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Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story project

A modern looking viewing tower at Sutton Hoo in a field of golden grass with large green trees nearby. The tower features wooden and steel elements.
The viewing tower at Sutton Hoo | © National Trust Images/Phil Morley

‘Releasing the Sutton Hoo Story’ is a £4 million project creating exciting new ways of exploring this internationally significant archaeological site and how its stories have captured the imaginations of people the world over. Explore the revamped exhibition spaces and displays of both replica and original objects, including a full-scale sculpture of the Great Ship Burial. Reach the top of the 17m high viewing tower to experience the setting of the Royal Burial Ground. Find out more about the project and how the work was funded.

Thank you

The £4 million project at Sutton Hoo was made possible by a £1.8 million grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and has been supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership through the Growing Places Fund and the generosity of many National Trust members, supporters and donors.

The main aims of the project

The project at Sutton Hoo was created to help fully bring to life the important stories of this site, home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. As well as the story of the Anglo-Saxon Great Ship Burial, Sutton Hoo has multiple layers of history dating back to the 7th century, including more recent stories to tell.

An important site

Sutton Hoo has traditionally been a tricky site to interpret. The surrounding landscape has changed since the Anglo-Saxon period losing some of the significance of the connection between the Royal Burial Ground and the River Deben. Arguably one of the most significant objects discovered, the Anglo-Saxon ship, had long since decayed in the acidic soil leaving just a fossilised imprint when it was excavated in 1939.

The original objects discovered in the Great Ship Burial were donated by the then landowner and instigator of the 1939 excavation, Edith Pretty, to the British Museum in London where they reached large audiences daily.

The project succeeded in releasing the story of the past

The four-year project helped to connect the main areas of the site together. Visitors are now more easily able to understand and access the story and significance of Sutton Hoo. The creation of a 17m high viewing tower overlooking the Royal Burial Ground helps aid understanding of the context of the site and its connection with the River Deben.

The ship returns

A full-size representation of the skeleton of the ship has been created in the main courtyard. The 90ft long sculpture helps to give an understanding of the sheer scale of the Great Ship Burial and features a representation of what the burial chamber looked like when it was excavated in 1939. The well-loved and memorable helmet sculpture which previously hung above the Exhibition Hall has been repositioned to greet you on the path from the car park to the Visitor Welcome building.

A new display in High Hall

The revamped High Hall exhibition features displays of high-quality replica objects of some of the key items that were discovered in the Great Ship Burial along with some original objects from other graves excavated on site including the contents of Mound 17, a warrior buried with his horse.

Around the exhibition you will meet different characters that would have been part of Anglo-Saxon society in the vicinity of Sutton Hoo that connects you directly with people from the past.

Short films

Short films and animations bring to life other aspects of Anglo-Saxon life including the trade routes several objects made to reach Sutton Hoo, the fighting techniques used by Anglo-Saxon warriors and the many creatures depicted within the intricate metalwork designs.

New displays in Tranmer House

The displays in Tranmer House, the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the excavation of the Great Ship Burial, have also been revamped. Original furniture that belonged to Edith Pretty has been complemented by displays that explore the history of archaeology at the site.

View the digitised images

The displays pay tribute to those who have been involved from Basil Brown and Charles Phillips and his team in the 1930s through to more recent investigations by Professor Martin Carver in the 1980s. The digitised images, captured by Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff, of the excavation of the Great Ship Burial are all available to view on projectors and tablet computers.

Visitors walking on a path at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Visitors walking at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The project updates


Reopening to visitors

After a winter of building work the site re-opened to visitors in April 2019 for the Easter weekend, with glorious weather. It's fantastic to see so many families enjoying the first stage of the new Sutton Hoo experience.

The High Hall and Tranmer House open 

The High Hall exhibition is filled with new replica items and even more original items from burials at Sutton Hoo. Tranmer House explores the story of the archaeological work that has taken place at Sutton Hoo and the people involved.

The house is the former home of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig that would lead to the archaeological discoveries. 

A new home for an old icon

The large-scale Sutton Hoo helmet sculpture now has a new home. It's now waiting to greet you as you arrive on the path from the car park to the Visitor Welcome building.

Visitors with dog enjoying an autumnal walk at Sutton Hoo


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