Towering views for royal on visit to see completed £4m Suffolk project

Sutton Hoo viewing platform

HRH The Duke of Gloucester looking out from the first viewing platform on the 17 metre high tower - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley (1)

A royal visitor appreciated the 'before and after' effect of a £4million transformation project at one of the world's most important archaeological sites.

The Duke of Gloucester was at Sutton Hoo to officially open a new 17-metre viewing tower overlooking the site where the burial ship and treasure of Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald was discovered.

The duke visited the site three years ago before the work began and on Tuesday was able to see the completed project.

Sutton Hoo tower

The Tower at Sutton Hoo nestled in woodland at the edge of the Royal Burial Ground - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

The tower offers never-seen-before views across the 18 burial mounds within the Royal Burial Ground, discovered in the famous 1939 archaeological excavation and recently the subject of the Netflix film The Dig.

Initially led by Suffolk man Basil Brown, the dig has been hailed as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

During his visit, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque to mark the tower’s official opening and met and thanked National Trust staff, volunteers and funders who have supported the project.

Duke of Gloucester

HRH The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of the Sutton Hoo viewing tower - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

As well as visiting the tower, the Duke was given a tour of the new exhibition in the High Hall, which tells the story of the Anglo-Saxons and includes replicas of items discovered in the 1939 excavation.

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He also visited Tranmer House, which now tells the story of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig and archaeologist Basil Brown.

The plaque for the Sutton Hoo tower

The plaque for the Sutton Hoo tower - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

The £4m Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo project received a £1.8m grant from the National Lottery. 

It aimed to transform the experience of visitors and help them discover more about the people who settled on the shores of the Deben, and those who took part in the digs that uncovered the world famous finds.

Duke of Gloucester with sutton hoo volunteers

HRH The Duke of Gloucester meeting National Trust staff and volunteers at the bottom of the Tower at Sutton Hoo - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

It includes the new exhibition, new walks and a new route around the site to allow visitors to walk in the steps of the Anglo-Saxons, tracing how they hauled the vessel up the valley before it formed the burial chamber found in Mound One, and a huge new boat sculpture outside the visitor centre.

Sutton Hoo

As you ascend the tower, the views open up and connect you to the landscape below - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

Nick Collinson, general manager for the National Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Duke of Gloucester was able to officially open the Tower at Sutton Hoo. The Tower gives visitors great bird's-eye views of the Royal Burial Ground and the wider landscape, but also of the Deben estuary.

"The tower really helps to connect the Royal Burial Ground with the estuary which would have been the highway of the time, and an essential part of why the burial ground was located here in such a symbolic position in this landscape in the 7th Century.”

Archaeologist Angus Wainwright shows HRH The Duke of Gloucester the Sutton Hoo tower

Archaeologist Angus Wainwright shows HRH The Duke of Gloucester what you can see from the top of the Tower, which looks down on the Royal Burial Mound - Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley

The tower was designed by architects Nissen Richards Studio and is nestled on the edge of woodland. Over time its cladding of charred larch will weather to a silvery grey, blending with the Scots pines that frame it on approach.


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