Six reasons why you need to visit the new-look Sutton Hoo
PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 October 2019
Sutton Hoo, where one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the world was unearthed, has seen some major changes this year thanks to an injection of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Having been opened to the public since 1998, here's six new reasons why Suffolk's most famous historical site is worth another look.
1) New art installations
Textile artist Annette Morgan has created a 13-metre long art exhibit piece called A Landscape Speaks, inspired by the scenery at the site and historical maps dating back to the 1600s. It has been created using recycled and natural fibres, including fleece from the sheep that wander the site, and has been in the making since 2018. It now hangs in the High Hall.
Ms Morgan said: "I found this such an interesting project to work on, firstly amassing ideas from the Sutton Hoo landscape, old maps of the site and historical artefacts, and then working with the volunteers to make the hanging.
"It was a joy to work on with such enthusiastic and talented people."
Also dotted around the site are a series of art installations called Pictures in the Landscape, using historic images providing a 'now and then' vision for visitors.
2) New ship sculpture
The sculpture of the Anglo-Saxon burial ship has also been given a makeover with a specially commissioned version - which now represents the actual size of the 27-metre long original.
Standing proudly on display in the courtyard, the steel sculpture is a unique and stunning portrayal of the skeleton ship in the sand.
Project manager Mike Hopwood said: "We want you to get excited about the discovery at Sutton Hoo from the moment you arrive. To be met with a full size ghostly representation of the ship found here will allow our visitors to begin to digest just how remarkable this story is from the moment they set foot on site."
3) River view walking trail
The revitalisation of Sutton Hoo continued with the creation of a new walking route which opened in springtime, tracing the path the burial ship would have taken. From arriving on the River Deben to being hauled up on to the heathland for the entombment of the 7th century ruler with his vessel, not far from his palace at Rendlesham, the new walk is a stunning retrace of the King's final journey.
4) High Hall (formerly the Exhibition Hall) and Tranmer House
The High Hall showcasing the legendary tale and Tranmer House, the former home of Mrs Edith Pretty who discovered the find, have been completely overhauled. New installations have been added to tell us more about the lives of the Anglo-Saxons and the history of the now famous 7th century burial site. Using interactive exhibitions which include a miniature cinema telling the tale of the discovery, and an array of replica artefacts including glittering jewels, swords and shields and of course the infamous helmet which has become the emblem of the Sutton Hoo unearthing.
5) Keeper's Cafe
Joining the King's River Cafe is the new snack bar Keeper's Cafe. Located near Tranmer House offering a range of drinks and light bites, the new cafe comes equipped with outdoor seating and picnic rugs where you can relax in the splendour of the Sutton Hoo landscape and appreciate river views of the Deben.
6) Viewing tower
The final jewel in the Sutton Hoo crown will be an observation tower built on the heathland which is almost near completion. The tower will stand at 17 metres high and offer a birds-eye view across the royal burial ground to provide more insight in to the surrounding land. Building work is still in progress, but the tower will provide three differing level stages - with ramps leading to the first platform of up to 5 metres above ground level for wheelchair users. The tower is being built with the environment very much in mind and will be constructed in a way that it won't be visible from nearby towns and villages as Mr Hopwood explained: "The tower will nestle amongst the trees. This means it will blend in to the landscape. The important thing to remember is, the 'WOW' effect here is not the tower, it's the view."
Slowly but surely over the past year, volunteers, workmen and artists have been steadily building and creating new levels of knowledge and visitor experiences in the £4million restoration bid to ensure the heritage site stands out as one of the most magnificent historical legacies left in the world.