Original photographs of the 1939 archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo have gone on display at the site, thought to be the final resting place of King Raedwald who ruled in the seventh century.

The Anglo-Saxon treasures unearthed at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk have been described as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

The ghostly imprint of the burial longship, whose timber had rotted away in the acidic sand, can be seen in some of the photographs taken by schoolmistresses and best friends Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff.

The pair had visited Sutton Hoo in August 1939 while the Great Ship Burial was being excavated.

Eleven of their photographs are now on display in Tranmer House, the home of landowner Edith Pretty, who instigated the digs in her grounds leading to the 1939 discovery.

Ms Lack and Ms Wagstaff took more than 400 photographs, around 60% of the total number of the recorded contemporary negatives from the excavation.

The King’s Mound treasure, including the Sutton Hoo helmet, is now displayed at the British Museum in London.

Jack Clark, the National Trust’s collections and house officer at Sutton Hoo, said he was “proud to be displaying original Lack and Wagstaff prints in Tranmer House for the first time”.

Mr Clark said the original photographs will be displayed until June 3, when they will be swapped out for replicas and digital versions.

Great British Life:  Original photographs of the 1939 archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo Original photographs of the 1939 archaeological dig at Sutton Hoo (Image: Mercie Lack/National Trust/PA Wire)

“At Sutton Hoo we only display original photographs for short periods of time, and only then after advice from expert conservators,” he said.

“Though the drawing room in Tranmer House is free from UV light, photographs can still be damaged by visible light (LUX), but the biggest consideration for this display was temperature, as high temperatures can be particularly damaging.

“While we can manage light exposure and relative humidity, temperature can’t be managed as effectively, which means we need to take extra precautions.

“With longer, hotter summers, we knew we couldn’t have these original items on display beyond spring, and we may even have to limit this as the climate grows warmer and wetter in the coming decades.”

As well as the photos being displayed at Tranmer House, a photograph by Ms Lack showing the excavation and a black and white contact print by Ms Wagstaff will feature in the National Trust’s new book, 100 Photographs from the Collections of the National Trust.

Between 2018 and 2023, the collection of photographs was conserved, catalogued and digitised to preserve it for the future and enable access for all.

Visitors can explore the digitised collection in the dining room of Tranmer House and also online