2021 VISITS:

Sutton Hoo (October 2021)

The first visit since March 2020 took place on Wednesday 20 October when a group of the Friends travelled with Flagfinders coaches and our special driver, Paul, to Sutton Hoo near Woodbridge.

The ship at Sutton Hoo under excavation. Picture credit: Manchester University

Masks were worn on the coach and single travellers allocated two seats so distancing was observed.

Sutton Hoo is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

Full size ship sculpture

In 1939, burial mounds in the grounds of a property owned by Mrs Pretty were excavated by Basil Brown, her gardener and amazingly the great ship burial was discovered. Other mounds had been previously dug and looted, but this was the most amazing discovery of the century. The mound he excavated was a royal burial ground, the final resting place of an Anglo Saxon king with his treasured possessions, Because of the imminence of World War II, Mrs Pretty made the generous decision to donate all the finds to the British Museum.


The Sutton Hoo helmet. Credit: Jim Brewin from Pixabay

The site is cared for by the National Trust and recently they have made great developments. A 17 metre tall viewing tower has been erected opposite to the burial mounds and from here it is possible to get a real bird’s eye picture of the site and the proximity to the River Deben from where the ship was dragged to its final resting place.

Birds eye view from the tower

Tranmer House

In the courtyard, a full size sculpture of the ship has been erected which really gives an understanding of the size and the importance of the finds. The High Hall exhibition contains replicas of many of the treasures, including the iconic helmet, the gold belt buckle and a patterned sword. In Mrs Pretty’s home, Tranmer House, there is an exhibition to show various digs and excavations that have taken place at Sutton Hoo.

We were blessed with a mild sunny day and the opportunity to catch up with people who we had not met each other for over a year.




  • Sutton Hoo – Suffolk
  • Saatchi Gallery for the exhibition – Tutankhamun Treasures of the Golden Pharoah
  • Devon Extended Tour – Exeter, Paignton, Dartmouth, Buckfast Abbey, Swindon
  • Fitzwilliam Museum – Cambridge
  • River Blackwater – Barge Tour
  • Penshurst Place – Kent
  • New Hall – Chelmsford


Each year, an extended tour of five days enables us to visit places of interest too far away for a day visit.

In April 2022, we plan to visit Derbyshire, with Buxton as our base.  This is the Tour originally booked for September 2020 and then postponed to September 2021. It was felt that the current situation is not ideal for the tour and so the decision was made to postpone again to 2022. Booking details will be given in the Autumn.

This account of last year’s tour to Devon tells a little of what a Friends’ tour is like…

In October 2019, we undertook the Friends’ seventh extended visit; this time to Devon. We stayed at the Ilsington Country House hotel which was on the edge of Dartmoor and very comfortable. The restaurant has two AA Rosettes so we were served some excellent meals. Our group of forty filled the entire hotel so it was a very happy house party! The swimming pool was well used too!

Each day we travelled to places of interest in the area. A Red Coat city guide accompanied us on a tour of Exeter and we then enjoyed the rest of the day at leisure.

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral

The next day was called Round Robin. We started in Paignton and journeyed on a steam train to Kingswear from where we took the ferry across the River Dart to Dartmouth. A couple of hours in Dartmouth enabled us to explore the quaint narrow streets and alleys all bedecked with flowers. When the tide was right we embarked on a boat for an hours leisurely journey up the river to Totnes. The sun shone and it was clear why this area is termed the Riviera!

Roadworks and a closed road over Dartmoor necessitated a change in plans on our fourth day. However we still enjoyed the calm and peace of Buckfast Abbey.It is hard to conceive that an abbey of such proportions was built by only six monks at the beginning of the twentieth century.

On the return journey we stopped in Swindon where a retired engineer showed us around  “Steam”, the museum of the Great Western Railway. Housed in the old railway sheds, there are life sized mannekins as well as several locomotives. Although there was a shopping outlet in an adjacent building  I don’t think anybody was tempted!