Top 10 Heritage Sites for Suffolk

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Sutton Hoo © David Gill

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.

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The gatehouse to the Abbey, Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

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.

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Blythburgh © David Gill

Blythburgh church. Suffolk has numerous medieval churches but Blythburgh is probably one of the most impressive. The setting with the marshes enhances the visit.

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Lavenham © David Gill

Lavenham, Guildhall. The Guildhall at Lavenham stood at the heart of the medieval community.

Clare Castle

Clare Castle © David Gill

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.

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Orford Castle © David Gill

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.

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Ickworth © David Gill

Ickworth. The Rotunda at Ickworth dominates the landscape and can be viewed from the Italianate gardens.

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Museum of East Anglian Life © David Gill

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.

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East Anglia Transport Museum © David Gill

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.

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Palace House, Newmarket © David Gill

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.

 

Sutton Hoo: a dry summer

My photographs of Sutton Hoo taken in May and August of this year show how the high temperatures and low rainfall have had transformed the archaeological landscape of NT Sutton Hoo. The dry conditions are highlighting features.

Board Game at Sutton Hoo

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Reconstructed ship burial at National Trust Sutton Hoo © David Gill

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:

It looks like hnefatafl – but all the bits are the same colour! 
The pieces are on the lines rather than in the spaces (alea evangelii may have been played on the lines, but alea evangelii was also probably intended as a symbolic use of the board [cf Wink Martindale’s “Deck of Cards”] rather than as a playable board game that was played for fun).  
If it is hnefatafl, pieces would play on the squares and there would be 24 attacking pieces and 12 defenders (together with defending a king); the defending pieces’ starting position is in a  symmetrical arrangement around the king while the attacking forces are grouped in sixes on each of the four sides. The aim is to get the king to safety, although which squares constitute safety is a matter of debate due to Linnaeus (the botanist) failing to make accurate notes during his tour of Lappland (Lachesis lapponica).
 

Alight here for Sutton Hoo

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Melton Railway Station © David Gill

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.

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Woodbridge riverside and railway station © David Gill

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.

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King Raedwald and Sutton Hoo

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Abellio Greater Anglia ‘Raedwald of East Anglia’ © David Gill

Our Heritage Tourism project evokes King Raedwald. In one sense there is the debate over the view that Raedwald could have been buried at Sutton Hoo (see ODNB entry).

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.

Travel Back in Time with King Raedwald

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In March 2016 the Department for Transport announced a £1 million fund to make it easier to travel by rail. Minister Claire Perry MP has spoken about the ‘great ideas’ that had been put forward.

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.”

Visiting the Saxon Shore

Visiting_the_Saxon_ShoreI 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).