At home with the Edwardians at Tranmer House
PUBLISHED: 08:33 14 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:49 20 February 2013
Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo has been refurnished in Edwardian style and re-opened to visitors. Jemma Finch tells us what we can expect to see in Edith Pretty's old home
Tranmer House at Sutton Hoo has been refurnished in Edwardian style and re-opened to visitors. Jemma Finch tells us what we can expect to see in Edith Prettys old home
The home of Edith Pretty, instigator of the 1939 excavations at Sutton Hoo, is now open to visitors for the first time since the National Trust took charge. Tour the downstairs rooms of this Edwardian country house and enjoy the elegant interiors as Edith once would have.
Tranmer House is a great example of Edwardian architecture, and for too long its doors have been closed to most of our visitors. Elizabeth Rohde joined the team at Sutton Hoo very recently as visitor services manager. It didnt take her long to see the potential for Tranmer House, and then to make this potential a reality, opening up the doors for everyone.
A public appeal went out in May for furniture from the Edwardian era up to the 1930s, and the offers came in thick and fast our man with a van was very busy! The decision to recreate the house in this style reflects the importance of Edith Prettys role in the discovery made at Sutton Hoo in 1939.
The official launch took place in June with a partly furnished house in a style of which Mrs Pretty herself would have been proud. Theres even an Edwardian sideboard that once belonged to WWI fighter pilot Albert Ball.
A significant number of items have been loaned from National Trust sites across the country, where the furniture had been in storage. By the time you visit in August, the scene should be more or less complete, down to the newspapers and ashtrays.
Elizabeth described the run-up to the official opening of Tranmer House. It was a month of hard work and sleepless nights, but its great to see the house furnished again. Im incredibly grateful to everyone who helped, from those donating furniture, researchers searching the archives, volunteer flower arrangers and a team of conservation cleaners they worked around the clock to make this happen.
The highlight for me is the Drawing Room with its teak panelling and parquet floor. This room would have been used to entertain; furniture would have been moved to the side to allow for dancing, or guests would have sat around the fire with an evening drink. The fireplace still has the inscriptions of the land girls who stayed in Nissen huts at Sutton Hoo and used the room for balls and social gatherings.
If you were a close friend of Mrs Pretty, you may have been invited to take tea in her 18th century style sitting room. With a much more intimate feel to it, Edith would have spent most of her time here, looking out across the fields to the mysterious mounds. Its in this room that you will discover several items belonging to her, from portraits to a grandmother clock.
Were continuing to add more to the collection. In time we will have created a real picture of just what it was like to live at Sutton Hoo in the 1930s, a glimpse into Edith Prettys world, Elizabeth explains.
Theres also Ediths Dining Room, which is now used as an educational room, hosting the many hundreds of school children who come to Sutton Hoo to learn about our Anglo Saxon ancestors and how they were discovered. The servants corridor still has the original service bells, and you can see the former Game-Keepers room where visitors would have relaxed after a shoot. Today this room has been furnished in the style of archaeologist Basil Browns work shed.
So step inside Tranmer House, which celebrates its centenary this year. Relax in a comfy chair by the fireplace and look through some of the photo albums and newspapers of the 1930s to find out more about the discovery that changed the way we view our ancestors.
- Formerly known as Sutton House, Tranmer House was built in 1910 as a statement of wealth and influence, with far reaching views out over the River Deben. It was kindly gifted, unfurnished, to the National Trust by trustees of the Annie Tranmer Trust in 1998, hence the name change. Until now access has only been via pre-booked tours.
- The house was designed by John Corder, an architect from Ipswich, and built by John Chadwick Lomax. The exterior is brick with a pebble dash finish. Part of Ediths former residence remains as staff offices and an education area, with the upper floors converted into holiday apartments.
- Edith Pretty bought the house for 15,250 after her marriage to Lt Colonel Frank Pretty, the son of a successful draper and store owner. Ediths father, a multi-millionaire owner of an engineering company, thought Frank Pretty, whose family were in ladies underwear, below his daughter. Even though the couple met and fell in love when Edith was 17, they were not able to marry until Ediths father died when she was 43.