Five historical hidden gems in Suffolk

Bungay Castle is not easily visible from the town centre, despite its size

Bungay Castle is not easily visible from the town centre, despite its size - Credit: Mike Page

Suffolk's recorded history goes back thousands of years, and people have lived around these parts for a lot longer than that.

This means there has been plenty of time for some artefacts of the past to fall out of common knowledge and become local secrets. 

Here are five historical hidden gems in Suffolk.

Bungay Castle

Bungay Castle is hidden away from the north Suffolk town's high street

Bungay Castle is hidden away from the north Suffolk town's high street - Credit: Keiron Tovell

Hidden away behind the bustling main street of this north Suffolk market town, Bungay Castle is an impressive ruin dominated by two tall round gate towers set in a small area of parkland. 

The castle was home to the Barons Bigod, now known for the cheese named after them, but then some of the leading power brokers in medieval England. 

It was used in a rebellion against royal power in 1173 and besieged, and taken by Henry II's allies. After the siege, the castle was slighted, meaning it was damaged so it could not be used defensively. 

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The Bigods later reoccupied the castle but lost it again following the rise of Edward II.

Raydon Airfield

Much of RAF Raydon has been lost over time, but the marks it left on the landscape are still visible from aerial photos

Much of the base has been lost over time, but the marks it left on the landscape are still visible from aerial photos - Credit: Google Maps

Constructed in 1942, Raydon Airfield, now known as Notley Enterprise Park, is one of the most intact Second World War vintage airbases in the country. 

The US Air Force was deployed to the base following its construction, flying Mustang and Thunderbolt fighters against the Nazis.

One of the pilots to take to the air from RAF Raydon, a Chuck Yaeger, would later become famous for being the first man to break the sound barrier. 

While much of the airbase was broken up, with the concrete thought to have been used to construct the A12, a lot of the technical buildings remain, including a huge bomber hanger which is now used by a logistics company.

Bawdsey Transmitter Block


Enthusiasts at Bawdsey Transmitter Block at Bawdsey Manor marked the 80th anniversary of the Daven

Enthusiasts at Bawdsey Transmitter Block at Bawdsey Manor marking the 80th anniversary of the Daventry Experiment which proved that radar was possible - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Another piece of surviving Second World War History, Bawdsey Transmitter Block was once part of an enormous complex watching the skies for German aeroplanes. 

When it was initially completed, back in 1937, the facilities at Bawdsey became the first fully operational Radar station in the world.

The eight tall masts, once used for transmitting and receiving radio signals have since fallen, with the last one coming down in 2000. 

Bartlett Hospital 

The Martello tower inside the Bartlet Hospital, Felixstowe.

The Martello tower inside the Bartlet Hospital, Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

Built between 1923 and 1926 as a convalescent home, the Bartlett Hospital in Felixstowe hides a Napoleonic secret — a Martello Tower was used for its foundations. 

The tower originally sat on a cliff overlooking the eastern end of the Felixstowe promenade, embedded in a fenced military reservation taking up about seven acres. 

About half of this was used for the hospital, with the tower itself falling under the central portion of the H-shaped building. 

The tower was converted into a basement, which was used for storage and utility purposes. There are even rumours that when the hospital's morgue was full, the tower filled the role. 

The Nutshell

Philip Healey Pearce from Bury St Edmunds created his model of the pub as he said it's "iconic" and

Philip Healey Pearce from Bury St Edmunds created a model of the pub as he said it's "iconic" and he missed going there during lockdown - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Argued by some to be the smallest pub in the UK, The Nutshell dates from the 19th century, with research by CAMRA arguing that it opened as a beerhouse in 1873. 

Prior to this, the building was used as newspaper vendors, only being converted a year before the East Anglian Daily Times first went to print. 

The pub still maintains a cabinet of curiosities, including a mummified cat.

Due to the rise of micropubs, in recent times the 15ft by 7ft pub has been challenged for its position as the country's smallest pub, with a challenger rising in the 11ft by 6.6ft Little Prince, in Margate. 

The greatest number of people ever squeezed into the pub is claimed to be 102.