December 18 2014 Latest news:
Monday, July 28, 2014
Seventy-five years ago, over glasses of sherry in a Suffolk garden, news of an extraordinary archaeological find was first announced to the world.
Edith Pretty, the wealthy socialite and keen archeologist, invited friends and dignitaries to view exhibits unearthed from her lands at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, by archaeologist Basil Brown.
The treasures discovered –including an Anglo Saxon funeral boat – became known as some of the most significant historical finds of all time.
They reshaped our knowledge of Anglo Saxon history and threw light on a period of time previously shrouded in mystery.
To mark the 75th anniversary of that special find, the National Trust held its own garden party celebration at the site over the weekend.
Hundreds of visitors attended the event, held in 1930s style in reference to Mrs Pretty’s own party of July 1939.
Ruaidhri O’Mahony, visitor operations manager at Sutton Hoo, said it was “hugely successful”.
“We had a lovely lazy summer garden party feel,” he said.
“I think you could argue that Sutton Hoo is the most important archaeological excavations that has ever happened in this country because of the sheer volume of information that has come out about what was essentially the Dark Ages.
“It still remains one of the most important finds and so it’s only fitting that we celebrate the anniversary.”
The two-day event featured an art exhibition from the Suffolk Open Studios with work inspired by Sutton Hoo, as well as music, dancing, theatre, puppets and vintage cars. There were also craft stalls, a 1930s costume exhibition, a series of short talks and a range of family activities.
Mr O’Mahony said a Spitfire flyover was a particularly popular and poignant moment in the proceedings.
“We know that a Spitfire flew overhead during Mrs Pretty’s tea party – it was a stark reminder that in 1939, as this nation was unveiling the secrets of its origins, it was also facing its greatest threat,” he said.
The next special event at Sutton Hoo takes place over the weekend of August 9-10, when visitors can learn how to play hnefatafl – the Anglo Saxon version of chess – and watch the action in a national championship.