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
Director Tony Butler

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 history 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 in the 1950s and ‘60s meant England was in danger of losing long established skills, equipment and buildings if something was not done to rescue them. Individual collectors, local farmer Jack Carter and the Suffolk Local History Council worked to collect, preserve and display objects from rural East Anglia. After several years of temporary exhibitions the Misses Vera and Ena Longe placed 70 acres of farm land, Abbot’s Hall, its gardens, as well as 18/20 Crowe Street, in trust to be used as a Museum.

The Museum of East Anglian Life opened in 1967 and is a modern memorial to this foresight and vision.


14th-century Edgar's Farmouse, interior

One of the main features of the Museum is the variety of buildings situated within its 75 acres (30 ha) site which include:

  • Abbot's Hall - each room explores a different notion of home and belonging in East Anglia. Home is not just 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 Adgor and his wife Ascelina who, in 1346, held nearly 40 acres of arable land, 1.5 acres of meadow, one acre 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 Crowe Street Cottages are the last pair of workers cottages to remain as part of the Abbot’s Hall Estate.
  • Boby Building - features exhibitions on agricultural engines and individual craft workshops and also features a working printing press and a cinema. In July 1985 a team of apprentices assembled a Whitmore and Binyon horizontal condensing steam-engine ikn the building which had previously installed at the mill of Rueben 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 - a watermill dating back from the 18th century which is used to grind corn. It, like many of the museum buildings, was taken apart and then transported to the museum where it was subsequently reassembled; in the case of the watermill, it was moved to stop it being lost forever as a result of the Alton Water Reservoir.

The Museum also has two huts depicting different scenes from the 1950s including shops scenes, kitchens, living rooms 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 completed in April 2012, before officially opening in June 2012 and features 9 exhibition spaces exploring ideas of home and belonging in East Anglia, as well as space for temporary exhibitions to be displayed. Crowe Street Cottages, which served as workers cottages to those who worked in 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 center-piece 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 hosts the "Stowblues Festival" for its fifth year. The festival is organised in partnership with BBC Radio Suffolk.[5]


  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]

External links[edit]

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