Sutton Hoo is a success

MORE than 50,000 people have visited the National Trust's new exhibition centre at Sutton Hoo in just 51 days – the amount expected for the first year.

MORE than 50,000 people have visited the National Trust's new exhibition centre at Sutton Hoo in just 51 days – the amount expected for the first year.

The estimated forecast for the Anglo-Saxon ship burial site overlooking Woodbridge has already been beaten – and now the Trust is wondering just how many people want to see the £5m project.

With 2,000 visitors at the site on the Bank Holiday weekend it doubled the expected amount.

The Trust has more than 100 volunteers and has had to take on extra paid staff to cope with the unexpected number of visitors.

It was hoped that the historic market town of Woodbridge with its museums, riverside walks, Tide Mill and Buttrum's Mill would benefit from the Trust's developments at Sutton Hoo. But traders have expressed concerns that visitors are not being encouraged enough to come to the town.

Peter Battrick, a Trust spokesman, said the visitor numbers were incredible. ''It does show that we did underestimate the popularity but that it has been wonderfully good value to spend £5m including £3.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and get this response from the public.

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''There has been criticism of other tourism projects – the Armouries at Leeds and a pop museum which closed in Sheffield – as being a waste of money but Sutton Hoo has not fallen into that trap and it is totally at the other end of the spectrum.

''People are coming to Sutton Hoo for different things. There was an amazing amount of publicity for the project when it opened and I think it was symptomatic of the fact that it did catch the imagination. The Anglo-Saxons were an unknown quantity and Sutton Hoo is covering something people did not really have an awareness of," said Mr Battrick.