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New exhibitions celebrate role of women in Sutton Hoo’s fascinating history

PUBLISHED: 15:14 03 March 2018

Youngsters from Melton Primary School with staff and volunteers at Sutton Hoo at the opening of the Her Say exhibitions. Picture: NATIONAL TRUST

Youngsters from Melton Primary School with staff and volunteers at Sutton Hoo at the opening of the Her Say exhibitions. Picture: NATIONAL TRUST

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Pupils from a Suffolk school have collaborated with the National Trust’s Sutton Hoo site to create one of three new exhibitions celebrating the lives and achievements of the women who contributed to its history.

The youngsters from Melton Primary worked on the Legacy of a Queen display as part of the Her Say: Extraordinary Women of Sutton Hoo project.

It focuses on items found in Mound One at the royal ship burial on the banks of the River Deben, near Woodbridge, and which tell a story of great social standing.

This grave is believed to have held the remains of Anglo-Saxon King Rædwald who was King of East Anglia in the early 600s.

Rædwald’s queen, who survived him, would have orchestrated his lavish burial in order to demonstrate her power and wealth during the power vacuum left by her husband’s death.

To mark the role of this Queen of East Anglia, pupils from Melton Primary have designed and hand-crafted beautiful wall-hangings to illustrate how she may have created this burial fit for the king. The pupils have also placed items in the case which tell a story about them and who they are.

Sutton Hoo staff and volunteers have collaborated to create two exhibitions, called Women of Discovery, to celebrate the lives and achievements of Edith Pretty, the former owner of Sutton Hoo who instigated the famous archaeological dig, Peggy Piggott, leading archaeologist and Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff, two ‘amateur’ photographers who contributed the majority of the photographic material of the 1939 excavation.

The exhibition brings to the fore aspects of their lives and achievements rarely highlighted.

Visitors will be able to discover more about how these women fought against the barriers of the time and played a leading role in one of the most significant discoveries of all time. Hear what they had to say about their lives and achievements through letters, interviews and books they wrote.

“We are really excited to be working with Melton Primary School on this project.” said Sutton Hoo Property Operations Manager Allison Girling

“Working with our local school and seeing the children take ownership of their own local history has been fascinating for us to watch and their enthusiasm has been infectious.”

“One of the most important reasons to showcase the achievements of Sutton Hoo’s women is to remind future generations that whilst this place is famous as the burial ground to a king, it was his Anglo-Saxon queen who would have played a lead role in creating the burial ground, and it was thanks to the curious mind and tenacity of Edith Pretty, the determination of Peggy Piggott who worked alongside Basil Brown and the skills of Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff that we are able to tell the stories of Sutton Hoo today.”

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