Arts, Culture and Heritage

Inspiration for all

Arts, Culture and Heritage play an important role throughout the Heart of Suffolk. Our landscapes inspired the works of famous artists, and our rich cultural history continues to ignite interest in visiting the area.

From the inspirational landscapes and industries that have shaped what the Heart of Suffolk is today, we want to celebrate our culture and heritage as much as we can.  Please see a list of a few highlights below.

Arts and Culture

Gainsborough’s House

Gainsborough’s House museum and gallery holds the most comprehensive collection of Thomas Gainsborough within a single setting anywhere in the world. Having undergone a major refurbishment it is now open to the public with a varied programme of specialist exhibitions which include both historical and contemporary art.

John Peel Centre

Right in the heart of the county, Mid Suffolk is home to the famous John Peel Centre in Stowmarket, named after the eclectic DJ, presenter and journalist. Paying tribute to Peel who lived locally, the John Peel Centre now hosts a number of incredible events throughout the year including live bands, comedy, performance groups and classes. 

St Peters

Situated on Market Hill in the centre of Sudbury town, St Peters is currently undergoing major redevelopment but will open in Autumn 2023 to host a range of events, from live music, theatre, exhibitions, fairs and festivals.

Mill Tye Gallery

Stunning artwork with a view. Mill Tye Gallery sits idyllically alongside the River Stour in Great Cornard. It’s a wonderful destination showcasing some of the best local pieces from printmakers, contemporary artists, sculptors and textile designers. Workshops and exhibitions throughout the year. 

Fox Yard Studio

Located in the design quarter for Stowmarket, Fox Yard Studio and gallery is all about bringing people together and helping each other realise their highest potential as individuals and as a community. Having a place where people can come to share what they know, learn new skills and experience art made by local makers.

Beyond The Image Gallery

Beyond the Image Gallery in Thornham Magna is a unique exhibition space in the heart of Suffolk. Established in 2005, the gallery is a not-for-profit organisation run by a group of volunteer lens-based artists, who exhibit their own work through quarterly themed exhibitions.

J Parker Studios

Art Gallery and Studio exhibiting original paintings and sculptures by local artists. Regular Art Classes are led by John Parker in his large and spacious Studio set in the idyllic surroundings of the Thornham Estate.

The Quay Theatre

Occupying a charming Grade II-listed building nestled by the River Stour,  Sudbury Quay Theatre hosts a wide range of top-class entertainment, including drama, live music, comedy, film, and much more.

Museums 

Sir Alfred Munnings was also born in the Heart of Suffolk and his house in Dedham (on the Suffolk/Essex border) is open to the public, showing many of his fabulous paintings.  

Benton End house and gardens in Hadleigh, Suffolk is the 16th century former home of celebrated artist-plantsman, Sir Cedric Morris and his partner, the artist Arthur Lett-Haines. The House is undergoing development and is now under the care of the Garden Museum of London. It will once again be a place to celebrate and learn about art and horticulture.    

The Food Museum, based in Stowmarket, is a place to connect people with where our food comes from and the impact of our choices: past, present, and future. Cooking demonstrations, exhibitions, events and festivals all feature here, with a year-round programme based on the heritage of food and the communities who grow and make it.  

For something a little different, why not visit The Mid Suffolk Light Railway and discover some of the fascinating stories from its Victorian origins through its Edwardian heyday and decline. Its ongoing revival as a museum helps to protect the unique part of our English railway history.  

Heritage  

The beauty of our towns and villages in the Heart of Suffolk is made stronger by being home to some of the most important and unique listed buildings in the UK. The grandest of all the churches in Suffolk are found in our Wool Towns and places such as The Guildhall in Lavenham where you can visit one of the most spectacular timber framed buildings of medieval England at the heart of village life 

Visiting the grounds of stately homes such as Helmingham Hall Gardens and its 500-year-old history means you can see for yourself the splendour of some of these magnificent buildings. Haughley Park House sits in 250 acres of well-maintained woodland, parkland and beautifully landscaped gardens. Visit during the spring on one of the ‘Bluebell Sundays’ to see the 10 acres of naturally occurring bluebells which provide a ‘blue carpet’ in late April-early May.  

Our other historic estates include Melford Hall, visited by Beatrix Potter and used as an inspiration for some of her watercolour drawings . It has seen some trials and tribulations over its 300-year history, but this makes it all the more interesting. Explore its journey from a home of Benedictine Monks to its royal connections and the family home it still remains today.  

Also in the town of Long Melford, we have the romantic and secluded Kentwell Hall  with over 500 years of fascinating history and unexpected stories. Kentwell Hall hold some of the best seasonal events on their grounds, including ScaresVille and Dickensian Christmas which are well worth visiting.  

For further details on individual destinations, we’ve included some useful links: 

Visit Suffolk – https://www.visitsuffolk.com/explore-the-heart-of-suffolk  

Visit East of England – https://www.visiteastofengland.com/  

Love Lavenham – https://www.lovelavenham.co.uk/  

Visit Hadleigh – https://visithadleighsuffolk.co.uk/ 

The Tourist Trail – An Introduction to Suffolk | The Tourist Trail 

National Trust Flatford – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/suffolk/