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10 Spectacular Sites to Visit in Suffolk

Home to the most easterly point in England, Lowestoft Ness, the county of Suffolk is the first place in the country to see the sun rise each morning.

Home to the most easterly point in England, Lowestoft Ness in Suffolk is the first place in the country to see the solstice sunrise each summer on 21st June.

Here we take a tour through 10 spectacular Suffolk sites for Suffolk Day.

  1. Suffolk Pink

A pink tudor style house, side on
The Old Grammar School, Lavenham, Suffolk. © Historic England

Long before Millennial Pink existed, residents of Suffolk were mixing berries, or possibly blood (though this has been disputed), in with lime wash to create a delicate pale pink with which to decorate the exteriors of their homes.

Nowadays estate agents wax lyrical about the charm of towns and villages like Lavenham, but strict rules apply to owners of these homes, who must retain the original shade.

2. A House in the Clouds

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Designed as part of the Thorpeness village development for Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie in 1923, The House in the Clouds was originally a water tower: it was converted into a house in the 1970s.

The site was originally a small fishing hamlet but was redeveloped by Ogilvie as a nostalgic, ‘fantasy’ holiday village. The water tower was clad in wood in a bid to make it fit with the new vernacular.

3. Orford Ness

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Orford Ness is one of the most enigmatic and unusual heritage sites in the county. Sited on the Suffolk coast and on the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe it was the secret location for Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE), which was constructed between 1954 and 1962. Although the military presence of the site has long gone, the surviving remains include laboratories, control rooms and the Vibration Test Buildings more famously known as pagodas.

The site is now owned and managed by the National Trust.

4. Dunwich

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Further north along the coast is what may have been the capital of the 6th Century Kingdom of East Angles, which lasted until 918 when it was incorporated into the Kingdom of England. Today, the village of Dunwich is home to less than 200 people.

It was originally an important international port, with over 3000 residents recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. However, a series of devastating storms in the 13th century ravaged the town and most of the historic buildings. The ruins of the monastery, Greyfriars survive as does the solitary grave of Jacob Forster who died in 1796. The surrounding graves were lost to the sea but his remains on the cliff edge.

5. The Willis Building

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Ipswich competes with neighbouring Colchester for the title of England’s oldest town and is home to many medieval buildings.  Most of the Grade I buildings in Ipswich date from at least the 18th Century, with many going back further. With one exception: the youngest Grade I building was built in the 1970s.

The Willis Building was one of the first buildings designed by Norman Foster, now one of the most famous architects in the world, and makes masterful use of complex architectural innovation.

6. Black Shuck

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On the 4th August 1577, ‘a strange, and terrible wunder’ occurred in northeast Suffolk. A huge black dog is said to have burst into St Mary’s Church in Bungay and later the Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh, following a clap of thunder. The dog killed two worshippers, caused the church steeple to collapse and supposedly left scorch marks on the door of Holy Trinity

Today, the Black Dog name adorns many local shops as well as the marathon and the local football club. Meanwhile, an excavation at the nearby Leiston Abbey uncovered the bones of a large dog, which may have dated from the 17th Century. The press went wild, had the great mystery of Black Shuck finally been solved? The archaeologists didn’t think so, suggesting instead that it was ‘a working dog that lived long into “retirement”’.

7. Palace House

A red brick three storey building
Palace House © Will Fletcher

Palace House is the remains of Charles II’s racing palace in Newmarket, Suffolk. This enigmatic Grade II* building and associated stables were rescued in 1992 by Historic England (then known as English Heritage) and Forest Heath District Council (FHDC). It is thought to contain the earliest known counterbalanced sash window, from the late 17th Century. The restored building is now home to the National Horse Racing Museum alongside their collection of British sporting art.

8. Helmingham Hall

A small white bridge over a river with Helmingham Hall in the background
Helmingham Hall © Chris Laine

Lose yourself in the historic landscape once loved by Constable. Home to the Tollemarche family Helmingham Hall has its origins in the 15th century and is surrounded by a historic moat and 400 acres of parkland. The hall is listed at Grade I remains in private ownership but the gardens, situated in a Grade I registered park, are open to the public.

9. Leiston Abbey

Side profile of the Abbey with exposed brick and a large wooden door and roof
Chapel at Leiston, first site © Will Fletcher

Suffolk is home to many important medieval monastic ruins – none are more impressive than Leiston Abbey. The first site is located within the RSPB reserve at Minsmere and is a part of the renowned nature reserve. It was however here in 1182 that the first abbey in the area was founded. What remains at the site is an isolated chapel with unrivalled views over the Minsmere reserve, accessible from nearby footpaths and from the reserve centre.

By contrast the second Lesiton Abbey site is one of the finest and most picturesque surviving ruined abbeys in Suffolk. The Abbey was moved to its present location in the late 12th century when the first site was flooded and the monks carted away and re-used much masonry from the original site. This has resulted in a charming and complex mixture of features and stonework.

10. Visit an Anglo-Saxon village

West Stow, photograph from Wiki Commons

Whilst Sutton Hoo is quite rightly unrivalled as an archaeological site and visitor experience in Suffolk it is not the only Anglo- Saxon visitor attraction in the county. West Stow for example is home to a unique reconstructed Anglo-Saxon Village, museum and experimental farm. The village is built on a real archaeological site, and it gives visitors the opportunity to both see the archaeological objects found at the site and experience a little of the Anglo-Saxon way of life.

Written by Charlotte Goodhart & Will Fletcher.

Further Reading

2 comments on “10 Spectacular Sites to Visit in Suffolk

  1. Pingback: 6 Reasons to love historic Norfolk | Heritage Calling

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