Find out what led to the discovery

Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo, the home of Mrs Edith Pretty

The modern-day story of Sutton Hoo begins at Tranmer House – an Edwardian building that stands on a spur of land (a ‘hoo’) overlooking the River Deben near Woodbridge in Suffolk.

In 1926, a couple – Frank and Edith Pretty – bought the house as their first home.

As first-time newly-weds go, they were quite old, especially for the time. Husband Frank was 47 and his wife Edith was 42, so they probably never thought they would have children. Amazingly, though, they did. In 1930, when Edith was 47, she gave birth to Robert, her first and only child.

Unfortunately, Frank died a few years later, just after Christmas in 1934.

Stricken with grief, Edith became a keen spiritualist. She made regular trips to London to see a medium – most probably in an attempt to contact her dead husband – and got to know like-minded people closer to home.

It was late in the 1930s that one of her spiritualist friends looked out from the house and claimed to see a ghostly vision on one of the burial mounds that lay nearby.

Sunrise at Sutton Hoo
Sunrise at Sutton Hoo

Keen to know what, if anything, lay beneath the mounds, Edith asked a local archaeologist called Basil Brown to take a look.

Basil started work in June 1938. Assisted by a gamekeeper and a gardener from the estate, he excavated three of the mounds, but found that all had been robbed. They did, however, find a gilt bronze disc that suggested the mounds were much older than they had first thought: Anglo-Saxon rather than Viking.

The following spring, Basil and his crew started work again – this time, on the biggest mound in the field. A few weeks later, they found iron rivets from the hull of an Anglo Saxon ship, then an iron ring, some bronze objects and an extremely-decayed piece of wood.

At that stage, experts from the British Museum took over. It was they who found the hoard of treasure – gold jewellery, a warrior’s helmet, shield and sword, a sceptre and much more besides.

" The finest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold ever dug up in Britain"
- Waldemar Januszczak, The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Part 4, BBC, December 2012

These days, Tranmer House is rather smaller than it was back then. In the 1960s, a wing was demolished to make the house a more-manageable size for a post-war family.

Today, some parts of the building are used as offices. Others are used as holiday accommodation. But several rooms on the ground floor are open to the public. With wood-panelled interiors, a marble fireplace, and views across to the famous burial mounds, you’ll find them much as they might have been at the time of the 1939 dig.

Full of history, Tranmer House is the perfect place to start your visit to Sutton Hoo – one of Britain’s most significant archaeological sites.