Top 10 Heritage Sites for Suffolk

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ickworth © David Gill

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

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.

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.

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.


Alight here for Sutton Hoo

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.

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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Secret places, future spaces

WP_20160118_11_36_37_ProI took a walk yesterday around the eastern perimeter of the former RAF station at Oakington, along the new(ish) guided busway which links St Ives with Cambridge.  This is itself built on the trackbed of a former railway line, features of which can still be seen in villages along the route.  This is a complicated landscape, where aside from the historic and prehistoric remains in surrounding villages and fields, the meeting of past, recent past, present and future are being played out as the area gradually morphs into a newly created town, called Northstowe.

WP_20160118_11_37_16_ProMilitary sites are by their nature of being off limits interesting – they have their own language of architecture and design, and are usually hidden away from view.  The site at Oakington has been airfield and barracks, and following decommissioning as a military site saw a new lease of life as an immigration reception centre during the 1990s.  It is now about to be transformed again as part of a new settlement designed to ease pressure on housing in and around Cambridge.  The site has come on to the radar (pun intended) of urban explorers (urbex), and fans of derelict and abandoned places, as well as military historians.  It can still be an interesting journey on the road which runs around the outside of the western perimeter of the site, linking Oakington and Longstanton – as the route is not officially designated as an open highway.  Occasionally Police still stop people driving along the road, and on some maps the route still does not appear.

In advance of the new town appearing, the abandoned railway line has metamorphosed into a new type of hybrid transport corridor, dedicated to buses, and having its own unique architectural design language.  Tracks and footpaths in the surrounding fields have been opened up in a programme of recreation access and interpretation – and the example shown is an interesting example which blends past, recent, present and future.  A hybrid heritage sign indeed which has already acquired the patina of age.



Roman Waterways in Cambridgeshire

Reach Lode © David Gill
Reach Lode © David Gill

It is possible to detect some of the Roman waterways constructed in the Cambridgeshire fens. One of the more easily accessible is Reach Lode that can be visited from National Trust Wicken Fen on their boat the ‘Mayfly’ (via Wicken Lode). Reach Lode joins the river Cam at Upware.

The classic study is by C.W. Phillips (ed.), The Fenland in Roman Times (London: The Royal Geographical Society, 1970).

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