The Museum of East Anglian Life developed on farmland that was formerly part of the Abbot’s Hall estate, which belonged to sisters, Vera and Ena Longe.
The land was originally part of the Home Farm for the Abbot’s Hall estate. The estate dates from medieval times when it was an outlying manor for St Osyth’s Priory in Essex. It passed through numerous owners until it was purchased by the Longe family in 1903.
Huge changes in the 1950s and 1960s meant England was in danger of losing long-established skills, equipment and buildings if something was not done to rescue them. Individual collectors, local farmer Jack Carter and the Suffolk Local History Council worked to collect, preserve and display objects from rural East Anglia. After several years of temporary exhibitions in venues around Suffolk, Vera and Ena Longe offered space on their estate to found a museum.
They generously placed the site in trust. This process took place in two phases. Initially, in 1964, a gift of about two acres of land comprising the Home Close area, including the medieval barn, was put in trust with the then East Suffolk County Council. The museum opened in 1967. Abbot’s Hall itself and a further gift of land was passed to the Abbot’s Hall Trust and leased to the museum in 2004, following the death of the Longe sisters.