The contribution of William Francis Grimes to the Sutton Hoo excavations can sometimes be overlooked. Grimes was born in Pembroke and was an undergraduate at Cardiff where he read Latin; he then joined the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff where he initially worked on Roman pottery from Holt. However, his main interest was in prehistory, and in 1938 he joined the archaeological section of the Ordnance Survey. His expertise in working on organic materials was thought suitable for the excavation at Sutton Hoo where his ‘work in dissecting and removing the majority of the buried deposits was invaluable’ (AntJ 1940).
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.
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 reconstructed ship burial in the exhibition centre at National Trust Sutton Hoo includes the board game that was placed alongside the body. The original pieces are now in the British Museum.
Eddie Duggan writes:
We are beginning to plot out our visitor journey for the Department for Transport funded project. Train passengers will travel from Liverpool Street (or Stratford) to Ipswich, then change to the Lowestoft line, alighting either at Melton or at Woodbridge.
From Melton there is a short walk over the river bridge and then up the hill to the site of Sutton Hoo. Woodbridge, opposite the burial mounds, provides access to the waterfront and other visitor facilities such as restaurants and shops.
But King Raedwald is also in service with Abellio Greater Anglia (as a Class 90) on the Liverpool Street to Norwich line (change at Ipswich for Woodbridge and Melton for Sutton Hoo).
So next time you travel to Suffolk keep an eye out for Raedwald.
A group of us proposed a project, ‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’. This will involve using proximity prompts to encourage visitors to move from viewing the Sutton Hoo finds in the British Museum, the UK’s top tourist attraction (see here), to the find-spot in Suffolk. The app will provide information about how to get to Liverpool Street, how to buy tickets, where to change (at Ipswich), and where to alight (Woodbridge or Melton). It will then have further details of where to buy food and coffee, and how to walk (or find other transport) from the station.
Minister Claire Perry MP announced the winners yesterday (“Rail tourism winners announced“, 25 May 2016). The competition “offers grants to rail operators for innovative ideas and trials and is aimed particularly at heritage railways and community rail partnerships. It hopes to encourage more tourists and make it easier to explore the UK by rail.”
‘Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald’ was one of the 17 winners and the team members are looking forward to delivering the project over the next year.
Claire Perry MP commented: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that this project is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Suffolk.”
I will be exploring how heritage can be used to enhance the visitor experience in Suffolk at the Suffolk Inside Out conference at Trinity Park, Ipswich on 11 March 2016. (Further details are available here.) I will be using the cluster of Anglo-Saxon heritage sites that are found in the Ipswich and Woodbridge areas: Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge Waterfront, Rendlesham, the Ipswich Museum (with its Anglo-Saxon collections), and the Suffolk Record Office (with some of the Sutton Hoo records).
- Duncan Brodie, ‘UCS students line-up panel of expert speakers for Suffolk Inside Out tourism event‘, East Anglian Daily Times 19 February 2016.
The National Trust has announced various developments for Sutton Hoo:
Sutton Hoo Ship Helps Launch Exciting New Season
A new year will get underway in Anglo-Saxon style next weekend with a visit from the replica Sutton Hoo ship – the Sae Wylfing.
The National Trust site will be welcoming visitors seven days a week from Half Term until the end of October and will be marking the occasion with a special event on the weekend of 13 and 14 February.
Visitors will be able to learn more about the Anglo-Saxon ship burial, before climbing aboard and feeling what it might be like to be a Dark Age King. The Woodbridge Riverside Trust will be on hand to talk about the ship and how it was made.
Throughout the Half Term week, on some days, there will also be visits from King Raedwald himself, displaying and talking about his extraordinary treasures.
A new exhibition also opens on the same weekend called ‘Weaving Words’, celebrating Old English – the lost language of the Saxons, and the remarkable stories that were told around the feasting hall, with readings of poems like Beowulf in the original language.
And Sutton Hoo is also looking to the future by examining its past. Weather permitting, there will be an archaeological team on site on some days, conducting a geophysical survey with ground scanning equipment, and visitors will be encouraged to take part.
‘We are interested in developing a deeper archaeological understanding of this unique site,’ said National Trust Archaeologist Angus Wainwright. ‘And we’re also interested in finding out if our visitors are interested in getting more actively involved in archaeology here – who knows what secrets still lie beneath our feet?’
This year is set to be a particularly exciting one for Sutton Hoo, as it enters the first stage of the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project to redevelop the whole experience offered to visitors.
With its atmospheric burial mounds, exhibition hall, café and countryside, as well as Mrs Pretty’s house where you can discover the 1930s story of the dig, there will be plenty to do, see and get involved with at Sutton Hoo, not just this Half Term, but throughout the whole year.
Sutton Hoo is open every day from 10.30am to 5.00pm from 13 February until 30 October, and more details can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo