Lavenham in Suffolk is said to be one of the best
preserved medieval wool towns in England. Visitors
will understand why Lavenham lays claim to this title
when they visit this perfectly preserved place. From the
fourteenth to the sixteenth century Lavenham was at the
forefront of cloth making in England with its Flemish
weavers. The wool from Lavenham was described as the
'golden fleece' and the towns people prospered.
Half a million square foot of cloth was produced by the
town each year and beautiful timber framed buildings
sprang up as the merchants were earning so much money
they were able to use oak as the main fabric for their
However, in the late 16th century the demand for wool
fabric began to decline when Dutch refugees in
Colchester began weaving a lighter and cheaper cloth. So
it was that the town of Lavenham went into decline and
never really found a replacement industry during the
So whilst other towns were under going rebuilding
Lavenham did not have enough money to make the same
changes. Lucky for us as this means that we can all
wander the streets and alleyways of this Suffolk town
and believe that we have stepped back into a much
The buildings you see today are very much as they would
have looked during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry
VIII. A few Georgian facades made it through hiding
older timber framed building underneath. Weavers homes
snuggle in between rich wool merchants houses
interspersed with manor houses. You can obtain a guided
walk from the Tourist Information Office in Lady Street
which gives further details about the houses you will
see around the town.
In Shilling Street stands Shilling Grange in which lived
Isaac Taylor the engraver with his two daughters Ann and
Jane. Jane Taylor wrote the famous poem 'Twinkle,
twinkle little star' whilst sitting looking out of the
small window in the garret of her house.
Another celebrity was the landscape painter John
Constable who was educated at the towns school and is
said to have known Jane Taylor.
In Market Place is the fantastic timber framed Guildhall
built around 1529. It now houses a museum with exhibits
of local history and industries, managed by the National
Trust. The rampant lions on the doorpost of the hall are
the emblem of the Guild of Corpus Christi who built the
Guildhall all those years ago. It stands on high ground
dominating the market place enclosed by venerable shops.
In the past the Guildhall was used as the town hall, a
jail, and also a workhouse for poor children. When the
Guildhall was built, the town of Lavenham ranked
fourteenth richest in the land. There are many good pubs
and restaurants as well as shops and the lovely places
to stay are endless.
Taylor the Rector of Haleigh was held
in the Guildhall of Lavenham for 2 days before being
returned home to be burnt at the stake.
you wander around the
streets note the craft symbols displayed in the
plasterwork of the weavers cottages.
painter John Constable was educated at Lavenham for a