Secrets of the National Trust in the East

We’ve opened our doors to Channel 5 for a series which explores the estates, historic houses and miles of breathtaking countryside and coastline that we look after. You may be familiar with these places, but do you know their secrets and some of the more unusual objects in our care?

The Black Beacon on Orford Ness

Orford Ness and its atomic bomb 

During the Cold War, Orford Ness in Suffolk was used as a secret military testing site. It was here that scientists tested the components of Britain’s nuclear deterrent in an Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The WE177A was capable of obliterating an area the size of Leeds and was ten times more powerful than the bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War.

Needleword by Bess of Hardwick

Embroidery of a queen imprisoned 

The Marian Hangings are embroideries that were made between 1569 and 1585 by Mary Queen of Scots, during her imprisonment in England and Elizabeth (Bess) Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, whose husband was Mary’s jailer. The motifs expressed Mary’s most private thoughts, at a time when all her written correspondence was being monitored by her captors.

Lavenham Guildhall Bridewell rules

Lavenham Guildhall once housed a jail 

Did you know that the Guildhall once housed a Bridewell, or jail. It was here that young Ann Baker was committed in the 18th century, after running away from a local workhouse where she was a prisoner. Barely a teenager, she was confined to Lavenham Bridewell to await her sentencing - transportation to Australia and hard labour.

The Entrance Hall at Shaw's Corner

The Oscar used as a doorstop 

Playwright, George Bernard Shaw, won an Oscar in 1938 for his screenplay of 'Pygmalion'. It may look fairly battered now, that’s because Shaw used it as a doorstop, as well as the perfect object to crack walnuts! 'Pygmalion' was later adapted into the musical 'My Fair Lady', with the majority of the lyrics being taken from Shaw's texts.

Fire buckets hanging up at Felbrigg

Felbrigg's fireworks that required a fire engine 

Felbrigg Hall is mostly intact apart from a room blown up by a fireworks experiment in the 18h century! William Windham II was a man of many talents; he spoke four languages fluently and enjoyed bookbinding, wood-turning and making fireworks. A fire engine was bought after his fireworks workshop exploded in 1755.

Explore our collections

The majority of objects in our care are recorded on our National Trust Collections website. You'll find many intriguing items to explore at places near you