Abbot’s Hall opens after £2.7m revamp

Press Preview of the restoration at Abbots Hall, Museum of East Anglian Life
Press Preview of the restoration at Abbots Hall, Museum of East Anglian Life

THE Museum of East Anglian Life opens the fully restored Abbot’s Hall to the public tomorrow.

The hall, built in 1709, has just had a multi-million pound make over and will house seven permanent and two temporary exhibition rooms based on the themes of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’.

Press Preview of the restoration at Abbots Hall, Museum of East Anglian Life

Press Preview of the restoration at Abbots Hall, Museum of East Anglian Life

The first room attempts to recreate what the house would have been like as a home and includes two armchairs with built-in speakers playing readings of news stories of the day.

The dining room presents a table set for seven extraordinary guests, all of whom have done their bit for stewarding land in East Anglia or improving the region’s cultural history.

Sitting at the head of the table is Captain Herbert Davy Longe, who owned Abbot’s Hall from 1903 until his death in 1948 and led the way for the house to be given to the public.

Other guests include journalist and farmer Adrian Bell, Robert Ransome and Lady Eve Balfour, the first person to set up proper organic farming trials.

The museum also has a room dedicated to the work of George Ewart Evans, long regarded as one of the pioneers of oral history.

Evans, a grocer’s son from Wales, moved to Blaxhall in 1948 and began recording the voices of rural Suffolk.

The exhibition features telephones on one wall which guests can pick up and hear the old Suffolk dialect and stories from the past.

Abbot’s Hall also features an exhibition commissioned as part of the Cultural Olympiad London 2012 celebrations called On Landguard Point and a room dedicated to St Audrey’s Asylum in Melton.

But Abbot’s Hall is not all about the past, it uses hig- tech gadgetry to bring the exhibitions to life.

Dotted around the hall are QR symbols which iPhone and smart phone users can scan with their devices to link with the museum’s website – giving even more information about the items on display.

Curator Lisa Harris said: “A lot of objects here have not been seen before. We live for this community and want to capture the stories and traditions that make up the area’s rich history.”

The renovation of Abbot’s Hall, the cottages, the roundhouse and landscaping in the area cost £2.7 million to complete. Funding was provided by a number of sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk District Council, Abbot’s Hall Trust, Waste Recycling Group and comic relief.