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Must-Visit Museums in Bury St Edmunds & Beyond

Discover Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk's fascinating past with a trip to these must-visit museums in Bury St Edmunds & Beyond...

Bury St Edmunds boasts historical intrigue around every corner, with the Abbey Gardens and ruins, the Cathedral, the Athenaeum and St Mary’s Church available to visit before you even set foot inside a museum. The many museums in and around Bury St Edmunds offer established and budding historians alike a chance to investigate myriad aspects of the past of Bury St Edmunds and Beyond. If you’re planning a visit, here are the must see museums you simply shouldn't miss!

Moyse’s Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds

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Looking out over Bury St Edmunds market place for almost 900 years, the stately medieval building housing Moyse's Hall Museum has had an eclectic past; serving as a workhouse and police station before becoming a museum in 1899. Today, displays of local and social history sit side by side with artefacts of international importance. A world class collection of horology items are on view, as well as paintings by England’s first professional female painter, Mary Beale. If you are open to something a little more macabre, the museum is home to a range of prison paraphernalia, displays about the 17th century witch trials in the town, and a jaw-dropping selection of items relating to the infamous ‘Red Barn Murders’; you’ll have goosebumps.

Keep an eye out for visiting exhibitions too, with Urban Frame: Mutiny in Colour, one of the country’s biggest modern art exhibitions of 2023 featuring several artworks by controversial street artist, Banksy on display from June - October.

Moyse’s Hall Museum is open Mondays to Saturdays between 10am and 5pm (last entry 4pm)
Entrance prices are £7 for adults, £6 concessions and 5 for children aged 5-16. Family passes and heritage tickets are also available.

Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum, Bury St Edmunds

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Rougham Control Tower Aviation Museum is a must visit for anyone with an interest in aviation or for anyone who has seen the Apple TV + Series Masters of The Air.

Based within an actual airfield and home to the 94th bomb group this friendly museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of the American Airmen/women who served in the 94th BG of the USAAF 8th Air Force during WWII. The tower and surrounding Nissen huts contain displays including various aircraft parts and equipment recovered from crash sites across Suffolk and Norfolk and knowledgeable volunteers are on-hand to answer any questions and illuminate the histories and stories to which the museum is dedicated.

The museum also hosts a number of well-attended events throughout the season, so keep an eye on our what's on guide for more information.

The museum is open from Easter every Sunday between 10am and 4pm until October. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

Suffolk Regiment Museum, Bury St Edmunds

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Suffolk Regiment Museum was first established in 1935, in line with the 250th anniversary of the Regiment’s foundation. At its inception, the basis of the collection comprised badges, medals and items of uniform which had been displayed in the Officers’ Mess since before the Great War. As time went on, officers and the families of former soldiers began to donate items, slowly building an sizeable collection which vividly recalls the lives and activities of Suffolk soldiers. On your visit you can peruse the displays of silverware and medals, military music items, uniforms, badges and weapons and even poignant personal memorabilia, offering a more intimate look at the inner lives of soldiers of the past.

The museum opens every Wednesday and the first Sunday of each month, 9.30am-3.30pm and admission is free with group visits welcome by prior arrangement.

National Horse Racing Museum, Newmarket

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You won’t find a museum more dedicated to the development of thoroughbred horse racing and breeding in Great Britain. Situated in the centre of Newmarket and located in King Charles II’s former palace and stable yards, the National Horse Racing Museum is committed to preserving and displaying items related to the social history, science and art connected to this ever-popular sport.

With H.M. The Queen as their patron, Palace House promises a bumper-packed day out with plenty to see and do with an onsite restaurant, bakery and shop to rest or refuel.

The collections date from the 17th century through to the present day and elucidate the vast history and fascinating science of horse racing. The museum is also the home to fantastic artworks belonging to the British Sporting Art Trust and offers opportunities to encounter former racehorses!

The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, adult tickets are £15 and children 16 and under can enter for free.

Ancient House Museum, Clare

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Situated in the pretty town of Clare, Suffolk's smallest town, is Ancient House Museum. The museum tells the history of the town, of the Lords and Ladies who once lived in Clare, and of the ordinary people who lived and worked there.

The museum is housed in a Grade I listed building of national importance. The West Wing on the High Street is believed to date from the 14th Century and the more heavily decorated East Wing, from 1473. This important timber-frame building is especially noted for its decorative pargeting.

The museum was established in 1979, and is entirely run by volunteers and trustees. Artefacts on display range from Iron Age and Roman to through to Victorian and later, including clothing, tools, coins and everyday domestic items. Recent archaeological excavations in Clare Castle discovered several Saxon and many medieval artefacts which are on display.

Open Saturdays and Bank Holidays 11.30am - 5pm, Sundays 2pm-5pm.

The Food Museum, Stowmarket

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Boasting the title of the UK’s only food museum, visitors the Food Museum in Stowmarket will leave with a renewed appetite and a heightened connection to the way food makes its journey from source to plate. From cheese and bread-making to traditionally brewed ales, the museum is rooted in the food traditions of East Anglia and offers inclusive, hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages.

Set across 75 acres of lush Suffolk countryside, there are 17 buildings to explore and over 40,000 objects in the collection; from wartime ration recipes to a full-sized steam powered mill engine. The museum often hosts events, from demonstrations and workshops to family activities and live performances. There are even animals to meet and feed, a wildflower meadow and a lovely cafe for refreshments after a jam-packed day.

The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-4pm and admission is £12 for adults, £10 for concessions, £8 for children aged 4-16 and under 4’s go free. There are also family ticket deals available.

Woolpit Museum, Woolpit

Woolpit Museum

Pique your curiosity with a visit to the quaint Woolpit Museum. If you haven’t heard the legend of the Green Children, make your way up the stairs of this early 16th century cottage and glimpse the display which unfolds the 12th century story of the unusually pigmented children who turned up one day in a hole in the ground. The children are still depicted on the sign as you drive into Woolpit. The museum also hosts displays of photographs of the village through time and a selection of items found buried in local fields. You can also find out about the brickworks and the workings of a Victorian kitchen.

The museum is open at weekends between the hours of 2pm and 4.30pm and admission is free.

Dad's Army Museum, Thetford

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Dad's Army Museum in Bury St Edmunds is the world’s only dedicated museum to the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. The museum opened its doors in 2002 and has since welcomed thousands of visitors from around the world.

Located in Thetford, the museum houses an extensive collection of artefacts from the classic show, including original scripts, props, costumes, photographs and much more. On display are various items used during the filming of the show including a replica of the famous Walmington-on-Sea Pier. Visitors can even try on some of the original costumes and take a stroll through a recreated Walmington-on-Sea street scene.

The museum offers a variety of educational activities, including a guided tour by an enthusiastic costumed guide. Other activities include a rifle shooting range, a hands-on workshop with replicas of WWII weapons, and a 1940s themed tea room. A must-see for any fans of the classic comedy series and provides a unique insight into the popular culture of World War II Britain!

Tickets for both tours need to be pre booked.

The museum will reopen on Saturday March 11th 2023. Open on Saturdays and on other days as advertised.

Gainsborough's House, Sudbury

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Located in Sudbury, a 30 minute drive from Bury St Edmunds, Gainsborough's House is a delightful museum dedicated to the work and legacy of Thomas Gainsborough, one of England’s most renowned landscape and portrait painters.

The house dates back to the 17th century and was once the home and studio of the great artist. Today, visitors can explore the fascinating collection of paintings, sketches, books and personal effects left behind by Gainsborough, including original copies of his famous works.

In addition to admiring the many works of art, visitors can enjoy a variety of interactive activities and learn more about the artist through an informative audio tour. Gainsborough's House also hosts a number of special events throughout the year, such as lectures, concerts and workshops.

Whether you’re a fan of Thomas Gainsborough or simply looking to admire some of England’s finest artwork, be sure to add Gainsborough's House to your itinerary during your visit to Bury St Edmunds.

Open daily from 10am - 5pm, entry to the House, Galleries and Exhibition is £17.50 for adults and £5 for children.

Lavenham Guildhall

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National Trust's Lavenham Guildhall is a stunning 15th century timber framed building located in the small town of Lavenham, just over 20 minutes from Bury St Edmunds. Built by wealthy wool merchants, it has been beautifully restored to show off its original grandeur. Once you step inside the building, you will be taken back in time. From the exposed timber beams to the intricate wood carvings, the Guildhall is a sight to behold. You can explore its many rooms, each one holding something special and fascinating about the history of the town. There are a number of interactive displays which bring this history to life, from an informative audio-visual display about the wool trade to an interactive model of the Guildhall itself.

Visitors can also explore the various collections on display, from a large selection of local artefacts and photographs to a library filled with books about Lavenham's past. There is also an impressive museum dedicated to the life of Robert Rich, a renowned 19th century merchant and philanthropist who was born in Lavenham.

For opening times visit the National Trust Lavenham Guildhall website.

Mildenhall and District Museum

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The Lakenheath Warrior at Mildenhall Museum

Discover the history of Mildenhall, its treasures and people, told through wonderful displays in the galleries of Mildenhall and District Museum.

Here you can discover the story of the Lakenheath Warrior - the excavation of a man buried with a horse and lavish grave goods at RAF Lakenheath attracted national media attention. Evidence of a burial mound led excavators to suspect that the burial might be important. When the soil was stripped away the amazing find was revealed.

The grave contained the body of a man in his mid 30s. He was 5’ 10‘’ tall with a muscular build. There was no obvious cause of death and his bones suggest he would have been in pretty good health.

This man was buried in a wooden coffin with his sword and his shield and spear would have been laid on top. Close by were cuts of lamb – perhaps for a meal in the afterlife. A horse wearing decorative bridle fittings was also buried with him and a wooden bucket close to the horse’s head suggests that perhaps he too was left a final meal. We do not know the funeral rites of his people, but horses were valuable to Saxon people and this one was sacrificed, probably at the grave site, to join the warrior in the afterlife.

The objects chosen to accompany this man identify him as a warrior – whether this was the case we do not know but it is how those who buried him wanted him to be perceived.

The Lakenheath Warrior is not the only treasure to see. at Mildenhall Museum you can:

Experience the story of the Mildenhall Treasure, and see the jewellery and brooches wealthy Romans wore in Britain.

Touch an ammonite, see flint tools and find out about ancient burials.

Find out about local wildlife, farming, hunting, fishing and rabbit-fur production, and touch an eel.

Meet Mildenhall characters who ran local shops and businesses and explored the world.

Relive the excitement of the Great Air Race of 1934, as well as Mildenhall’s role in war and peacetime.

For opening times visit the Mildenhall and District Museum website.

Little Hall Lavenham

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Little Hall Lavenham is an historic Tudor house situated in the heart of Lavenham. Built in the late 15th century and largely unchanged since, this building is a unique example of an unaltered medieval town house. It is known to have been home to various wealthy merchant families over the centuries, including members of the prestigious Lovelace family.

Today, Little Hall Lavenham is open to the public and serves as a museum, offering visitors a glimpse into life in a Tudor household. The museum features a range of artefacts, including furniture, tapestries, and costumes, that were all used by past residents. The staff are also on hand to explain how daily life would have been conducted here during the Tudor period.

In addition to its many historical displays, Little Hall Lavenham also provides guests with the chance to explore the surrounding gardens. These gardens offer visitors the opportunity to experience nature while admiring stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also take part in activities such as outdoor chess, croquet, and boules.

For opening times visit the Little Hall website.

West Stow Anglo Saxon Village

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A visit to the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is a must for anyone interested in Suffolk's fascinating past. Located just outside of Bury St Edmunds, this open-air museum gives visitors an opportunity to explore a recreation of an Anglo-Saxon village that existed around AD 420.

Upon arrival at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, visitors can take a self-guided tour or opt for a guided tour from one of the knowledgeable members of staff. Along the way, visitors will get to explore the remains of sunken-featured buildings and learn about the everyday life of Anglo-Saxon people. Additionally, the museum also has a reconstructed house that is filled with replica artefacts, giving visitors a true sense of what life was like.

In addition to touring the village, visitors can also take part in interactive activities such as cooking demonstrations and blacksmithing classes. There are also various events that take place at the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village throughout the year such as medieval tournaments, music workshops and the upcoming DragonFest in June!

For opening times visit the West Stow Anglo Saxon Village website.

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