7 of Suffolk’s quirkiest museums

Woodbridge's Tide Mill Museum is home to one of the few remaining tide mills in the country 

Woodbridge's Tide Mill Museum is home to one of the few remaining tide mills in the country - Credit: Ashley Pickering

Monday May 17 saw England move into the next stage of lockdown restrictions easing – and museums were on the list of places that could reopen their doors to the public. 

With International Museum Day taking place on Tuesday, May 18, there’s no better time than now to check out some of the county’s quirkiest and lesser-known museums as the country slow opens back up. Here’s just a handful of some of those that are worth checking out, and what you can see within them. 

The giant wooden wheel running the show at the mill. Picture: GEMMA JARVIS

The giant wooden wheel at the mill - Credit: Gemma Jarvis

Woodbridge Tide Mill Museum  

On the banks of the River Deben is Woodbridge Tide Mill – one of first tide mills in the country, and one of the few remaining that still produces flour on a regular basis.  

It has sat on the same site for eight centuries, and visitors can once again make their way through the mill as they learn all about the flour process thanks to working machinery, interactive models, CGI imagery, and audio stations. 

To coincide with the mill’s 850th anniversary next month, an exhibit dedicated to Jean Gardener will be taking place on Tuesday, June 1, highlighting her contributions to helping preserve the mill. 

The mill reopened on Monday, and will be open seven days a week between 11am and 4pm. Due to current restrictions, visitor numbers are limited to five per group, for a designated 50-minute slot.  

Aldeburgh Museum

Aldeburgh Museum - Credit: Rachel Edge

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Aldeburgh Museum  

Head to Aldeburgh’s seafront and there you will find Moot Hall – a 16th century timber-framed building that is home to Aldeburgh Museum. One of the best-preserved Tudor buildings in the country, visitors to the museum can expect to see a number of fascinating and detailed exhibits dating all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon and medieval eras.  

Find out how the town became a thriving shipbuilding and fishing centre, explore its growth as a seaside resort, and uncover the workings of the fascinating Tudor building itself. Exhibits on display include finds from the Anglo-Saxon ship burial at Snape, Roman excavations from Barber’s Point, as well as a series of photographs and artefacts depicting life in the coastal town. 

The museum reopened on Monday, and booking ahead is currently required in order to limit the number of visitors inside.  

Witchcraft exhibits at Moyse's Hall Museum 

Witchcraft exhibits at Moyse's Hall Museum - Credit: Mariam Ghaemi

Moyse’s Hall Museum 

Bury St Edmunds’ Moyse’s Hall Museum is planning to reopen on Saturday, May 22, meaning avid historians can once again learn about this fascinating cathedral town thanks to a number of interesting collections on display.  

The building – which has looked out over Bury for nearly 900 years – previously served as a workhouse and police station before becoming a museum in 1899.  

Visitors can learn all about the creation and dissolution of the Abbey, cast their eyes upon artefacts connected with witchcraft and superstition, and have a gander at a collection of rare timepieces bequeathed by clock collector and musician Frederic Gershom Parkington. Also on display is art by local artists Sybil Andrews and Mary Beale – the latter of whom was dubbed ‘England's first professional female painter’. 

The Little Hall in Lavenham

The Little Hall in Lavenham - Credit: Tudor Morgan-Owen

Little Hall Lavenham  

To truly step back in time, why not take a trip to Lavenham’s Little Hall? This 14th century house is one of the best-kept historical homes in Suffolk, and will be reopening its doors to visitors on Saturday, May 22, between 1pm and 4pm Friday to Sunday.  

The hall was restored in 1920s and 1930s by twin brothers Thomas and Robert Gayer-Anderson, who filled it with a mix of art, antiques, pictures, books and china from their travels, spread across seven rooms. Particular sights worth checking out include the study, which features exotic Persian panels, and the spectacular upper chamber with its striking crown post.  

Visitors can also enjoy some fresh air and explore the house’s tranquil, traditional English walled garden.  

Inside the Sailors Reading Room in Southwold in 1971

Inside the Sailors Reading Room in Southwold in 1971 - Credit: Owen Hines

Southwold Sailor's Reading Room 

Established in 1864 and still operational to this day is Southwold Sailor’s Reading Room. The Grade II-listed building was originally built as a refugee for fishermen and mariners when not at sea, with the idea of keeping them out of the town’s pubs.  

Today, visitors to the reading room can cast their eyes upon a number of nautical treasures that line its walls, including portraits and pictures of sailors and seascapes, model ships and other examples of maritime paraphernalia that help give a closer glimpse into Southwold and its connections with the sea.  

According to its website, it is open every day from 9am to 5pm. 

National Horseracing Museum by Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2017

Newmarket's National Horse Racing Museum - Credit: Marc Atkins / Art Fund

National Horse Racing Museum 

It’s no surprise that the undisputed birthplace of horseracing has a museum dedicated to the sport, and lucky for us it’s right here in Suffolk. 

Newmarket’s National Horse Racing Museum, which was formally opened by the Queen in November 2016, is set on a five-acre site and explores the fascinating history of horseracing – right from its roots, all the way to its current modern-day form.  

The museum is comprised of three attractions - National Horseracing Museum in the Trainer’s House and King’s Yard Galleries; the Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art in Palace House; and the flagship home of Retraining of Racehorses, which houses a selection of former racehorses. 

Exhibits on display include silks worn by famous jockeys Lester Piggott and Frank Dettori, a number of works of art, and historical artefacts such as the Salisbury Charter – the first-ever printed race results which dates all the way back to the 17th century.  

In addition, on display in The King’s Yard is an archaeological presentation of the horse skeleton thought to be Pot8os – the famed thoroughbred horse who won over 30 races in the 18th century. A true must-see for any avid equine enthusiast. 

The museum will be reopening on Tuesday May 18, and will be open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am until 4pm.  

The Red House, Aldeburgh 

As of Thursday May 20, fans of Benjamin Britten will be able to explore the famed composer’s former home as it reopens this week to the public following lockdown restrictions.  

The Red House in Aldeburgh was where Britten lived with his muse and partner Peter Pears for nearly two decades until his death in 1976. Since then, it has become a museum dedicated to his life and works. Visitors can explore his music, as well as his eclectic collection of art, books and objects, and have a wander around the gardens that surround his former home.  

A standout attraction within is the Composition Studio, where Britten wrote masterpieces such as War Requiem, A Midusmmer Night’s Dream and Noye’s Fludde. Visitors can take a look at a number of original items that were used by the composer himself, including his desk and piano.  

Also within the museum are a brand-new shop and a pop-up garden café. Pre-bookable slots are available on the museum’s website for anyone who wishes to visit this May, June, July and August between Thursdays and Sundays.  

What’s your favourite museum in Suffolk? Get in touch with danielle.lett@archant.co.uk to share yours.