Museum of East Anglian Life

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Museum of East Anglian Life
Abbot's Hall, Stowmarket.JPG
Abbot's Hall
Established 1967
Location Iliffe Way, Stowmarket, Suffolk, England
Collection size over 40,00 objects

The Museum of East Anglian Life is a museum, located in Stowmarket, Suffolk, which specialises in presenting the agricultural history of East Anglia through a mixture of exhibits and living history demonstrations.

History of the Museum[edit]

Grundisburgh Smithy

The land was originally part of the Home Farm for the Abbot’s Hall estate. The estate dates from medieval times, when it was an outlying manor for St Osyth's Priory in Essex. It passed through numerous owners until it was purchased by the Longe family in 1903.

Huge changes[vague] in the 1950s and 1960s meant that England was in danger of losing long-established skills, equipment, and buildings, if something was not done to rescue them. Local farmer Jack Carter, the Suffolk Local History Council, and other individuals worked to collect, preserve and display objects from rural East Anglia. After several years of temporary exhibitions, Vera and Ena Longe placed 70 acres (28 ha) of farm land, Abbot’s Hall, its gardens, and 18/20 Crowe Street, in trust to be used as a museum. The Museum opened in 1967.


14th-century Edgar's Farmouse, interior

The Museum has various buildings on its 75 acres (30 ha) site, including:

  • Abbot's Hall — each room explores a different notion of home and belonging in East Anglia. Home is defined in this exhibit as the physical place where we live, but also our sense of belonging to a place.
  • Edgar's farmhouse — a 14th-century aisled farmhouse "discovered" in Combs, just south of Stowmarket, and incorporated into a much larger farmhouse dating from the Victorian era. Saved from demolition in 1970, it was the first historic building to be re-erected on the museum site. The first recorded owners were John and Ascelina Adgor, who in 1346 held nearly 40 acres (16 ha) of arable land, 1.5 acres (0.61 ha) of meadow, 1 acre (0.40 ha) of pasture, a Rood of wood and three acres of alderwood in Combs. Evidence suggests that the Adgors survived the Black Death and prospered. The building is Grade II* listed.[1][2]
  • Crowe Street Cottages — the last pair of workers' cottages to remain as part of the Abbot's Hall Estate.
  • Boby Building — features exhibitions of agricultural engines and individual craft workshops, a working printing press and a cinema. In July 1985, a team of apprentices assembled a Whitmore and Binyon horizontal condensing steam-engine in the building, which had previously been located at the mill of Rueben[spelling?] Rackham in Wickham Market. It is believed to be the only Whitmore and Binyon steam engine on public display.
  • William Bone Building — an exhibition on the history of the Ransomes company in East Anglia.
  • Eastbridge Windpump — a windpump used for draining land in the 19th century.
  • Alton Watermill — an 18th-century watermill which was used to grind corn. Like many of the museum buildings, it was taken apart and then transported to the museum where it was reassembled. The watermill was moved to prevent it being destroyed by the Alton Water Reservoir.

The museum also has two huts depicting scenes of shops, kitchens, and living rooms of the 1950s, and a Victorian schoolroom.

Restoration of Abbot's Hall[edit]

The museum was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate Abbot's Hall and Crowe Street Cottages. The project was completed in April 2012, and officially opened in June 2012. There are nine exhibition spaces exploring ideas of home and belonging in East Anglia, as well as space for temporary exhibitions. Crowe Street Cottages, which were occupied by workers at Abbot's Hall, have been displayed as they would have looked when the last owner lived there.

Abbot's Hall is open year round, providing a permanent centrepiece to the museum. The Hall features a permanent exhibition of the life and works of Welsh folklorist George Ewart Evans.[3][4]


In June 2015 the museum site hosted the Stowblues Festival for its fifth year. The festival is organised in partnership with BBC Radio Suffolk.[5]

In August 2016 the Museum will be hosting its biggest event to date, the East Anglian Living History Fayre is being run in partnership with Black Knight Historical, and looks set to be the biggest Living History Fayre in East Anglia.[6]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ "Museum of East Anglian Life - Our buildings". 17 January 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Museum of East Anglian Life opens Abbot's Hall, Stowmarket - BBC News". Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°11′09″N 0°59′30″E / 52.18588°N 0.99155°E / 52.18588; 0.99155