Archaeology & History Sites in Suffolk

Medieval Sites in Suffolk

Bury St Edmunds Abbey
Ruins of the Benedictine Bury St Edmunds Abbey.

The abbey at Bury St Edmunds was once one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England. By the final century of the early medieval period it was a popular site of pilgrimage as the resting place of St Edmund, an Anglo-Saxon king regarded as a martyr. In the 11th century, the original Anglo-Saxon buildings were upgraded in the Norman style, while additions and alterations continued to be made throughout the late Middle Ages. The community disbanded following King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, although many of the abbey’s impressive ruins remain standing today. Photo © English Heritage

Framlingham Castle
Ruins of Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.

One of the largest surviving castles in East Anglia, Framlingham began life as a 12th century motte-and-bailey Norman construction. Although destroyed on the order of King Henry II, it was rebuilt in the 13th century. This new design unusually lacked a central keep and instead consisted of a curtain wall with thirteen towers along it. The castle’s readiness for battle was tested shortly after, when King John successfully laid siege to it. Further monarchical links came in the 16th century, when it was home to Mary Tudor. Photo © English Heritage

Lavenham Guildhall
The Medieval Guildhall in Lavenham, Suffolk.

This spectacular Grade I listed timber framed building, one of the best in England, has a long and rich history. Originally one of four guildhalls in the once prosperous village of Lavenham, the building was subsequently used as a bridewell and poorhouse, before being acquired by the National Trust in the 1950s. Also known as the Guildhall of Corpus Christi, it was built in 1529 and is one of over 320 historic buildings in the town … Read More

Leiston Abbey
Ruins of the 14th century Leiston Abbey in Suffolk.

One of the most impressive monastic survivals in Suffolk, Leiston Abbey was founded as St Mary’s Abbey in the late 12th century. It housed Augustinian canons who moved the building to its present location in 1363. They re-used masonry from the original construction, resulting in the survival of several Norman features. After the dissolution of the monasteries, King Henry VIII gave the abbey to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who converted the ecclesiastical buildings for agricultural use. It is now a picturesque ruin under the ownership of a local music school; entry is free. Photo © English Heritage

Lindsey St. James’s Chapel
The 13th century Lindsey St. James’s Chapel in Suffolk.

The Chapel of St James the Apostle at Lindsey dates from the 13th century, although some of the material used in its construction looks Norman and may have come from an earlier building on the site. It was established by the local de Cockfield family to service the Castle of Lindsey. After the dissolution of the monasteries it was converted into a barn, and continued to be used in this way until 1930. In the Middle Ages it probably had a tiled roof, as the current thatched roof dates from the 16th century. Photo © English Heritage

Moot Hall
The 16th century Tudor hall in Aldeburgh, known as Moot Hall.

Situated on the beach front in Aldeburgh, the picturesque Moot Hall is one of the best preserved Tudor buildings in England. Although there are no direct references to date the building, best-guess estimates suggest a date of around 1550. This was a time when Aldeburgh was a successful port town. Today Aldeburgh is a popular seaside town with tourists, although the Tudor port has been taken by erosion. The building is home to the Aldeburgh Museum, but the local council still regularly holds its meetings here … Read More

Orford Castle
Orford Castle keep in Suffolk, England.

Castles dominated the landscape in late medieval England. Between 1165 and 1173, King Henry II – famous for his conflict with Thomas Becket – erected one fascinating example in the village of Orford. Designed to consolidate royal control in the region, this castle consists of one of the country’s most unusual keeps, a unique polygonal tower design. Its use for national defence has continued into more recent years, with the site housing a radar encampment during the Second World War. The castle is remarkably well preserved and contains exhibits discussing local history … Read More

Sutton Hoo
A replica of one of the shields found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

One of the most important early Medieval sites in Northwestern Europe, Sutton Hoo was a burial ground for the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia during the 6th and 7th centuries. Located next to the River Deben, many of those interred here were placed under large burial mounds. Most impressive is the ship burial beneath Mound 1, which many believe was the resting place of the East Anglian King Rædwald. The grave contained lavish goods, impressive reproductions of these are on display in the Sutton Hoo visitors’ centre … Read More

West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
Reconstructions of Anglo-Saxon houses at West Stow, Suffolk.

The Anglo-Saxons built their settlements out of wood and thus no examples of their domestic architecture survive above-ground today. However, through excavation we do know that West Stow was the site of a settlement from the 5th to the 7th century. Since 1974, experimental archaeologists have been busy recreating this village, in doing so teaching us much about early medieval building techniques and the daily life of Anglo-Saxon communities. Today, these recreated buildings accompany a visitor’s centre which together help to bring the world of the Anglo-Saxons to life. Photo © Midnightblueowl/Wikimedia [Website]

Early Modern Sites in Suffolk

Melford Hall
The 16th century country house of Melford Hall.

Melford Hall is a country house largely constructed in the 16th century, albeit incorporating elements of an older medieval building that existed on the site. Over the centuries, it was altered and adapted to meet changing fashions. Today it boasts a diverse collection of items including 18th-century Chinese porcelain, naval paintings, and Beatrix Potter sketches. Potter herself was a frequent visitor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although managed by the National Trust, the Hall retains its status as a family home. Visitors can also enjoy the surrounding woodland. Photo © Charles Rawding/Wikimedia

Modern Sites in Suffolk

Landguard Fort
An aerial view of Landguard Fort, built to defend Harwich Harbour.

Defending the key port of Harwich Harbour is Landguard Fort, an 18th century military installation at the mouth of the River Orwell. The site itself has older martial associations, having witnessed an aborted invasion by the Dutch in 1667. As the nature of the threats have changed, so too has the fort, which displays various 19th and 20th century additions. The site played an important role in both World Wars and continued to be used in the early years of the Cold War. Photo © English Heritage

Ickworth House
The elaborate, Italianate Ickworth House.

Ickworth House is a neoclassical, Italianate country house set within Suffolk parkland. Frederick Hervey, the 4th Earl of Bristol, commissioned the building in the late 18th century as a display of his wealth and taste. It houses the many objects that he had collected on his tours around Europe, and also contains paintings by prominent artists like Gainsborough, Hogarth, and Reynolds. The unique building features two wings with a large,central rotunda. The site is now in the care of the National Trust. Photo © Squeezyboy/Wikimedia

Museums in Suffolk

Aldeburgh Museum
One of the highlights at the Aldeburgh Museum is the Roman head.

Housed in the quaint Tudor brick and timber framed Moot Hall, Aldeburgh Museum has recently (2019) been substantially refurbished. Although the building’s Tudor features have been sensitively retained, the new layout has enabled a range of new exhibits, items on display and interactive features which focus on life in the Aldeburgh area over time. One of the highlights of their collection is the Roman bronze head of a boy … Read More

Ipswich Museum
A street view of Ipswich Museum & Art Gallery, Ipswich.

Ipswich Museum has an eclectic mix of objects that you only find in a local museum of this kind. There is a woolly mammoth and a stuffed giraffe, as well as a female Egyptian mummy from Thebes called Tahathor. Besides these fascinating attractions, permanent displays of local artefacts found in various excavations display the history of the area from 500,000 years up to the recent past. Photo © Cmglee/Wikimedia [Website]

Museum of East Anglian Life
A Medieval barn that is part of the Museum of East Anglian Life.

One of several outdoor museums around the UK, the Museum of East Anglian Life is a 75 acre site in the town of Stowmarket, Suffolk. The attraction is centred around Abbots Hall manor house, with with a number of historic buildings in the grounds. The focus is on the agricultural, industrial and home life of East Anglians over the years. This is portrayed with some 40,000 objects, collected from rural Suffolk since 1967 … Read More