All lectures are held at the Blackbourne Hall in Elmswell, between Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds. They start at 2.30 pm and generally finish by about 4.00 pm. There is an entrance fee of £5 for non-members.

Please click here for a location map. The Blackbourne Hall is easily accessible from junction 14 on the A14, and is also only 5 minutes walk from Elmswell railway station, which is served by trains from Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge.


Winter Lecture Programme 2016-17

12th November:  The Angel Roofs of East Anglia: Michael Rimmer
Unlike stained glass and statuary, angel roofs were often simply too difficult for Reformation iconoclasts to reach. As a result, angel roof carvings comprise the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture. This talk will show the artistry and architecture of these inaccessible, little-studied medieval artworks in more detail and clarity than ever before, explaining how, why and by whom they were made.

Lecture Summary

10th December:  Indoor and outdoor poor relief in late 18th- early 19th century Suffolk: Observations on some Malthusian claims: 
Prof Richard M.Smith, Emeritus Professor of Historical Geography and Demography, University of Cambridge.

2016 is the 250th anniversary of  Malthus' birth, & this  paper uses evidence in various Parliamentary enquiries, particularly  Abstracts of the Poor and Select Committees on Poor Rates along with early  censuses (1801-1831) to construct a county-wide geography of poor relief  expenditure. It also attempts to test some of Malthus'  arguments concerning the implications of poor relief expenditure within and outside workhouses for population growth and marriage rates.

Lecture Summary


St Audry's Workhouse and Mental Hospital, Melton; Victorian attitudes examined: David Phelan

Lecture summary


11th February:    The Battle for Blythburgh Church.  Restoration v Conservation in late-Victorian Suffolk.: Dr Alan Mackley, Hon Research Fellow, School of History, University of East Anglia
In the 19th  century Blythburgh church was ‘mouldering into ruin’, and was closed in 1881 by the bishop of Norwich as unsafe.  The launch of proposals for restoration precipitated a 25 year long rancorous conflict between local vicars and restoration committees, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.  Extensive documentation survives covering both sides of the dispute.  This talk will present the story based on documents edited for the Suffolk Records Society  2017 volume.

Lecture Summary

11th March: Remaking the Sutton Hoo Stone: Brian Ansell, stonemason
This talk will cover the art of stonemasonry over many periods and focus on the creation of a replica of the Sutton Hoo Stone, the sceptre discovered in the ship-burial of 1939, using the sort of tools and materials that would have been used for the original.

Lecture Summary




Summer excursions to sites of archaeological and historical interest are offered to members only. Led by experts, they give an opportunity to see and learn about places often inaccessible to the general public.

If you wish to partake, then you can either join the Institute or come as a guest (£5 assuming there is space). Contact Jane Carr for details:

Summer Outings in 2016 have included visits to:
Columbine Hall, Stowupland;
Saxmundham Church and Kelsale Park, visiting the medieval deer-park and associated earthworks;
Great Livermere Park and hall, including a visit to the church;
Orwell Park School & Observatory and Nacton Duck Decoy;
Barton Mills and Worlington churches


Summer Outings in 2017:
Newmarket, St Agnes church, All Saints church and the royal palaces
Huntingfield, medieval fishponds, park and Huntingfield Hall and the painted ceiling of Huntingfield church
Landguard Fort, Felixstowe
Belstead, the liberty of Ipswich and St Mary Stoke churches Ipswich
Norfolk Churches: Houghton on the Hill and Great Dunham


Wheeler Conference

Every year an all-day conference is held in memory of the late Anthony Wheeler of Sudbury who left a very generous bequest to the Institute.  Members are entitled to a discounted ticket price. Each conference includes talks by local experts and also leading academics.

Previous year’s conferences have been about The Suffolk Church in the Middle Ages, Suffolk and Liberty and Suffolk Place-Names and Landscape.  All three have been well supported and two have been sell-outs.  The 2017 conference about Suffolk Textiles will be held at Lavenham Village Hall on 16 September – cllick here for details