Sudbury historian claims Walnuttree Hospital should have been bulldozed

The former Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury.

The former Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury. - Credit: Archant

A respected Suffolk historian claims that a 100-year-old hospital building due to be turned into housing should be bulldozed to enable an archaeological dig to be carried out.

Proof that St Edmund could have been crowned in St Gregory's Church, Sudbury. Historian Barry Wall (

Proof that St Edmund could have been crowned in St Gregory's Church, Sudbury. Historian Barry Wall (right) and brick specialist Peter Minter are convinced that the early brick work would suggest that St Edmund could have been crowned in St Gregory's Church. - Credit: Archant

This is because the site underneath the former Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury has a history dating back around 1,000 years and is a stone’s throw from the church where Edmund, former King of East Anglia, is believed to have been crowned around 855AD.

Barry Wall, chairman of the Sudbury History Society and author of several books, says the site which is in a conservation area is more important than the building itself. But Babergh’s planning committee recently voted to save and convert it into 42 flats.

Despite there being no affordable housing included in the scheme, members voted 13-1 in favour of the development with some describing the building as “historic and romantic” and hailing its preservation as a triumph.

But Mr Wall, from Alphamstone near Sudbury, said it is not listed and is “not considered to be of historical importance”.

He wrote to the district authority urging them to demolish Walnuttree to enable an archaeological dig on the site before new homes were built. But he claims the planning committee was never shown his report.

He said: “This site is in a conservation area right next door to the Bronze Age/Iron Age site the county council excavated and any developer has a duty to carry out an archaeological dig before they start building.

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“Walnuttree was a former workhouse and does not have a romantic history – in fact there was a lot of shame associated with it. There are better examples of workhouse architecture in other parts of the county and at the end of the day; Walnuttree was only there for a century. They should have considered the site itself, which has 1,000 years of very interesting history.

“But I think it was maybe in Babergh’s interest to brush my report under the carpet because it would mean that whoever bought the site would have to pay for an archaeological dig and it may also lead to restrictions on what a developer could do to the land once the dig has been completed.”

A Babergh spokesman said the authority had been made aware of claims by Mr Wall that his submitted information was not reported to planning committee when it considered the proposed housing scheme in January.

He added: “The matter has been fully investigated. We have (now) spoken directly with Mr Wall and advised him of the outcome.

“We can confirm that while his representations were not attributed to him by name in the committee report, his representations were summarised and contained within the report in paragraph 39. This is in accordance with our normal practice of reporting comments.

“As such, planning committee did take his comments relating to archaeological considerations into account when they decided to grant planning permission.”

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