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Sep 2019

Awe-inspiring Anglo-Saxon royal burial site, they say.

National Trust Logo

One of the National Trust™'s big hitters, this, so that's reflected in the admission[1] but what else are you going to do in South Suffolk with the rain seemingly set for the day?

It's foolishly all presumed to be indoors and where else are you going to get up close to a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon helmet?

Sutton Hoo - Anglo-Saxon Helmet

The British Museum in London, it would seem, so the  ornamental hat that's sold on your entrance is actually one of several replicas and there's already a whiff of Sutton Hoo-ey about the place.

Relations with the National Trust™ have been resumed following the fiasco at Dunwich Heath and every square foot will be followed for the false economy of trying to justify the, quite frankly, formidable fee.

[1] £13.50 a pop or £14.85 with Gift Aid. That used to give you a discount so what's happening with this these days?

The café and Hoo's High Hall will keep you dry for half an hour and it's in here you'll find the  artefacts that didn't end up in the British Museum.

A Byzantine bowl, a shield and evidence of the corpse of a horse, the winner of the 625, AD, Immortal Stakes Handicap. The handicap being, of course, that in order to ride into the afterlife, poor dobbin had to be deceased, already.

The rest, however, is set outside but the clouds have suddenly cleared, just about[1], and it's time to stretch these twitchy legs.

Two hundred and fifty acres of woodland and a 'valley trail' are a roundabout way of getting to the main attraction, still, nice views down to the River Deben and over to Woodbridge.

Sutton Hoo - River Deben and Woodbridge

[1] It'll not only be enlightening archaeology-wise, the Photoshop™ diskette's been dusted off for these overcast snaps.

If you didn't take the diversion down towards the Deben, it's only ten minutes from the Visitor Centre to where all the Sutton Hoo-ha is.

You might want to watch where you're standing, however, these are the locations of those not important enough to warrant a mound.

Sutton Hoo - Burial Sites Sutton Hoo - Burial Mounds

Eighteen of them, burial mounds or tumuli to be vernacularly accurate, although you too will lose count after about six.

Only two really stand out as having some significance and by some significance it's meant the royal resting place of the early seventh-century, East Anglian king, Rædwald, they think.

A new viewing tower, not quite finished, will soon provide a better perspective of where he was found.

Sutton Hoo - Viewing Tower

In a mound, in a boat, sporting an elaborate bonnet and, with christianity not fully catching on, just yet, a load of other pagan trinkets that would become of great interest.

Not that there was much of anything left by the time the tumulus[1] was tinkered with, the timber of the ship long gone but making enough of an impression to gauge the scale.

Sutton Hoo - Mound #2

This Suffolk soil is quite acidic, you see, so what remained of the helmet was found in fertiliser and the hundreds of rusty fragments were painstakingly pieced together by the British Museum. All this to create an internationally renowned artefact and yes, that is how they're spelling it, these days.

The ship was hauled up from the river, somehow, by the same way you came, probably, to a height of over 100 foot. It was a dominant statement of intent to any of those inclined to an incursion and it appears to have had the required effect.

Early, Olde English manuscripts have been discovered, honestly, which, paraphrasing slightly, read... 'We'd better turn back lads, they've got a mound!'

[1] This one's a reconstruction, actually, and not the one in question but why waste a good snap, eh?

 Tranmer House ended up in the National Trust™'s lap but previously belonged to a Mrs Edith Pretty. Despite living here for thirteen years, it wasn't until 1939 that she called on the services of one Basil Brown to check out the molehills in the back garden.

Sutton Hoo - Tranmer House

Self-taught and, strictly speaking, an amateur, he oversaw England's single most important archaeological discovery to date. Mound #1 had lain undisturbed for over thirteen hundred years, sort of, nineteenth-century burglars had gotten away with some booty but Basil hit the jackpot.

Work had to go on hold during World War II after which the experts got involved but Brown was the instigator of all future digs.

You can find all of this out inside where a nice volunteer will also tip you off as to where Rædwald lived, he thinks. Turns out that was near Rendlesham church, which is only about five miles away, by boat.

If you've seen  detectorists,  Mackenzie Crook's beautifully bucolic and ever-so-slightly melancholic work of pure genius, you'll know the place gets a namecheck towards the end of series one. Lance and Andy are in pursuit of Essex's fictional equivalent although, funnily enough, they filmed not too far away from here in Suffolk.

If you haven't seen it, why not? Get it bought  here, old-skool style, NOW!

Meanwhile, back at the entrance, it appears that up until a year ago, a forty-five minute visit might have been pushing it. Four million pounds later and the disappointing café and field have been  transformed into a 'story' with a replica of Rædwald's ship, all 90 foot of it, kickstarting the tale.

Sutton Hoo - Visitor Centre

The exhibition hall now has some proper exhibits in it and you can even stay at, the newly opened, Tranmer House, which is why they won't let you upstairs today. With access to the estate and the woodland and the, soon to open, viewing tower, it's not so much Sutton Hoo-ey more Sutton Hoo-ray.

Saying that, and double-checking what they're charging, you'll need to dig a little bit deeper than Basil did.