Sutton Hoo unveils new £4 million transformation
- Credit: Archant
The National Trust has finally revealed its largest ever investment at the world famous Sutton Hoo royal burial ground – and the public will today be able to enjoy an improved visitor experience.
Thanks to the £4 million renovation of the historic site, visitors will be more intimately connected with the story of one of the most significant archaeological finds in British history.
Since the discovery of the ship burial in 1939, the story has unfolded with every dig made but unfortunately was overlooked at the time due to the impending conflict of the Second World War.
Now archaeologists and historians, alongside Mike Hopwood, visitor experience project manager, Ian Barnes the National Trust head of archaeology and Nick Collinson the general manager of Sutton Hoo, want the story of King Raedwald's final resting place in East Anglia to finally be heard and given the attention it deserves.
Tens of thousands of people visit the site alongside the River Deben every year and the trust is hoping that the renovations will inspire even more interest in the fascinating tale of royal sophistication, privilege and status.
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The exhibition hall showcasing the legendary tale and Tranmer House, the former home of Mrs Edith Pretty, who discovered the find, has been completely overhauled.
With an interactive exhibition which includes a miniature cinema telling the tale of the discovery, and an array of replica artefacts including glittering jewels, swords and shields and of course the infamous helmet which has become the emblem of the Sutton Hoo unearthing.
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The revitalisation of Sutton Hoo continues with the creation of a new walking route tracing the path the burial ship would have taken from arriving on the River Deben to being hauled up on to the heathland for the entombment of the 7th century ruler with his vessel, not far from his palace at Rendlesham.
Laura Howarth, archaeology and engagement manager at Sutton Hoo said: "It is impossible to overstate the level of excitement that surrounded the discovery of the king's ship burial in 1939.
"The significance of the Anglo-Saxons at Sutton Hoo continues to resonate today through our language, law, culture and connections to the landscape.
"We wanted to create an experience which really does justice to this incredibly important heritage site and we hope our transformation will fire the imaginations of our visitors and help them to feel a part of this story."
John Orna-Ornstein, national trust director of culture and engagement commented: "I am delighted that the experience of visiting Sutton Hoo, one of the oldest historic sites in this country, has been transformed to offer ways for visitors to connect more deeply with its history and significance."
With a £1.8million injection of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and support from the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership as well as the generosity of many National Trust members and donors, the trust have been able to modernise the way people can relate to the history of the region.
Mr Orna-Ornstein said: "We are hugely grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the many trust members and supporters who have helped make this possible.
Whether you have a deep interest in archaeology, love exploring local history, are visiting a heritage site for the first time or simply enjoy discovering the significance of the landscape around you, we hope Sutton Hoo will inspire people of all ages with its astonishing story."
Visitor experience project manager Mike Hopwood added: "We've set out to build what is already one of Suffolk's premiere visitor attractions so it's really important to the region to get this right, from a tourist point of view and from a historical point of view.
"This place deserves more applause.
"It's a really important place and as Ian said earlier, if it hadn't been for the Second World War it would have got more recognition but it happened on the eve of something a little more important. So it's our job to lift it."
Sutton Hoo will open its doors today, Monday August 5, to showcase its new additions. The final piece in the project will be the viewing tower due for completion later in the summer holidays.