Sutton Hoo goes on the road
A travelling exhibition tells the Saxon story
Volunteers at Sutton Hoo, take to the road this month with a mission to spread the word about the National Trust’s prestigious Saxon site near Woodbridge.
The roadshow, which launches on October 2, coincides with the closure of Sutton Hoo for several months, during which time major work will be undertaken to transform visitors’ experiences of the site and bring to life the Anglo Saxon realm of King Raedwald.
The trust has won a £1.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a £4 million project called Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story. Plans include creating new walking routes to link the various aspects of the site, a new visitor centre, enhanced displays, exhibitions and a 17 metre viewing tower with views over the burial mounds and the River Deben, where the ship carrying Raedwald is believed to have arrived.
Allison Girling, property operations manager, said the closure was a good time to take the fascinating Sutton Hoo story to the Suffolk community, but it was also a wonderful chance to enthuse and inform people about the exciting volunteer opportunities that will be available once the project is completed.
“Our volunteers are vital to us and we don’t want to lose touch with them during this time,” she says. “They’re also keen to do something while the site is closed, so what better than a roadshow entirely run by the them?”
The travelling exhibition is supported by the East of England Co-op and will go to places as far as Long Melford, Lavenham, Hadleigh, Sudbury, Ipswich and Felixstowe, as well as over the Essex border to Brightlingsea and Manningtree. The team will set up displays in local libraries to explain the Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story project, using the replica treasures as a focal point, including the iconic Saxon helmet, belt buckle and shoulder clasp.
“The aim is to generate interest in Sutton Hoo, especially among communities that
might not be familiar with it, to talk about volunteering from personal experience and the wide range of opportunities that will be available,” says Allison. There are no barriers to volunteering, and people
‘The aim is to generate interest in Sutton Hoo, especially among communities that might not be familiar with it’
can use existing skills and knowledge, or train in something new. The youngest volunteer at Sutton Hoo is 12 and the eldest is 92, says Allison. There are the usual opportunities to work with the public in the shop, cafe and reception, but when the improved site reopens there will be exciting openings for volunteers to help bring the Sutton Hoo world to life with enhanced guided tours, thought-provoking activities and installations, a more dramatic exhibition hall that recreates the Saxon world and a lively schools’ education programme. People willing to get involved could find themselves on training courses learning traditional skills such as leather working, felting or costume making, as well as other creative activities.
The roadshow will be travelling until mid March. Sutton Hoo is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2019.
ABOVE: Tranmer House and one of the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo.LEFT: The Sutton Hoo replica helmet.RIGHT: A lively education programme is part of the Sutton Hoo experience. Pupils from Melton Primary School get involced in a Time Travellers event.