Suffolk Record Office and The Hold

suffolk record office, the hold

Pilot activities are testing new ways to inspire people to explore the archives.

These are very exciting times indeed for Suffolk Record Office.  Our Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project to develop ‘The Hold’ is taking shape, and this summer we are also trying out some new events and activities to get people interested in Suffolk’s unique archival collections. 

For example, it’s not very often that I hear raucous laughter coming from the Education Room of our Bury branch – yet this is what I heard the other evening! The culprits were a group of young students, who were looking at material in the archives relating to that famous Suffolk tale: the Red Barn Murder.  

Working with theatre group ‘Bring Out Your Dead Productions’ (who specialise in youth theatre) and guided by one of our fabulous archivists (Victoria Savoulidis) the students were looking at the press cuttings, etchings, drawings etc. pertaining to this murder case, which caused such a stir.   By researching from original, contemporary material, the students will breathe life into their characters – as they are writing and performing a play based on their research!  In this way, the students are learning what terrific stories lie hidden in Suffolk’s archives, and will share that knowledge with their audiences.

The play will be performed at three locations in August (performances start at 7pm):

• Thursday, August 10th – Moyses Hall, Bury St Edmunds 

• Friday, August 11th – Quay Place, Ipswich

• Saturday, August 12th, Polstead Village Hall (Polstead being the site of the murder)

Tickets – which are free – will be available to book through BOYD’s website (

Using drama to connect people with heritage – specifically archives – is not a new concept (our friends in theatre companies such as the Eastern Angles and the Red Rose Chain often use the archives for inspiration), but this is the first time we have tried to engage young people in such a way, with BOYD’s help.  We hope you can make it to one of the performances!

Associated with the play, we are also trialling a small, touring exhibition on the same ‘Red Barn Murder’ theme.  Called ‘Moles, Cherries and Murder’, the small, interactive exhibit will be at the following locations on the following dates:

• July 31st to August 5th = Newmarket Library

• August 7th to 11th = John Peel Centre, Stowmarket

• August 12th and 13th = Stowmarket Library

• August 14th to 20th = Haverhill Arts Centre

• August 21st to26th = Lowestoft Marina Theatre

• August 27th = Ipswich Multicultural Festival

When ‘The Hold’ is operational, it will contain a special exhibitions room – we plan to tour small versions of The Hold’s main shows around the county, so this pilot will help us figure out what works and what doesn’t.  

A note about the Red Barn Murder:

In 1827 Maria Marten fell in love with the local village scoundrel, William Corder.  When he asked her to elope and marry him she agreed, and went to meet him in secret at the Red Barn.  She was never seen alive again.  Her body was discovered buried in the Red Barn after her mother dreamt of her whereabouts. 

skeleton, william corder

The story of the ‘Red Barn Murder’ in 1827, is still remembered today probably due to the grisly end of her murderer, William Corder.  After he was convicted he was hung at Bury Gaol, his body dissected and put on public view, and his death mask also exists. An account of the trial was bound with a piece of Corder’s pickled skin.