Suffolk has a rich history, which is reflected in its many Museums. From coastal locations brimming with displays and historical information about Suffolk’s rich maritime past to museums that chronicle days long past, there is a wide range of options. A museum outing (or two) is a great way to spend time with family and friends of all ages, and many museums are free or offer the opportunity to donate in order to maintain them. Your destination is the past; go and explore it!
The Amber Museum, Southwold
There is no other museum in the UK dedicated to the history and narrative of amber. The Fournels, who established and developed the Amber Museum, have created beautiful carvings and heirlooms from all over the world as well as England’s biggest and oldest amber jewellery shop, which has a wide range of modern as well as traditional items. To see when the Amber Shop and Museum are open, please see the provided contact information.
The Southwold Museum was honoured as ‘Suffolk Museum of the Year’ back in 2017. This tiny structure contains an incredible assortment of displays and artefacts related to Southwold and its fascinating story. The Museum tells the regional and environmental history of Southwold, from the age-old Viking invasion to fossil remnants, to the shoreline battles, to the evolution of the architecture, art, and industries in the area, to the ups and downs of Southwold’s railway, to the renowned landlocked lighthouse, to the 20th-century revolution of a bustling fishing town into a successful coastal resort. Welcoming visitors from the 1st of April and free of charge, see Southwold Museum for contact info and hours.
Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket
There are almost 3 kilometres of nature and woodland trails to explore, fifteen historical buildings to visit, and the culture of gypsies and ancient East Anglian crafts to learn about at this open-air museum situated on 75 acres of awestriking countryside. In addition to animals and steam engines, you can also see Suffolk Punch horses here. For more information and hours, visit the Museum of East Anglian Life.
Bawdsey Radar Station
See ‘The Magic Ear’, an interactive exhibition that tells the fascinating tale of ‘The Invention That Changed the World’. Engineers, technicians, and scientists united in the 30s at Bawdsey in order to prove that aeroplanes, ships, and other objects can be detected by radio waves. Bawdsey Radar Museum gives a comprehensive account of the radar developments that took place in 1937 and the part they played in the Battle of Britain. The stories of the individuals involved and the radar operators, who were primarily women (WAAFs), who were dedicated to winning World War II are presented. For more information and open hours, please see Bawdsey Radar Museum.
Long Shop Museum, Leiston
Travel back into the past of Leiston and experience the Garret collection first-hand. Set in the Garret works structures, this award-winning museum exhibits Long Shop, a Grade II listed building that was developed in the 1850s as the first place to produce portable steam engines. Here you can see a beautiful picnic garden, a diverse gift shop, fascinating exhibition halls and an informative resource centre.
To find more information and open hours of this museum, see Long Shop Museum.
This fascinating museum is centred around historical artefacts, displays and collections associated with the region between the River Alde and the Butley River. This includes the towns of Chillesford, Sudbourne, Boyton, Iken, and Butley, along with Gedgrave, Orford Ness, and Havergate Island.
Orford Museum, situated inside Orford Castle, showcases a portion of the borough’s regalia as well as social history and archaeology-related artefacts. Maps, photos, and pictures on graphic panels illustrate Orford’s history from its early days to its current existence. For more information, visit Orford Museum.
Bentwaters Cold War Museum
This museum is located in one of the air base’s bunkers or command posts and showcases restored rooms of ‘war operation’ and many other fascinating displays. Contact: 07588 87702. Bentwaters Parks, Rendlesham. www.bcwm.org.uk
Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury
The museum, situated in the birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough, displays more of his work than any other gallery. The townhouse is adorned with a beautiful walled garden, displaying work by Gainsborough and his followers and contemporaries, complemented by antique furniture. In addition to showing historical art exhibitions, there is a wide range of temporary presentations featuring both old and modern artwork.
For more information, check out Gainsborough’s House
The National Horseracing Museum
This narrative captures the essence of horse racing from its Royal beginnings to modern heroes like Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori, as well as the people connected with it. There is a section on a great Royal Derby winner in 1896, Persimmon, as well as one about jockey Fred Archer, who committed suicide with a pistol, which is also showcased here. Finally, there is a section on ‘Prince Monolulu,’ the notorious 1950s tout.
Check out The National Horseracing Museum for more information.
Heavy Horse Museum
The museum is dedicated to preserving the Suffolk Punch (or the Suffolk working horse), the world’s oldest working horse breed and perhaps the finest working animal man ever bred. Contact 01394 380643. Shire Hall, Market Hill, Woodbridge.
Those who find local history particularly fascinating will find a wealth of info in all the Suffolk museums.
The Lowestoft museum covers the town’s entire history, all the way back to the Stone Age up to the present day. Its displays cover textiles, agriculture, and the porcelain industry of the town. The picture above provides a glimpse of Lowestoft Pier as it used to be. https://www.lowestoftmuseum.org/. Nicholas Everitt Park, Oulton Broad Contact: 01502 511457. See Lowestoft Town Guide for more information.
Bungay Museum offers a glimpse into the rich local history, geology, and archaeology of the area, which includes fascinating coins like the famous Bungay Tokens. Additionally, the museum is home to a wide range of photographs, clay pieces, paintings, and interesting engravings relating to the town, along with a display case devoted to John Childs, a renowned Bungay artist. https://bungaymuseum.co.uk/. Contact: 01986 892176. Broad Street, Bungay. Visit Bungay Town Guide for more information.
Set in the station building of the town beside distinct moveable platforms and an old signal box, the Halesworth Museum features an evolving collection of displays that speak of the local history, studies of science, and resources on English. https://halesworthmuseum.org.uk/wpress/. Contact 01986 875351. Station Road, Halesworth. Visit Halesworth Town Guide for more information.
A functioning model of Saxmundham Railway Station is among the artefacts on display at Saxmundham Museum. Other objects include Victorian shopfront replicas, dolls, costumes, and a 1930s cinema replication that operates like the real thing. www.saxmundhammuseum.org.uk. Contact 01728 602026. See Saxmundham Town Guide for more information.
The Moot Hall, one of Aldeburgh’s oldest structures, is home to Aldeburgh Museum. Various maps and portraits of the region are exhibited here, as well as artefacts of local interest. It has been in use as a town meeting place since 1520. https://www.aldeburghmuseum.org.uk/. Contact: 01728 454666. See Aldeburgh Town Guide for more information
A model of the town that sank beneath the sea, as well as environmental studies on erosion and other environmental issues, can be found at Dunwich Museum. Natural history displays, local artworks, and Smugglers’ Cove are all available for visitors to explore. www.dunwichmuseum.org.uk. Contact: 01728 648796. See Dunwich Town Guide for more information.
Fascinating sights, such as displays of local history, details about HMS Beehive and RAF Felixstowe and a collection of a paddle steamer can all be found at the Felixstowe Museum. Furthermore, visitors can experience the military history of the town, insight into Lansguard point, and a collection on St. Audry’s Hospital. www.felixstowemuseum.org. Contact: 01394 674355. See Felixstowe Town Guide for more information.
Lanman Museum, Framlingham can be found at Framlingham Castle (pictured above). Here you can discover the local history of Framlingham and its castle through various collections of paintings, prints and drawings. There is also memorabilia on display, including the complete run of the Framlingham Weekly News from 1859 to 1938.
Framlingham Castle, Church St, Framlingham, Woodbridge IP13 9BP Contact: 01728 723214 www.thelanmanmuseum.onesuffolk.net
Woodbridge Museum has been established for more than 20 years and provides colourful and varied displays that tell the story of the town from its Anglo-Saxon roots and its discoveries at Sutton Hoo (pictured above) to the present day.
Contact: 01394 380502 www.woodbridgemuseum.com Woodbridge IP12 4LP
For more information please see Woodbridge Town Guide
Ipswich Museum is one of the oldest publicly funded museums outside of London, and features a display that tells the story of the town (town hall pictured below) – from its beginnings during the ice age through to the present day. In the Victorian natural history gallery visitors come face to face with a giraffe, a rhinoceros and a woolly mammoth, plus a fascinating display on the archaeology finds of the Anglo-Saxons.
High St, Ipswich IP1 3QH Contact: 01473 433550 www.ipswich.gov.uk/services/ipswich-museum
For more information please see Ipswich Town Guide
The Beccles and District Museum
The museum (pictured below) details the history of clock and watch-makers in the town of Beccles, and also features and publishes books on the area. Visitors should contact the museum directly to enquire about opening times and seasons.
See The Beccles and District Museum
Leman House, Ballygate, Beccles NR34 9ND 01502 715722 www.becclesmuseum.org.uk
East Anglia Transport Museum, Lowestoft
A fabulous working museum where the past comes to life. Travel as often as you like on preserved historic vehicles or take a trip on the narrow-gauge railway.
Chapel Road, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, 01502 518459 www.eatm.org.uk
Moyse’s Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds
Housed in the oldest domestic building open to the public in East Anglia, Moyse’s Hall dates back over 800 years. Many striking architectural features can be seen in the building. A museum for 100 years, it houses local history collections relating to the town, Abbey & St Edmund. They also include William Corder’s scalp from Murder in the Red Barn relics as well as many other curious from the local area.
Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds, 01284 706183 www.weststow.org/moyses-hall
Please also see Shoppers’ Guide to Suffolk
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