The National Trust is a fantastic organisation that helps to preserve and maintain significant places across the UK. Historic buildings such as stately homes, castles and churches as well as nature reserves and gardens make up the charity’s holdings and many attractions are free to members of the public. We are lucky enough in Suffolk to have several National Trust sites, all of which are well worth a visit.
Sitting in Long Melford, Melford Hall is a stately home and the ancestral seat of the Parker Baronets. Built in the sixteenth century, Melford Hall has since enjoyed a rich history. Visited by Queen Elizabeth I, housing stunning eighteenth century Chinese porcelain, and frequented by Beatrix Potter you are bound to discover fascinating facts on a visit to this terrific hall.
Melford Hall passed into the care of the National Trust in 1960 and it is open to the public for everyone to enjoy the history of the hall. With a cafe to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and slice of cake after a walk through the beautiful rooms and stunning gardens, the hall is an ideal place to visit.
Prices - Adult £8.30, Child £4.15
The origins of Ickworth can be traced back all the way to the Domesday book when it was one of many assets held by the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds. Ickworth was acquired by the Hervey family through marriage in 1432 and was the family’s home for the next 500 years. What was once a modest medieval hall became a turreted Tudor maison, however in 1701 the maison was demolished so that an even grander house could be built in its place. Nothing like it had been seen before in England, and the country held its breath as the building began to take shape. Irish architects brought the Italian designs to life and the house took a total of 47 years to complete. The glory of the family came to an end after the Second World War and the house was passed onto the National Trust. The East Wing is now a luxury hotel while the Rotunda has been restored to its former glory and offers visitors the chance to glimpse the old way of life of Ickworth House.
Ickworth House - Adult £14, Child £7
In 1939 one of the most important archeological discoveries was made in England - the burial ship of King Raewald of East Anglia. The wealth of treasure found included the now iconic helmet, a number of gold artefacts and a number of tools and weapons which date back to the early seventh century. The site was given to the National Trust in the 1990s. At Sutton Hoo you can walk around the burial mounds, explore the exhibition of treasures and visit the Tranmer House which was the home of Edith Pretty - the landowner at the time of the discovery. With lots of events on to take part in, Sutton Hoo is a great place to get kids interested in history and you might just discover something for yourself as well.
Prices - Adult £9.10, Child £4.55
Lavenham is a truly postcard pretty town - and was even used onscreen to double for Harry Potter’s birthplace, Godric’s Hollow. Tucked away in the town you will find Lavenham Guildhall - Grade I listed, sixteenth century timber framed building. By the late fifteenth century, Lavenham found itself at the centre of the wool trade in East Anglia and one of the richest towns in the country. In order to reflect the town’s prosperity four guilds were built by local merchant families and the most important of these was the wool guild. The wool guild founded the Guildhall of Corpus Christi in 1529 and it is this hall which still stands today. Given the dominance of the wool and cloth trade in Lavenham the guildhall became the town’s principal meeting place. As the wool trade declined the role of the guildhall was adapted and eventually the hall was used as the town’s workhouse. Restored in 1911 by Sir William Quilter and given to the people of Lavenham in 1946. In 1951 the guildhall became property of the National Trust and hosts lots of great events throughout the year you can enjoy.
Prices - Adult £6.90, Child £3.45
Managed by the National Trust, Orford Ness Nature Reserve is a wonderfully unique habitat as the largest shingle spit in Europe and contains a significant portion of the European reserve of vegetated shingle habitat which is incredibly scarce throughout the world and is extremely fragile. Only accessible by boat, a variety of wildlife make Orford Ness its home, including Chinese water deer, brown hares, barn owls and even birds of prey such as marsh harriers and peregrines.
Orford Ness was home to things of a more military nature when the War Department acquired a large area of the Ness with the intention to develop it into airfields. Perhaps surprisingly, Orford Ness was part of the pioneering edge of military aviation and continued to be used as a site for military experimentation for 70 years. Should you fancy a trip to Orford Ness be sure to adhere to the visitor routes as debris from this time lingers.
Prices - Adult £9, Child £4.50
Make sure you pay a visit to these National Trust sites, or maybe get yourself a membership or volunteer to help support this brilliant organisation. With these sites hosting events throughout the year there really is something for everyone and always something new to discover.