Vote for your favourite museum
- Credit: Archant
Lesley Dolphin sings the praises of Suffolk’s local history heroes
Wasn’t it wonderful to see our lovely Suffolk countryside and wildlife celebrated on TV in Springwatch?
I was so delighted when the Springwatch presenters told us at BBC Radio Suffolk that they intend to come back to the county after filming is over, Chris Packham with his Poodles and Martin Hughes Games with his new wife.
In fact, Martin wants to return to visit some of our museums. He mentioned Sutton Hoo, but he probably doesn’t realise he has a choice of over 50 museums to visit, all telling the Suffolk story in one way or another. There are museums devoted to transport, to our famous artists, the Cold War, fishing, horse racing and even one celebrating knots.
They’re sited in a real mixture of buildings, from castles to Nissen huts, to old railway stations, and are run by hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers.
Nominations are now being sought for Suffolk’s Museum of the Year awards. As well as highlighting the exhibitions, these awards are a great way to say thank you to the amateur historians who are preserving our local history. So get nominating!
Each museum is a treasure trove of fascinating local stories, major historical events, and they hold fascinating and unique items. In Southwold, as well as learning about the Battle of Sole Bay, you can see a flint arrowhead embedded in a human vertebra, a lead hand that may be Roman or medieval, and a medicine chest from 1805 with a secret compartment for poisons. The National Horseracing Museum in the centre of Newmarket tells the fascinating story of the sport of kings. Over the centuries the Royal Family, aristocracy and prime ministers have come to Newmarket to spend time at the races. I visited a couple of years ago with friends from America and they loved it, especially the gallery staffed by retired trainers and jockeys, where you can try riding a horse simulator- whip and all.
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The Cold War Museum at Bentwaters is based in the old Wing Command Building, the nerve centre of the Bentwaters and Woodbridge ‘Twin-Bases’. I found it chilling to see the thick walls and the shower blocks designed to protect people during a nuclear attack.
Every village and town has its own fascinating heritage. Halesworth’s museum, for example, is in the old railway station and includes a model of its unique moveable platforms.
As trains got longer in the early 1900s they platforms needed to be extended, but as the main Bungay road crossed the line at the end of the station, engineers had to find a solution. They built gates with a platform attached. As the gates swung back to close the road the platform was in place.
Why not pop into a museum this summer? Take the children or grandchildren. Youngsters always find `horrible history’ fascinating. I remember taking my boys to Moyses Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. They were most interested in the book about William Corder, who murdered Maria Marten.
After all, it’s covered with his skin . . .
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