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Visiting Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo

Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo | © National Trust Images/Robin Pattinson

Visit Tranmer House to discover more about the people behind the archaeological investigations at Sutton Hoo. With wood-panelled interiors, a marble fireplace and views across to the famous burial ground, Tranmer House is the perfect place to discover the story of the 1930s archaeological digs. 

The Sutton Hoo story begins

As you walk through the wood panelled rooms of Tranmer House, you will find yourself in 1939, the year that Sutton Hoo’s Great Ship Burial was discovered.

Through audio and visual exhibits, you’ll meet inspiring characters and learn about how being in the right place at the right time, and making the right decisions, led them to one of the most important archaeological investigations in history.

The Drawing Room

A glance through the large bay windows overlooking the burial ground will whisk you back in time to the very moment that Edith Pretty had the initial stirrings of curiosity. What lay beneath the mysterious mounds on her estate?

Move around the room and step into significant moments in the lives of the people involved in the subsequent discoveries.

A glance to your left and there’s Basil Brown, deep in thought as he carries out the biggest archaeological investigation of his life, against the backdrop of impending war.

‘I have today been filling in the ship with bracken etc. and hope it may remain alright. Then if war does not last too long, it may come out all right for people to see. If not, it must take its chance.’

- Basil Brown, archaeologist

To the right, you’ll see Edith Pretty, and get a sense of her intellectual and public-spirited nature. You’ll learn of her time as one of the first woman magistrates and her involvement in archaeological digs in Egypt.

Keep an eye out for a variety of objects and displays, together painting a rich picture of the investigations of 1939. Even the smallest items – such as the first iron rivet found by Basil – have big stories to tell.

A visitor admiring Basil Brown's measuring tape in Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo
A visitor admiring Basil Brown's measuring tape in Tranmer House | © National Trust Images / Phil Morley

The Dining Room

Filled with photos, films and projections, discover the legacy of two amateur photographers, Barbara Wagstaff and Mercie Lack, who found themselves documenting the events of 1939.

These talented women had an ‘access all areas’ pass to one of the most significant archaeological digs of all time and, following the destruction of artefacts during the war, can be credited with a major part of the visual record of the Great Ship Burial being revealed.

The Sitting Room

Edith Pretty’s sitting room enjoys a dual aspect, overlooking both the river and the mounds. Please be aware that access to this room is currently restricted.

Follow the ship's route

Once you’ve explored the displays in Tranmer House, why not go further back in time and head to the valley to walk the route that the Anglo-Saxons would have taken from the river to the Royal Burial Grounds in 625AD as they laid their king to rest?

The White House on the Hoo

Built in 1910, Tranmer House was originally known as Sutton Hoo House and was designed by John Corder, a local architect from Ipswich and built for artist and gentleman of independent means John Chadwick Lomax.

After their marriage, Mrs Edith Pretty and Lt Colonel Frank Pretty chose to make this house their home. In 1926, they paid £15,250 for this wonderful country house, which in today’s money would be around £750,000.

When Edith passed away in 1942, the house passed to their only son, Robert Pretty. He was only 12 at the time and moved to live with his aunt in Hampshire. He would never return to live in Tranmer House.

Home to the Land Girls

The house instead moved into the ownership of the War Office, already having provided a home to the Land Army girls – who quite literally left their mark on the house. If you look carefully, you can still see the graffiti they carved into the stone fireplace and the ring of tiny holes in the wooden wall panelling, around where their dartboard would have hung.

Becoming Tranmer House

The estate was later sold off, eventually coming to the Tranmer family. In 1998, after Annie Tranmer’s death, the trustees of the Annie Tranmer Trust kindly donated the house and estate to the National Trust and Sutton Hoo House became Tranmer House, renamed in her honour.

Tranmer House facts

  • Part of the house was once demolished to save on heating bills.
  • Where Kings River Café now stands, there used to be a sunken rose garden instead.
  • You can rent a holiday apartment at the house and live just like Mrs Pretty.
Sunset over the burial mounds, shrouded by mist, at Sutton Hoo

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