Have you visited these top 25 historic places in Norfolk and Suffolk?
PUBLISHED: 11:00 08 July 2017 | UPDATED: 09:11 10 July 2017
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Discover East Anglia’s history and heritage with these top 25 historic sites.
1. Sutton Hoo
This awe-inspiring Anglo-Saxon royal burial site is one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time. On the incredible 255 acre estate, discover the incredible story of the ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions. In the burial chamber, archaeologists uncovered a suit of armour, a shield and sword, pieces of silver plate and a famous ceremonial helmet. On top of this, Sutton Hoo is now home to fascinating exhibitions, solstice celebrations and historical talks.
2. Strangers Hall
Named after Flemish weavers who migrated to Norwich to escape religious persecution, Strangers Hall is one of Norwich’s oldest and most fascinating buildings and dates back to 1320. Fun fact – The Flemish weavers brought with them canaries, after which the premier football club Norwich City are nicknamed.
Wander through a maze of passages to discover a series of inter-linked rooms, and in warmer weather, take a stroll around the lavender-filled garden.
3. Castle Acre
Despite being mainly in ruins, Castle Acre is one of the best preserved monastic sites in England. Near Swaffham, the Norman manor house was founded after the Norman Conquest in the 1070s by William de Wavenne and, although there is not much built stone left, the earthworks are still very impressive.
4. Burgh Castle
Located only a few miles from Great Yarmouth, on the south side of Breydon Water, Burgh Castle also overlooks the rivers Yare and Waveney. The late third century Saxon fort was originally built as part of the Roman network of coastal defences, as from its strategic position the Romans could protect their colony from attackers.
Three of its imposing stone walls have survived, almost to their original height, making this one of the best preserved Roman monuments in Britain.
5. Gainsborough House
This museum and art gallery in Sudbury is the birthplace of Suffolk born painter Thomas Gainsborough. In 1958 Gainsborough’s House Society was formed to purchase the house and establish it as a centre for Thomas Gainsborough, and in 1961, the museum opened to the public and has remained open ever since.
In the house, enter two downstairs rooms - the Entrance Hall and the Parlour – which both explore the achievements of the artist and his time in the county.
6. Holkham Hall
Begun in 1734, the design of Holkham Hall was heavily influenced by Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester, and his exposure to the classical Greek and Roman art and architecture he encountered during a tour of Europe. The design was based around a central block with four wings, however only when the family wing was finished in 1741, did work start on the central block.
The house is set in a superb landscape of parkland and water features and today you can see herds of red deer and fallow deer wander the grounds.
7. Lavenham Guildhall
The Guildhall is an early 16th century timber-framed Tudor building, in the heart of the remarkably preserved medieval village of Lavenham. Containing a local history museum, with exhibitions on medieval cloth industry, it is now operated by the National Trust.
8. The Abbey, Bury St Edmunds
Once one of the richest and largest Benedictine monasteries in England, The Abbey itself was founded in 1020, and grew in power and wealth up until its suppression in 1539. Today, visitors enter the abbey precinct, as they have since the 14th century, through the impressive Great Gate. This entrance is the abbey’s best surviving feature and gives an excellent idea of the stonework which would have been present elsewhere.
9. Norwich Cathedral
The impressive cathedral in Norfolk was started on in 1096, yet took nearly 200 years to complete. It now dominates the city’s skyline and is one of the Norwich 12 heritage sites. The awe-inspiring building has spectacular architecture, magnificent art and a fascinating history and is open to the public of all faiths and none.
10. Christchurch Mansion
Boasting over 500 years of history, this Tudor mansion is the jewel in the crown of Ipswich’s historic past. Situated within Christchurch Park, on the edge of Ipswich town centre, the Grade I listed building has been a museum since 1895. Step inside to explore period rooms, including a Tudor kitchen, a Georgian saloon and beautifully detailed Victorian wing.
11. Hadleigh Guildhall
This medieval timber-framed guildhall traces back to the 15th century, when Hadleigh was one of the most important woollen cloth towns in England.
The Grade I listed building is now open for guided tours, where visitors can learn about its fascinating history, its occupants and its place in the history of the town.
12. Melford Hall
Little has changed at Melford Hall since 1578, and as a result it is one of the most celebrated Elizabethan houses in East Anglia. The original panelling is still in the banquet hall, which is decorated with family portraits of the Hyde Parker family, who have owned the property since 1786. On display is a small collection of memorabilia from Beatrix Potter - a cousin of the Hyde Parker family – who drew inspiration from the house and its grounds for her stories. Her original Jemima Puddleduck toy still exists and is also on display to guests.
13. Eye Castle
This Norman motte-and-bailey castle, with medieval walls and a Victorian folly, has had close associations with royalty since it was built shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The castle was largely destroyed in 1265, however in 1844, British Army officer and politician Sir Edward Kerrison a built a stone house on the motte. Despite the house later decaying, Eye Castle is still dominated by its large motte and these 19th century ruins.
14. Leiston Abbey
Formerly known as St Mary’s Abbey, Leiston Abbey was founded in 1182 at Minsmere and is another impressive monastic ruin in Suffolk. The Abbey has had a number of owners, and eventually became a farm until it was bought for use as a religious retreat in 1928. When the owner of the retreat Miss Ellen Wrightson died in 1946, she bequeathed the house, ruins and surrounding land to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
15. Castle Rising
When William d’Aubigny married King Henry I’s widow Alice of Louvain in the 12th century, he wanted to broadcast his new-found social status. To do this, he constructed Castle Rising, which at the time was the largest building in England. Over the many years, Rising has served as a hunting lodge, royal residence, and for a brief time in the 18th century, even housed a mental patient. The Keep is set in 12 acres of grounds, which today are a pleasant place for picnics and for visitors to view some of the largest ramparts, in places being 120 feet from top to bottom, in Britain.
16. Saxton Green Post Mill
The whole body of this corn mill revolves on its base and is one of many built in Suffolk in the late 13th century.
Though milling at Saxtead Green Post Mill ceased in 1947, it is still in working order. Guests can now climb the stairs to various floors, which are all full of fascinating mill machinery.
17. Aldeburgh Moot Hall Museum
Built to serve as the Market Cross in the early 1500s, this attractive timber framed building stands two storeys high, with a jettied second storey. The ground floor which has four arches now filled in with brick, however these would have originally been open with space for market stalls beneath.
With displays and archives covering the long history of this historic town, Moot Hall is now home to the Aldeburgh Museum with exhibits including Roman Aldeburgh, the Martello Tower, the vanished port of Slaughden and the Aldeburgh Witches.
18. Glemham Hall
This elegant, red brick Elizabethan mansion, situated between Woodbridge and Saxmundham, was built circa 1560 by the de Glemham family. Surrounded by 300 acres of parkland, the estate is now a popular wedding venue and also hosts a variety of events, including a country fair, open air opera and theatre.
19. Somerleyton Hall
Home to the Crossley family since 1844, the Somerleyton Hall was a remodel of an original Jacobean Manor. The house is built around three sides of a courtyard and approached through the gardens, of which 12 acres surrounds the building.
The most popular feature of all, however, is the yew maze, which was first planted in 1846. Work your way through the maze to find a Chinese pagoda topping a small mound in the centre.
20. Cow Tower, Norwich
Located by the River Wensum, this stronghold was designed specifically for artillery weapons in the late 1300s. The tower was intended to defend the north-eastern approach to Norwich, as its height would have allowed it to fire onto the higher ground opposite the city.
Later it was used as a tollhouse, a dungeon, and for many years as nothing more than shelter for grazing cattle – hence the name – but since the peasant’s revolt of 1549, when it sustained significant damage, Cow Tower has been neglected. It was once a symbol of military strength, but now it proves too fragile to even go inside. Despite this, the brick tower is a historic part of East Anglia worth visiting.
21. Southwold Lighthouse
Midway between Lowestoft and Orford, the round white tower that is Southwold Lighthouse stands among rows of small houses. Construction began in 1887 with the aim of builfing a lighthouse to replace three local lighthouses which were under threat from severe coastal erosion at Orfordness.
Today the lighthouse remains operational, with the main light now visible for 24 sea miles, and may be visited by the public at specified times.
22. Grime’s Graves, Thetford
As the only Neolithic flint mine open to visitors in Britain, Grime’s Graves is a grassy lunar landscape of 400 pits, in a small part of the Breckland heath. A small exhibition area illustrates the history of this fascinating site, where visitors can descend nine metres by ladder into one excavated shaft to see the jet-black flint.
23. Town Hall and Trinity Guildhall, King’s Lynn
King’s Lynn’s historic town hall began as a meeting place for a religious guild of merchants known as the Guild of the Holy Trinity. Their 15th century stands directly across from King’s Lynn Minster, on the north side of the town’s Saturday Market Place.
The vaulted undercroft of the Guildhall has now been converted into an exhibition space, where a timeline of historic objects is used to trace the history of the Norfolk seaport and market town. Among these objects are an ornate 14th century drinking vessel of enamel, King John’s sword and silver maces and civic regalia, which is still used today in annual ceremonies.
24. Pulls Ferry
Pulls Ferry is the water gate for Norwich Cathedral. The attractive flint building dates back to the 15th century, however the channel running up to the Ferry is far older, and was built way before the cathedral.
The arched gateway was built across the canal, which was used to transport materials, and it is this gateway that is the most obvious historical feature of Pulls Ferry today.
25. Turf Fen Drainage Mill
This 19th century drainage mill is one of the Norfolk Broad’s most iconic sights, yet is actually one of the least accessible historic buildings in the Broads. Though it is easy enough to view, accessing the mill is impossible, except by boat.
It was built some time between 1875 and 1880, to drain Horning marsh into the river Ant and make the fields on the west bank of the river suitable for grazing livestock.