From great coffee to great menus

Sutton Hoo's Rob Conwell

Food and Beverage Manager, Rob Conwell, cherry-picks the best new ideas to make sure you are treated like royalty when you visit Sutton Hoo’s three new eateries.

How did you find yourself at Sutton Hoo?

I started with the National Trust in 2013 as the Catering Manager and Chef at Dunwich Heath, another beautiful site.  A few years later, the opportunity arose to move to Sutton Hoo.  This came just at the point that the team were beginning to plan lots of exciting changes to create an even better experience for visitors, so I jumped at the chance.

What does your work as Food and Beverage Manager at Sutton Hoo involve?

I manage all of our catering outlets and provide food and drink for functions at the site.  This can involve planning menus and sourcing ingredients to managing a large team of staff and, perhaps most importantly, talking to visitors to ensure that they have a great day with us.

How have you been preparing for the site’s re-opening?

I’ve spent time at a variety of National Trust properties collecting lots of great ideas for treating our guests like royalty during their visit. We’ve cherry-picked the best, and have been busy expanding our catering offer from one to three different venues.

We’ve redesigned the Kings Café which now offers a modern, fresh environment and great service to even more visitors. We’ve also created two new places for refreshments, including the peaceful Keepers’ Café and a renovated Shepherd’s Hut offering drinks, ice-creams and other treats near the children’s play area.

To top it all off, we’ve all had barista training, to make sure we can provide you with the perfect cup of coffee!

Food and Beverage Manager Rob Conwell
Sutton Hoo's Rob Conwell
Food and Beverage Manager Rob Conwell

Which of the site’s new features are you most excited about sharing with visitors?

I’m looking forward to making so much more of the Sutton Hoo estate accessible.  Quite apart from the historical significance of the site, it’s just a really beautiful place to spend some time.  With a hilly landscape that is quite rare for Suffolk, there are some great walks and fantastic views to enjoy here.

As someone with a young family, I’m also excited to welcome lots of new parents and children to Sutton Hoo. We’ll be starting a new parent and toddler group, and are building new children’s play equipment from wood we’ve found on the site. 

What most captivates you about the Sutton Hoo story?

I find the whole story fascinating, particularly all the quirks of fate that led to the incredible discovery in 1939.

During the early 17th Century an attempt to rob the Great Ship Burial proved unsuccessful, thanks to a medieval farmer, who had ploughed off the end of the mound many centuries earlier. The altered shape of the mound meant that the robbers missed the centre, where they knew any treasure would lie, by mere metres.

And if Edith Pretty hadn’t developed an interest in spiritualism and, later, a close friendship with her healer, William Parish and his wife Peggy, they may never have stirred her interest in the mounds on her land. And that’s before we consider that World War II would start later that year - which could have destroyed the burial mounds, and their contents, for good.

What aspect of your role do you most enjoy?

I like that no day is the same, and I love working with people - from ensuring that our visitors have a good time, to the sense of camaraderie with my team as we work together to get through the busy days.

A great day out often starts and ends with a bite to eat and a cuppa, and I enjoy being involved in this important aspect of our visitors’ experience. We can make it or break it!

Woman holding takeaway hot drink

Eating at Sutton Hoo

If you fancy a bite to eat head into King's River Café next to the ship sculpture in the courtyard where you will find a selection of food and drink on offer. Keepers' Kiosk (adjacent to Tranmer House) is open weekends, 10.30am - 3pm.