Love Lavenham

Our trip up the eastern side of the country began in earnest after the wedding in Colchester – next stop being close to Norwich where we intended to visit the cathedral. In fact most of this trip north was planned on seeing cultural and historical sites that we have previously not been to. Since the driving distances between some of the destinations were quite short I devised a route that took us to some hopefully interesting spots along the way. First stop on this glorious September day was Lavenham, a pretty village in Suffolk, England. It is noted for its 15th century church, half-timbered medieval cottages, Guildhall and circular walk.

The Guildhall of Corpus Christi (NT) Market Place
The Guildhall of Corpus Christi (NT) Market Place

Lavenham is one of the best preserved medieval wool towns in England. A foremost cloth-making centre from the fourteenth to sixteenth century it was famed its specialised production of woad-dyed broadcloth known as Lavenham Blues. It was the 14th wealthiest settlement during this period ahead of places like Lincoln and York. It now ranks amongst the most beautiful villages set in green and lush Suffolk countryside, still retaining its charm and history today. Only 40 minutes away from Colchester it is a popular place for a day trip.

The Cock Horse
The Cock Horse

We parked close to the Cock Horse inn and wandered into the village along the High Street. Cameras clicking at the sight of all the wonderful coloured timber-framed houses lining the street.

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An elderly lady stopped us to let us know that one particular black & white house was new (no not the one above) and also to quiz us about Harry Potter (not for the last time along our route I can tell you, and in fact the Harry Potter connection began in Colchester where one of the waiting staff looked remarkably like him). When I said we haven’t read any of the books nor seen any Harry Potter  films, she uttered “Tsk…” and carried on her way. So I am guessing here that HP has connections with Lavenham.

Apart from the timber-framing we were also pleased to see examples of Pargeting: the ornamentation of plastered and rendered building facades that would otherwise be smooth, lined-out or roughcast. Pargeting ranges from simple geometric surface patterning to exuberant sculptural relief of figures, flowers and sea monsters, but it is only skin deep, applied onto masonry or a lathed, timber-framed wall.

High Street
High Street

Lavenham reminds me a lot of Ludlow’s historic centre and is built on the same medieval street pattern. Much more colourful and affluent though. With art galleries, beauty salons, florists and antique shops cheek by jowl with the usual retail shops, pubs and tea rooms.

The Crooked House, High Street

Throughout the village there are 300 ancient buildings, many of them listed as being of architectural and historic interest. Fine timber-framed houses mingle with small cottages and crooked town houses.

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Cordwainers
Cordwainers, High Street
Cottage garden
Cottage garden

In the Market Place stands the magnificent Guildhall dating back to 1530 and now housing a National Trust museum providing visitors with a glimpse of Lavenham’s historic past. As well as religious guild activities it has served as a prison (the bridewell), workhouse, almshouse, wool store and a welcome club for American airmen in World War II. I will write a separate post about this building as it proved to be very interesting.

Guildhall
Guildhall
Market Place
Market Place

Close by is Little Hall, an independent accredited museum owned by the Suffolk Preservation Trust. The building dates back to the 1300s and built by wool merchants. It is an example of a hall house with a crown-post roof and also has a knot garden planned along Tudor lines with a traditional English walled garden.

Returning via Lady Street you will find the Wool Hall on the corner of Water Lane which is where the Old Grammar School is located and where John Constable (of the Hay Wain fame) attended school.

The Wool Hall, Lady Street
The Wool Hall, Lady Street

And if you keep your eyes open you may find some very unusual and interesting objects in the village.

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IF YOU ENJOY A WALK, LONG OR SHORT, THEN HAVE A LOOK AT JO’S SITE WHERE YOU ARE WELCOME TO JOIN IN WITH HER MONDAY WALKS.

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Heyjude

I now live in the UK, but spent several years travelling and then living in South Africa. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

52 thoughts on “Love Lavenham”

  1. What a lovely village. It looks high maintenance though; keeping all those timbers painted. Does anyone live in the Crooked House? Crooked People?
    I wonder what the connection is with Master Potter. (I’ve read all his books and don’t know myself!).
    I think I will give the Classic Cut Throat Shave a miss!

  2. What a gorgeous place. I love the crooked house and wonder how that happened, I suppose they must have level floors inside. I’d like a chat to the people in the gossip house as well, they’d have some stories to tell!

    1. I wouldn’t guarantee level floors Gilly, I have been in some fairly wonky buildings where the floors are on a definite slant! It is actually a tea-room so I should have gone inside to investigate more.

  3. Stunning colours . . . . .there are so many lovely villages in East Anglia but this one is extra special because of the buildings. Not sure I’d like to live there though with all the tourists!

  4. I haven’t been there since the 1970s, despite living reasonably close now. I recall the colours, and the timber buildings that you show so well in your shots. It has become something of an expensive ‘toy’ town for affluent weekenders though, as I am led to understand. Nice to see the old ‘fire insurance ‘ plate in the smaller photos. That really dates the house.
    I have never read any Harry Potter stuff either, but found this.
    http://heartofsuffolk.co.uk/harry-potter-woz-ere/
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. I imagine it must be very expensive to live there – any cute village/town that gets a reputation soon out prices itself. Thanks for the link but I avoid HP like the plague! (And GoT too).

  5. It definitely looks well-heeled, Jude, and no, I haven’t been. Missed out on most of Suffolk, as a matter of fact. Genteel and gorgeous, dahling! And I’m a huge fan of pargeting. 🙂 Do you think it could be a skill I could take up? Still looking for something to be good at 🙂 Thanks a lot, hon. I did really enjoy this one. Much too pretty for Sue, and possibly Meg too 🙂 The crooked house made me chuckle. That’d be mine, no doubt!

    1. We considered moving to Suffolk in our search for a home by the sea. Couldn’t have afforded this place though. I wondered if you’d explored this on one of your Norwich visits.

    2. Oh, Jo, you did make me chuckle! But actually, small doses of pretty are great….and I do like nice things, took a local friend out to afternoon tea yesterday with another friend, and the tea was served in lovely bone china teacups in a very lovely little tearoom.

  6. The Guildhall does have the look of a prison with the way the wood is placed along the exterior! I wonder how the crooked house got crooked…was it a natural disaster, poor workmanship, or something else? It certainly is curious.

    1. Just a typical timber-frame, but the stripes are very noticeable in the grey and white tones. I suspect the crooked house came from some structural disaster – too much weight on a floor beam? It has obviously been remedied probably with a steel pole through the building to tie in the sides.

  7. Ooh, thanks for the wander, Jude….I recall visiting Lavenham late in the day some years ago and always intending to return, but it never happened.

    1. I had heard of the town, but didn’t get around to visiting on our fleeting visit to Suffolk a few years ago. and as we were driving past it seemed a good idea to have a look. Glad we did, it is very attractive.

    1. Well I guess you can paint the plaster between the timbers any colour you like, in Shropshire and Herefordshire they tend to be white with black timbers or occasionally an ochre yellow with brown. I do like the pink and peaches though.

  8. wow – if I started listing all the things I learned in this post, it would be a very long comment. Pargeting? Apparently it is particularly associated with Suffolk and Essex.
    … and I didn’t know that half-timbered buildings were a medieval construct! Who knew? I feel like such an unsophisticated New World-er 😉

    btw – the pink Cordwainers building with the very crooked roof is my favourite 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Jo, I rather liked the house adjoining the Cordwainers – the black and white one with the very pretty courtyard country garden. I suspect they are both out of our league though!

  9. I am very slow. It’s only just occurred to me that I’ve only been signed up to one of your blogs, the other one! Thanks to Jo, I’m now back with this one and a great post it is too. Lots of good history, and visual delights. I especially love the details of the pargeting, the colours and the crooked houses. I’ll have to have a prowl back through what I’ve missed as the snow swirls intermittently outside. Luckily I have to collect the twins or I’d lurk all day in the warm. J’s going to notice the difference from Australia on Friday!

    1. I have three blogs Meg, but you can access them all via the menu on either one.
      This one – travel tales and photo challenges
      Garden – gardens and flowers
      Cornwall – only about Cornish things.

      So J is returning already? Doesn’t seem that long since he left. I do hope he doesn’t fall ill again. We are having a cold spell. Damn arctic weather front… but at least it keeps the rain away and we have blue skies!

  10. Travel-writer, Jude! These are wonderful details. Love these nooks and crannies and all historic villages. You’re putting places on the map for me. As well as the botanical gardens wishlist, i now have a bucket list going for quaint villages appearing on your blog.

  11. Well, I found this post and now I feel very nostalgic! I have a photo of my kids in front of the crooked house, taking there on a holiday with Mum when my youngest was just a baby, so 24 years ago…yikes!! Growing up not so far from Lavenham, your post brings back many memories of this delightful village, and also of the house I grew up in that looked a bit like the one in your last photo, no kidding! I’ve watched the HP films but can’t think what Lavenham has to do with it, we also recently went to HP Warner Brother’s Studio Tour inm(daughter’s birthday present), and there was a model of a tudor style house, but I’ve obviously missed something there, but then again, I am not exactly obsessed with it HP! Thank you for sharing Suffolk with me Jude 🙂 xxx

      1. Ahh…of course the Guildhall! I have a hankering to return to Suffolk. The first part of my memoir takes place there. Your posts trigger strong memories of that time, still so familiar after all these years, although parts are so different now since ‘my day’. Parts of Ipswich for instance nobody went near after dark in the 70s, down by the docks, but now it’s full of posh restaurants and shops. Unrecognisable. And it’s not as full of Americans as it once was. Nothing like the way it was. So I have to re-create what it was like! But Lavenham is the same as it was, a place that has always been dear to my heart…and now revisiting thanks to you Jude! 🙂

        1. Glad you enjoyed the posts Sherri and that they have brought back good memories. Funny how places have changed so much over the last 50 years – all the gentrification of the docklands.

  12. Beautiful captures of Lavenham, Jude. I spent one weekend there in June a couple of years ago. It was a busy weekend, quite crowded and I was a bit frustrated about all the cars and the people and “ruining my motives”. But I assume, you will always have to deal with a lot of people and cars in Lavenham. It’s like Cley, when do you have the chance to capture the mill without any cars in front … 🙂

    1. Some towns should ban cars altogether – just have good park ‘n ride schemes. St Ives is one! So often I’d like to be able to remove a car from in front of a beautiful building.

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