A visitors guide to the Suffolk town of
Lavenham, 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 successive
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 earlier century.
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.
the Rector of Haleigh was
held in the Guildhall of Lavenham for 2 days before being returned home to
be burnt at the stake.
around the streets note the craft
symbols displayed in the plasterwork of the weavers cottages.
painter John Constable was educated at
Lavenham for a short while.