms part of the Heritage Futures research seminar series.
Places can be reserved via Eventbrite. All are welcome and there is no charge.
Further details about the project can be found here.
For the abbey:
In the South Transept was the Chapel of St Nicholas.
The crossing stood below the central tower with the choir stalls immediately to the west at the head of the nave. The nave was constructed during the time of Abbot Anselm (1119-1148).
To the east of the crossing lay the high altar and beneath it the crypt.
The importance of heritage to Suffolk will be the focus of the Second Coffeehouse event in Bury St Edmunds on Thursday 9 February 2017 at the Deanery.
Further details and booking can be found here. The meeting is open to Fellows and non-Fellows.
The Abbot’s Bridge takes the precinct wall of the abbey over the river Lark. The bridge is adjacent to the east gate of the town on the north-east corner of the precinct. The bridge dates to the 13th century.