The ground level view of the royal burial ground at Sutton Hoo is completely different to that obtained from the new viewing platform. Visitors may be unaware that the site is criss-crossed by glider ditches that were cut during the Second World War.
The new viewing platform at Sutton Hoo provides wonderful views over the burial ground. The mound that contained the key ship-burial is closest to the platform, but it is now clear to the viewer that the mound is placed in a much wider funerary setting. The mounds take on new forms seen from this height.
From the other side of the platform it is possible to see the Deben and Woodbridge, giving a sense of the proximity of the burial-ground to the river.
The temporary tower had provided some new vistas of the mounds but this new platform places the visitor in one of the key locations.
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.”