Towering views for royal on visit to see completed £4m Suffolk project
- Credit: National Trust / Phil Morley (1)
A royal visitor appreciated the 'before and after' effect of a £4million transformation project at one of the world's most important archaeological sites.
The Duke of Gloucester was at Sutton Hoo to officially open a new 17-metre viewing tower overlooking the site where the burial ship and treasure of Anglo-Saxon King Raedwald was discovered.
The duke visited the site three years ago before the work began and on Tuesday was able to see the completed project.
The tower offers never-seen-before views across the 18 burial mounds within the Royal Burial Ground, discovered in the famous 1939 archaeological excavation and recently the subject of the Netflix film The Dig.
Initially led by Suffolk man Basil Brown, the dig has been hailed as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.
During his visit, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque to mark the tower’s official opening and met and thanked National Trust staff, volunteers and funders who have supported the project.
As well as visiting the tower, the Duke was given a tour of the new exhibition in the High Hall, which tells the story of the Anglo-Saxons and includes replicas of items discovered in the 1939 excavation.
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He also visited Tranmer House, which now tells the story of Edith Pretty who instigated the dig and archaeologist Basil Brown.
The £4m Releasing the Story of Sutton Hoo project received a £1.8m grant from the National Lottery.
It aimed to transform the experience of visitors and help them discover more about the people who settled on the shores of the Deben, and those who took part in the digs that uncovered the world famous finds.
It includes the new exhibition, new walks and a new route around the site to allow visitors to walk in the steps of the Anglo-Saxons, tracing how they hauled the vessel up the valley before it formed the burial chamber found in Mound One, and a huge new boat sculpture outside the visitor centre.
Nick Collinson, general manager for the National Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Duke of Gloucester was able to officially open the Tower at Sutton Hoo. The Tower gives visitors great bird's-eye views of the Royal Burial Ground and the wider landscape, but also of the Deben estuary.
"The tower really helps to connect the Royal Burial Ground with the estuary which would have been the highway of the time, and an essential part of why the burial ground was located here in such a symbolic position in this landscape in the 7th Century.”
The tower was designed by architects Nissen Richards Studio and is nestled on the edge of woodland. Over time its cladding of charred larch will weather to a silvery grey, blending with the Scots pines that frame it on approach.