Celebrating Six Years in The Longshed


Celebrating Six Years in The Longshed
Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT) a charitable organisation formed in 2003 and incorporated in 2008 was formed with the purpose of bringing the enjoyment of the riverside to the community through education, training and the learning of new skills.
In 2016 members of the Trust proposed the construction on the old Whisstocks boatyard area of a community use premises, to compliment domestic and commercial properties planned for the site, capable of housing the building of a replica of the Sutton Hoo Burial Ship.

Over the following couple of years WRT negotiated and agreed a lease with Woodbridge Town Council to hold the building in trust for community use for a period of 35 years.
In 2017 while the site was still under construction WRT produced and presented “The King’s River” operetta on what would become Whisstocks Place (for Act 1) and in the Riverside Theatre for Act 2.This was performed by professional and amateur actors, singers, and musicians including local choirs, and children from local schools.


In April 2018 WRT signed the agreed lease and took possession of the Longshed. The building was just a shell with no services or internal rooms. Later on the 20th April  WRT held an opening day to which over 600 local people and visitors came to look inside the new building and to take part in the celebrations.


Over the ensuing months and years the Trust has spent over £150,000 providing electrical, plumbing and IT services, installed together with the creation of offices, stores and disabled toilets. A second staircase was provisioned together with a lift to access the mezzanine on the first floor. With the provision of a second disable toilet on the ground floor The Longshed is fully kitted out to accommodate those who are less able.


In 2018 during the fitting out phase WRT supported the first Beowulf Festival, with images projected onto the Tide Mill, Poems on Whisstocks Square from the deck of Sae Wyfing and images and music in the John Gibbins gallery. The festival was a co-ordinated project between Clare Perkins and Jan Pulsford.


We held several exhibitions and talks and also events involving Anglo-Saxon re-enactors and Sae Wylfing, (the half-length copy of the Sutton Hoo Ship that is on permanent loan to the Trust by her builder/owners the family of Dr Edwin Gifford). To read more on this amazing vessel visit 


The left hand image above shows Sae Wyfing with John Gifford, his wife and Paul Constantine  who was instrumental in arranging the loan to WRT                     

Sae Wylfing has over several seasons visited local schools and events at the Suffolk Show, Folk East, Weird and Wonderful Wood and many others.

WRT were even invited to take her to the British Museum for the Council of British Archaeology open day.


During 2023/2024 Sae Wylfing has undergone some fairly substantial but much needed repairs and repainting. Also a new floor and mast have been made and installed. The work to the floor and the repaint was carried out by volunteers and a shipwright from SHSC and the main structural work and mast by the Woodbridge Boatyard. Tools and Materials for the floor and painting were supplied by a private donor.         

To enhance their community spirit and principles the Trust hosted the youth group Just 42 in the Longshed, where young people with problems relating to school came together over time to build a pirogue canoe and many other items while adjusting to routine, the use of tools and equipment and important communication with others.


Alongside Just 42 in the workshop WRT provided funding and space for volunteers from the boating fraternity to build two St Ayles Skiffs, ‘Whisstock’  the first to be completed was handed over to the newly formed Woodbridge Coastal Rowing Club, to use and race her, and her sister skiff (‘Whisper’) which was started prior to, but disrupted by, the Covid pandemic.                  



Beginning in 2019, but again disrupted by the pandemic, our associated organisation The Sutton Hoo Ships Company started work on the replica ship, working under licence from WRT. and starting with the construction of the strongback on which the vessel would be built.

While this was happening, WRT also held a Maritime Film Festival in partnership with the Woolverstone Project who provide sailing for disabled people. This was a huge success and brought some people back time and again over the 4 days of the event.With all films with a maritime theme and talks relating to the films by well known celebrities.


During the 2020 lockdown period having installed a fully glazed, sound deadening screen wall, air-conditioning and fresh air systems to World Health Organisation requirements in the gallery WRT were proud to provide space to the NHS service for Covid19 testing.



2019 saw the start of the “King’s River Tapestry” project of thirty-one 1250mm x 920mm (4Ft x 3ft) panels of extra ordinary skilful needlecraft design and produced by over 35 ladies from the area. The Tapestry set out to depict the story of the Sutton Hoo burial ship and its relationship to the River Deben and Woodbridge.  Permanently on display in the John Gibbins gallery, to date twenty-three panels have been completed many during the lockdown period which some of the ladies found to be therapeutic. A further three panels are currently in production, the balance relating to the construction of the replica vessel await commencement.

The Longshed Gift Shop, opened in 2019, continues to provide greeting cards, A4 images of the Tapestry panels both mounted and unmounted,new and second hand books and other gifts for sale, all at reasonable cost.  We thank our shop volunteers for their time and effort in helping us to provide this wonderful outlet for the public. Our shop is due to be improved and  extended in the near future.


To our delight we were asked to place on display an original Painting By Robert Melamphy named “Sutton Hoo Impressions.” It having been turned down by the British Museum and Sutton Hoo. This lovely painting can also be viewed in the John Gibbins Gallery.

WRT were asked, and pleased to undertake the promotion of the first two productions of The Opera in The Park that took place in Elmhurst Park in 2020 and 2021.

We have not rested on our laurels at any time since taking possession of The Longshed, in addition to the items listed above we have hosted many other events including (but not limited to) “Deben Discovery.” A painting by Dorothy Winterbon-Wells on two scrolls, each approximately 30 feet long, depicting the shoreline of the River Deben on both banks from Bawdsey to Woodbridge.

Two exhibitions called “Going with the Flow”, explained and informed those who visited, the ebb and flow of the tides and the flora and fauna of the river.The exhibition designed by Dee McLeavey involved pupils from Farlingaye School and many other people in the production of the displays and activities for which we are grateful. The information panels from the exhibition are often displayed in the Gallery in association with other exhibitions.


Over the past two years WRT(together with SHSC for all but the recent programme) have engaged with primary schools from around Suffolk in an education programme called “Follow the Ship”. To date we have been visited by 867 children from 22 primary schools learning about Anglo-Saxon life and ships and trying out ther skills at archaeology. These lessons will continue each term throughout the school year.


Our friends from the Woodbridge Camera Club have, over the past 4 years, held their annual exhibition of members photographs depicting scenes from many places but especially the river and coast. Two of their wonderful images are seen below.


The Longshed Talks Collection which started in July 2023, is proving very popular and will continue throughout 2024 with more exiting and interesting topics to entertain and inform. Talks by Clare Lightfoot, Paul Costantine, Brian Ansell, Tony Culham and programmed with others to be confirmed

This is only the beginning of the story of The Longshed, there is so much more to come over the next 29 years, so watch this space.

Now in the spring of 2024 we are pleased to see that the replica ship, being built by The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company, is progressing well and are looking forward to its launch sometime in the next year or two.

We are also busy in the background dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘T’s on our plans for the future community use of the Longshed, not just for the next couple of years while the Replica ship is built but for when it has processed down the slipway and into our beautiful River Deben – “The King’s River”!



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