1. The sun rises over one of the burial mounds at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

The new story of Sutton Hoo

Excavated since the late 1930s, the burial mounds from the 6th and 7th centuries AD at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk have yielded stunning finds, including an iconic Anglo-Saxon helmet, intricately designed jewellery and other decorated metalwork.

The land on which the site stands once belonged to Edith Pretty. Born in Yorkshire to a wealthy industrialist, she bought the estate after marrying an Ipswich army officer, who died in 1934. Four years later she engaged a local, self-educated archaeologist named Basil Brown to excavate the mounds.

2. A new viewing tower will be built to give an over-view of the site.

The following year he and his team uncovered Sutton Hoo's now world-famous ship burial, and a series of professional archaeologists were called in to direct digs: Charles Phillips from Cambridge University; Rupert Bruce-Mitford of the British Museum, 1965–71, and Martin Carver from the University of York, 1983–92.

Mrs Pretty gave the ship-burial treasures to the nation and they are now in the British Museum. After her death the site was used by the War Office until 1946, when it was sold. Then, in 1998, the site and her house were given to the National Trust and they have been in its care ever since.

3. Local hero: Basil Brown who discovered the Sutton Hoo
ship burial in 1939.

Last October, the National Trust announced it had won support from Heritage Lottery Fund – a £1.8million grant towards a re-interpretation project called Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo. Thanks to the grant, and to NT members and other donors, the £4million project is going ahead. The first phase of work got underway in May when an archaeological excavation was carried out near the famous Royal Burial Ground. The dig, just yards from where one of the most significant Anglo-Saxon finds of all time was made, was carried out by an expert team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).

This is the first time a dig has taken place so close to the Royal Burial Ground in nearly 30 years. Visitors were invited to meet the team and watch the dig as it happened.

When it is completed, the Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo project will enable visitors to discover more about this internationally significant site. Part of the plan includes the building of a viewing tower looking over the site and beyond to the River Deben, where the ship carrying the Anglo-Saxon King Rædwald is believed to have landed before being hauled to its final resting place underground.

As well as the viewing tower, Edith Pretty's home, Tranmer House will be transformed by a new exhibition exploring a timeline of discoveries and the ongoing research at this, and other, Anglo-Saxon sites.

Lindsay Fulcher




Roger Williams