In an historic county like Suffolk you’d expect to find a wide range of museums and you won’t be disappointed! With wonderful coastal venues full of displays and interesting information about Suffolk’s rich maritime past to inland museums telling all about days gone by. A visit to a museum is a great day out for all ages and many are free, or offer the chance to donate to help with the upkeep and running of the museum.
The Amber Museum
The Amber Museum in Southwold is the only purpose built museum in Great Britain to tell the story and history of Amber. Designed and created by Robin and Astrid Fournel, the museum features beautiful carvings and artefacts from around the world plus Great Britain’s oldest and largest amber specialist shop, with an extensive range of both contemporary and traditional jewellery. See The Amber Shop and Museum for opening times and contact info.
Southwold Museum was awarded the title of ‘Suffolk Museum of the Year’ in 2017. It is dedicated to the local and natural history of Southwold and this tiny building houses an astonishing collection of objects and displays from fossil remains through the Viking occupation, sea battles, the development of the town’s architecture, its industries and artistic life, the rise and fall of its railway, its famous land-locked lighthouse, its ever-changing coastline… to the 20th century transformation of this busy fishing community into a prosperous seaside resort.
Museum of East Anglian Life
This open-air museum is located in Stowmarket, in 75 acres of beautiful countryside. Here you can explore nearly 3km of woodland and riverside nature trails, learn about fascinating East Anglian crafts and traditional Gypsy culture and discover fifteen splendidly restored historic buildings. Plus steam engines, animals, including Suffolk Punch horses, and more.
Bawdsey Radar Station
Visit ‘The Magic Ear’. This unique exhibition, with its interactive displays, tells the story of the “Invention that Changed the World”. It reveals how scientists, engineers and technicians came together at Bawdsey in the 1930s in total secrecy to prove that radio waves could locate aeroplanes, ships and other targets. Bawdsey became the world’s first operational radar station in 1937 and played a pivotal role in the Battle of Britain in 1940. The display features the lives of the people who developed the technology and the radar operators, mainly women (WAAFs), whose dedication helped to bring victory in WW2.
Long Shop Museum, Leiston
Discover Leiston’s unique history and visit the home of the Garrett collection. An award-winning museum housed in the original Garrett works buildings including the Grade II listed Long Shop built in 1852 as the 1st production line for portable steam engines. Four exhibition halls, resource centre, picnic garden and gift shop.
Mechanical Music Museum & Bygones
Located in Stowmarket, this museum showcases everything from small music boxes, polyphons and organettes, to larger street pianos and player organs. There are large fair organs, cafe and dance band organs plus a number of unusual items and the Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ. The interior roof is adorned with hundreds of old records and horned gramophones.
Orford Museum collects and displays historical material relating to the area roughly between the Butley River and the River Alde. It includes Orford with Orford Ness, Gedgrave and Havergate Island, and the villages of Sudbourne, Chillesford, Boyton, Butley and Iken.
Located in Orford Castle, the museum display features part of the regalia of the former Borough and items relating to the archaeology and social history of Orford and the surrounding area. Graphics panels feature maps, pictures and photographs illustrating the local story from earliest times to the present day.
Bentwaters Cold War Museum
Bentwaters Cold War Musuem is housed in a command post or bunker on what was the USAF air base at RAF Bentwaters. Here you can see restored ‘war operations’ rooms and other displays.
Sutton Hoo National Trust
Gainsborough’s House is an established museum located in Sudbury, in the birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough. The historic townhouse, with an attractive walled garden, displays more of the artist’s work than any other gallery. The collection is shown together with 18th century furniture and memorabilia with work by Gainsborough’s contemporaries and followers. There is a varied programme of temporary exhibitions of both historic and contemporary art. Read our article on Gainsborough and Constable here.
The National Horseracing Museum, Suffolk
The story of the people and horses involved in racing from its Royal origins to Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori and other modern heroes. Highlights include: the head of Persimmon, a great Royal Derby winner in 1896; a special display about Fred Archer, the late Victorian jockey who committed suicide, which features the pistol he used to take his life; and the colourful jackets of ‘Prince Monolulu’, the 1950’s tipster.
Heavy Horse Museum
The Heavy Horse Museum is dedicated to the Suffolk working horse breed (or Suffolk Punch), the oldest such breed in the world and possibly the most perfect working animal ever bred by man. You can meet these beautiful animals at the Suffolk Punch Trust.
Lowestoft Pier, Suffolk
Lowestoft Museum contains information on the history of the town, from the Stone Age to the 20th Century. Its exhibits relate to agriculture, the textile industry, and the town’s porcelain works.
For more information please see Lowestoft Town Guide.
Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum
The Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum has over 60 different aircraft, as well as thousands historical aviation related items. After visiting the museum, be sure to spend some time in the NAAFI themed cafe and stop by the shop.
Bungay Museum provides visitors with an insight into local history, archaeology, geology and coins – including Bungay Tokens. There is also a collection of paintings, clay works, photographs and engravings pertaining to the town, including a display case dedicated to the Bungay painter, John Childs.
History of Halesworth, Suffolk
Halesworth Museum is situated in the town’s station building alongside a restored signal box and unique moveable platforms. Featured is an ever-changing display on local history, plus resources on English, history and science studies. Read our Halesworth guide to find out more about the local area.
Saxmundham Museum contains items relating to the history of the town, including a scale model of the Saxmundham Railway Station complete with working trains, replica Victorian shop fronts, costumes, dolls and a replica of the 1930’s Saxmundham Cinema with a working projector.
For more information please see Saxmundham Town Guide
Aldeburgh Museum is located in the Moot Hall, which is one of Aldeburgh’s oldest buildings. Built sometime between 1520 and 1540, it is still used as the town hall. On display are various maps and paintings of the area plus items of local interest. For more information please see Aldeburgh Town Guide.
Dunwich Museum houses a model of the town that disappeared under the sea and shows the power of the continued erosion of the coast and other environmental studies. There are also local art displays, natural history exhibits, and a chance to visit the Smugglers’ Cove. For more information please see Dunwich Town Guide.
Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum
The Mid Suffolk Light Railway in Wetheringsett is home to the both Suffolk’s only standard gauge heritage railway and the Mid Suffolk Light Railway Museum, which follows the history of the line through historical artefacts, photographs, and memorabilia.
Felixstowe Museum features local history displays, details on RAF Felixstowe and HMS Beehive, plus a paddle steamer collection. It also houses the St. Audry’s Hospital collection, information on Landguard point and Felixstowe’s military history. For more information please see Felixstowe Town Guide.
If you are interested in history, you may also enjoy a day learning about historical railways and steam trains – why not browse our guide to Suffolk’s historical railways, or browse our guide to Suffolk’s Martello Towers. Or read the Suffolk Villages and Towns guide to find out more about different areas within Suffolk.