9 great Heritage Open Days in Suffolk

The Rotunda at Ickworth, Suffolk *** Local Caption *** Ickworth

The Rotunda at Ickworth, Suffolk - Credit: National Trust Images/Arnhel de

Heritage Open Days in September open up the county's history to everyone with a huge range of events, plus opportunities to explore places normally hidden from view. Here's a selection we know you'll enjoy but there are many more being added so check the website at heritageopendays.org.uk


The iconic Rotunda and grounds of Ickworth will be open free from September 10 to 17, 9am to 4pm when you can explore formal gardens, pleasure grounds, rolling Suffolk landscape and woodlands. Go on wheels or foot – there's a choice of walks and trails to explore. Don't miss the Italianate Garden, one of the earliest examples in the country, which hides a Victorian-style Stumpery - perfect for children to explore and find the hidden dragon.

In the Rotunda, a new exhibition hosts some of the finest examples of portraiture artists, including Titian and Vigee le Brun. No booking required.

There’s a lift to all levels in the Rotunda, although access is restricted for mobility vehicles and wheelchairs due to the building's structure. Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are available for loan to explore the gardens.

Book on 01284 736140. 
National Trust, Rotunda, Ickworth, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5QE 

Landguard Point, Felixstowe showing the port, Landguard Fort and Felixstowe Museum

Landguard Point, Felixstowe showing the port, Landguard Fort and Felixstowe Museum where you can learn how invading forces have been repelled for centuries. - Credit: Mike Page

Protecting our ports 

In the 1870s some UK commercial ports were selected for protection by minefields. The Royal Engineer Submarine Miners deployed electromechanical mines detonated by electrical switching when an observer sighted an enemy ship passing over the mines. At Landguard in Felixstowe, the Ravelin Block - which now houses the excellent Felixstowe Museum - was completed by the Royal Engineers in 1878 as part of a Submarine Mining Establishment, now the last remaining SME in the UK.

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On September 11, you can take a special tour, following the route the mines took along a narrow-gauge trolleyway, through the building where mines were prepared and tested, then trace the track to the remains of the riverside mining jetty where the mines were loaded onto the steam launch ‘Nellie’ to be laid across the estuary of the Rivers Orwell and Stour. 

Felixstowe Museum, View Point Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk, IP11 3TW 

READ: A six-mile walk crossing three Suffolk villages

World War II Planes

Halesworth’s airfield was mainly used as an American base and both the 56th Fighter Group and the 489th Bomb Group stayed there. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Halesworth Airfield Museum 

During its short four-year run of active service, Halesworth’s airfield played host to some of World War II’s most influential participants. The airfield was mainly used as an American base and both the 56th Fighter Group and the 489th Bomb Group stayed there. Towards the end of the war and afterwards, the base took on a rescue and training function before finally closing in February 1946.

The Airfield Museum houses an extensive collection of World War II memorabilia and Richard Pymar will give a talk on September 18 and 19 at 11am about the airfield and some of the dramas associated with it. No booking required.  

Halesworth Airfield Museum, Old Airfield, Upper Holton, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8NH 

Joseph Dalton Hooker, aged 34, portrait by TH Maguire

Halesworth's Joseph Dalton Hooker, in a portrait by TH Maguire, was one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century and Charles Darwin’s closest friend. - Credit: National Library of Australia

The Hooker Trail 

One of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century, Joseph Hooker was Charles Darwin’s closest friend and encouraged and supported Darwin when he wrote The Origin of Species. For 20 years he served as director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, succeeding his father, Sir William Hooker.

Hooker was born in Halesworth in 1817, a connection that is celebrated with the Hooker Trail. This guided walk organised by Halesworth in Bloom on September 18 and 19 is led alternately by Stephanie Hammond and Gillian Coulson. No booking required.

Dental Surgery, Hooker House, Quay Street, Halesworth, Suffolk, IP19 8EP 

Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich

Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich holds 450 years of history, and an astonishing collection of Constable and Gainsborough paintings. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ancient history and modern Marvel

Built on the site of 12th century Holy Trinity Priory, Christchurch Mansion has witnessed more than 450 years of history. The rooms are set in period fashions from the Tudors to the Victorians. You’ll find musical instruments and toys, intricate glassware, ceramics, furniture and paintings.

The Suffolk Artists Gallery holds an astonishing collection of Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable paintings and hosts changing exhibitions, featuring objects from the Ipswich collections, as well as loans. Until October 24, The Power of Storytelling exhibition explores the stories people have told for thousands of years.

Three iconic costumes from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther are woven into a patchwork of storytelling traditions across time and place. The outfits of T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye featured in the ground-breaking film sit alongside Marvel comics, museum objects and local stories.

Book a timed entry to visit at ipswichmuseums.ticketsolve.com 
Christchurch Mansion, Soane Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 2BE

Views around the East Anglia Transport Museum in Carlton Colville near Lowestoft.

Views around the East Anglia Transport Museum in Carlton Colville near Lowestoft. - Credit: citizenside.com

Just the ticket 

East Anglia Transport Museum is the only place in the UK where visitors can not only view but also ride on all three principal forms of public transport from the earlier part of the 20th century - trams, trains and coaches. It began in 1962 when four local tramway enthusiasts rescued the body of an old no. 14 Lowestoft tramcar from its use as a summerhouse at Gunton.

The idea of forming a transport museum grew and the East Anglia Transport Museum was founded on its present site in 1965, starting with a few old vehicles which were donated or loaned.  A disused meadow was transformed into a museum with depots, stores, workshops, offices, refreshment facilities and toilets, plus roads, tram tracks, overhead wiring for trams and trolleybuses, and a light railway.

Visit free on September 11, from 12pm.  
Chapel Road, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 8BL 

Carlton Marshes scrape. Photo credit: Steve Aylward

Carlton Marshes scrape. - Credit: Steve Aylward

Natural history at Carlton Marshes 

Explore the history and heritage of one of the region’s most important ecological habitats. Discover how this beautiful landscape was created over the centuries by the hands of Medieval peat diggers, the ideas of Morton Peto and the aspirations of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Part of the Water, Mills & Marshes Landscape Partnership Scheme, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. September 15, 10am-12pm. The nature reserve is free to explore but the walk must be pre-booked. Max 12 people per tour/session. The walk takes two hours.

Contact: Vicky Bolton 01502 359480 
Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve, Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 8HU 

Newmarket's National Horse Racing Museum

Newmarket's National Horse Racing Museum - Credit: Marc Atkins / Art Fund

They’re off! 

The National Horse Racing Museum is a five-acre indoor/outdoor site in the heart of Newmarket. It comprises three complementary attractions, plus you have the chance to meet former racehorses and take a ride on the racehorse simulator. NHRM tells the story of horseracing from its earliest origins, explored through works of art, silver, bronzes, and artefacts including racing silks worn by famous jockeys Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori. Using the latest interactive and audio-visual displays, the museum also takes a different look at the sport, examining the physical attributes of elite horses and the importance of the thoroughbred pedigree.

Palace House occupies the last remaining part of King Charles II’s sporting palace and racing stables, and houses paintings by George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings as well some of the finest sporting art from around the UK. Visit free on September 14, behind the scenes tours at 11am and 2.30pm. Book on the day.

Contact visitor services 01638 667314 info@nhrm.co.uk. Information at www.nhrm.co.uk 
National Horse Racing Museum, Palace House, Palace Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EP 

READ: Why our railways stations are good for wildlife

Discover Thomas Gainsborough's Sudbury.

Discover Thomas Gainsborough's Sudbury. - Credit: Archant

Strolling in Gainsborough’s footsteps

Join a 'free to explore' guided tour on September 12 and 18 and take a stroll to explore 18th century Sudbury. Led by a blue badge guide, this tour follows in Thomas Gainsborough's footsteps to discover the Sudbury that the great painter would have known.

From the Independent Meeting House on Friars Street where he was baptised, the picturesque ancient water meadows that ignited his passion for landscape painting, the family connections with Sudbury's famous silk weaving heritage, the school grounds where he was educated, and Gainsborough's House, the artist's birthplace, now a public museum dedicated to his life and work. 

Gainsborough's House will have a stand on Market Hill on September 18, complete with a walk-in Camera Obscura. Find out about ambitious plans to transform Gainsborough's House into a National Centre for Art, due to re-open in Spring 2022.

Book tickets at Eventbrite
Contact: Susan Gale 07895 071012
Market Hill (by the Gainsborough Statue), Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 2EA

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