Thanks to a flourishing trade in wool in the 14th and 15th centuries, the ancient town of Lavenham in Suffolk, was once the fourteenth wealthiest town in England, despite its diminutive size.
With its immaculate timber-framed buildings and beautiful church, it is now regarded as ‘England’s finest medieval town’.
The wool church built in the 1520’s has the tallest church tower in England. Most of the buildings date from the 15th century and have remained untouched and the town is largely intact as it was back then.
The crowning glory on the market place is the timber-framed Guildhall, looked after by the National Trust.
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Built by the Guild of Corpus Christi in 1530, a religious group of local merchants, it was one of three that were founded to regulate the wool trade. You can learn about the town’s local history and the wool industry in the museum inside.
The Guildhall has had a chequered history since. It was home to the Lavenham Council in the 17th century, before being turned into a prison, wool store and local workhouse.
In 1911 it was restored and was used as a home for evacuees during WW2 and in 1951, it was passed to the National Trust.
This adorable picture-postcard town is one of the best preserved in the area and home to over 300 timbered buildings.
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The rich terracotta-coloured Little Hall is a fine example of a medieval wool merchant’s house.
Some buildings dramatically lean, with quickly angled gables and sagging red-tiled roofs. In Church Street, many of the houses are leaning several feet from the vertical and family emblems are proudly embossed on the halls, houses and cottages.
Thanks to the town’s unique character, it featured as Godric’s Hollow in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
Standing in the High Street, The Swan Hotel and Spa is an excellent example of the period’s architecture. The fifteenth-century hotel was once a coaching inn, with stabling for around 50 horses.
It was ‘saved’ from its dilapidated state in the early 20th century and is now the premier place to stay in town. Don’t rush your Lavenham visit – it’s definitely somewhere to savour slowly by exploring some of the many independently owned boutiques, craft shops and galleries – not to mention the historic architecture.
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