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Suffolk's newest attraction wins support

PUBLISHED: 21:15 04 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:29 03 March 2010

HISTORIC Sutton Hoo's £5m new exhibition centre at the burial ground of pagan kings has generated a great deal of interest … even before it is opened to the public.

HISTORIC Sutton Hoo's £5m new exhibition centre at the burial ground of pagan kings has generated a great deal of interest … even before it is opened to the public.

Schools and branches of the Women's Institutes have already contacted the National Trust to book trips to the complex, near Woodbridge, for the summer and doctors want to hold a medical conference at the refurbished Tranmer House.

Even people planning to get married this year have been asking for details to hold ceremonies or receptions at the picturesque spot overlooking the River Deben.

But the pressure is on to prepare the tourist attraction for the first visitors on March 14, the day after the official opening by author Seamus Heaney.

Kate Sussams, property manager at Sutton Hoo, said: ''We have had a large amount of interest and it is hugely popular. But we have to get all the ticketing, tills, money, staff and everything else ready first – all the elements of the visitor experience – so that it runs seamlessly.''

And most importantly there is the arrival of priceless Anglo-Saxon treasures that remained buried under the fields for 1,300 years until they were discovered in 1939.

They are at the heart of the new centre's exhibition and will be on short-term loan from the British Museum where they are on display.

Top-level security was built into the visitor centre from the start to guard the objects which have not been seen in Suffolk since their discovery.

Fiona Reynolds, the Trust's director-general, said: ''This is a wonderful exhibition. You really get a feeling of what life and death meant to the people who made these incredible objects and created this extraordinary site.''

The Trust is inviting about 150 guests to the opening ceremony including representatives from the Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund which provided a £3.6m grant for the project.

It is hoped that Mr Heaney, author of the translation of Beowulf, the Old English epic poem which is recognised as one of the most important sources of knowledge about Anglo-Saxon society, will give a reading from the poem.

The exhibition and treasury tell the story of ritual burials of pagan kings, how Anglo-Saxons lived, their religious beliefs and how the treasures were discovered.

Excavated in the 1960s and in the late 1980s, the burial site provided a number of important finds, many of which were buried in the remains of a 90ft ship, including a well-preserved warrior's helmet, gold ornaments and Byzantine silver.

The Trust said Sutton Hoo ranks with Stonehenge as one of Britain's most important archaeological sites.

To find out more about the National Trust and its other sites round the country, including Sutton Hoo, visit its website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk


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