Travel back to Anglo-Saxon times at Sutton Hoo’s Solstice Festival of Storytelling

Children enjoy Anglo Saxon costumes at Sutton Hoo in Woodbridge. Photo: National Trust Images/Ian Sh

Children enjoy Anglo Saxon costumes at Sutton Hoo in Woodbridge. Photo: National Trust Images/Ian Shaw - Credit: �NTPL/Ian Shaw

Youngsters are invited to travel back to the time of Anglo-Saxon kings and warriors this weekend at Sutton Hoo’s Solstice Festival of Storytelling.

View looking across the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. Photo: National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

View looking across the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo. Photo: National Trust Images/Joe Cornish - Credit: �NTPL/Joe Cornish

“It’s our big event to kick off the summer. It’s a family-friendly festival designed to coincide with the solstice, which was an important time in the Anglo-Saxon calendar,” says Ruaidhri O’Mahony, visitor operations manager at the National Trust site in Woodbridge.

“Some of the things we have planned include an encampment with our regular Anglo-Saxon re-enactment group Ealdfaeder who will be doing riddles, lies and tall tales and children’s stories, as well as performances in old English.

“We’ve also got the Sae Wylfing, the half-size replica of the ship that was buried here, a storytelling trail and shadow puppetry shown in Tranmer House, based on Beowulf.”

One of the most enchanting spectacles during the festival will be a programme of dramatic performances, including a retelling of the Battle of the River Idle - the great victory of King Raedwald against the Northumbrians, using Sae Wylfing for a stage.


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Anglo-Saxon re-enactors Ealdfaeder will be present over the weekend. Inquisiquest also return with their time-travelling puppet show with regular performances of the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. There will also be family trails, a story oak and the chance to add your own tale of Sutton Hoo to the story scroll.

Storytelling was an essential part of life for the warrior-farmers who would have lived near Sutton Hoo.

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“At the time of Sutton Hoo the Anglo-Saxons weren’t writing things down. All their traditional stories and history were passed down by word of mouth,” says National Trust archaeologist Angus Wainwright.

“Stories in those societies were of great significance because they were a way of transmitting ethics and culture down the ages. The famous Sutton Hoo lyre was buried with the king. We think it would have been used to accompany stories, which the king himself may have told.

“The storyteller and oral traditions were important at all levels of society, probably because of the common way of living and the tradition of community storytelling.”

Tomorrow and Sunday’s festival runs from 10.30am-5pm and is just one event planned for the summer season.

During the holidays the National Trust will be staging themed weekends providing a different way of looking at the Sutton Hoo story. Every weekend from July 25-26 to August 29-30 will see a special event including the third National Hnefatafl Championships - an Anglo-Saxon version of chess - and a 1930s-themed garden fete.

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