Seahenge ready to return to Norfolk

SUE SKINNER Norfolk's famous Bronze Age timber circle should finally be returning to the county in the next couple of months, ready to take pride of place in a flagship exhibition.

SUE SKINNER

Norfolk's famous Bronze Age timber circle should finally be returning to the county in the next couple of months, ready to take pride of place in a flagship exhibition.

A display of part of Seahenge, which was controversially excavated from the shoreline at Holme, near Hunstanton, in 1999, is set to be the crowning glory of a £1m museum redevelopment at King's Lynn.

The 55 oak posts and central, upturned tree stump, which were all that remained of a structure built by an inland farming community in the spring or early summer of 2049BC, have been undergoing specialist conservation at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth.

Although work on the giant stump - thought to be the largest piece of wood ever preserved, is expected to take several more years, the timbers themselves are now in the final stages of the process.

The main chapel gallery at Lynn Museum was closed to the public after Christmas to allow staff to prepare for the installation of an exhibition telling the story of West Norfolk, although a temporary display, the Changing Face of Lynn, is still open.

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Once the new exhibition opens in September, work will start on the Seahenge Gallery, including not only a display of half the real timbers but a full-size replica of the circle.

“Something that came out very strongly from the consultation, and when we had the focus groups in September time, was that people were quite confused by what survives. explained area museums officer Robin Hanley.

“The timbers that survived were what was below ground and everything above has rotted away. The view came back that people would welcome a full-size replica to get a feeling of what it would be like to walk inside.

“By seeing the replica first, it means that when they go around and see the original timbers they can make much better sense of what they are seeing.

“What we are trying to do in the gallery is put the people back into the story, if you like, to set the monument within a landscape that people were living in and farming in.

“We want people to understand not only what we think the monument was used for but what life must have been like for the people who built it.”

There are hopes that the Seahenge display will open early next year. Because of the high level of interest in the project, “windows” will be provided in the screens around the working area so museum visitors can peek inside.

The makeover, funded with the help of a £778,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to transform the museum with facilities fit for the 21st century, as well as show off the historic surroundings of the former non-conformist chapel.