Uncovering the Treasures of East Anglia

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Replica mask from Sutton Hoo

Melanie Butler takes us on a tour of the ‘home of English’, the region of East Anglia

The ancient kingdom of East Anglia runs up along the east coast of England, from the mouth of the Thames just south of Colchester, to the Wash estuary which separates the counties of Norfolk and Lincolnshire to the north.

Water has sculpted the flat landscape of this ancient Kingdom of the East Angles, a Germanic tribe who settled the area. East Anglia is sometimes called the home of English, because the modern language is derived from their ancient language, ‘Englisc’. Water not only sculpted the long sandy coastline, but also the inland natural marshes, drained long ago, called Fens.

Founded in the 6th century, the kingdom was originally made up of two ‘tribes’ – the North people (or ‘folk’), who lived in Norfolk, and the South people, in Suffolk.

To reach East Anglia from London, follow the old Roman Road to Britain’s oldest town, Colchester. Then head up through ‘Constable Country’, named after the artist who painted its watery landscape. Over the Orwell Bridge we find Ipswich, country town of Suffolk and home to one of the country’s newest universities.

You can also head north-east, past the collection of Anglian treasures at Sutton Hoo, towards the Suffolk coast, a favourite destination for fashionable Londoners, Or, travel west, stopping at medieval towns such as Stowe Market or Lavenham, to the cathedral town of Bury St Edmunds, a jewel in the Suffolk Crown. The town stands close to the border of Cambridgeshire, the last area to join the Kingdom of the Angles.

In 1209, a new university was founded in the fenlands, Cambridge – now an international education centre: home to not only the university, but to independent schools, state colleges, and language schools as well as a hi-tech industry, which has dubbed the area ‘Silicon Fen’.

To the north lies the medieval cathedral town of Ely, and in a straight line to the east lies Norwich. Said to be the most medieval city in England, it is full of winding cobbled streets, medieval buildings and cathedrals. Norwich also has two universities, and in 2018 this buzzy student city was voted “one of the best places to live in the UK” by the Sunday Times.

East Anglia Fact Box

Region: The area is made up of three counties: Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, although historically much of the county of Essex was part of the ancient Anglian Kingdom.

Transport: There are two airports in the region: one at Norwich in Norfolk; and London Stansted, situated in North Essex just south of Cambridge and within easy reach of most of the region. There are a few motorways, but both Norfolk and Cambridge have good rail links with London, and the flat nature of the countryside make it ideal for cycling. Cambridge has the highest level of cycling in the UK, with 18 per cent of its inhabitants commuting to work by bike.

Climate: The climate in East Anglia is dry and mild. Temperatures average between 1-10 °C in the winter, and between 12–22 °C in the summer. It is the driest region in Great Britain, with some areas receiving as little as 700 millilitres of rain a year.

Language Schools: There are 20 British Council-accredited language schools in the region. Sixteen of these are based in colleges, of which just under half are EL Gazette Centres of Excellence. A large number of summer school operations also have centres in Cambridge or in boarding schools in the region. There are three schools in Norwich, the capital of Norfolk, and one in the old Suffolk Cathedral town of Bury St Edmunds. There is one accredited private language school in the Essex town of Colchester. The highest-ranking accredited centre in the region is NILE Norwich, which specialises in courses for teachers.

The River Wensum at Norwich
Images courtesy of WIKIMEDIA and PXHERE