A Day in …………….Lavenham

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk Guild Hall Medieval Architecture"

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Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk Guild Hall Medieval Architecture"
Lavenham Guild Hall in Suffolk – Medieval Architecture and open by National Trust

Lavenham is a place that is well worth a detour, a special journey. It is a fine place to stroll with your camera. It has some excellent choices for lunch. On some days there is a market in the square. It boasts many lovely independent shops. It is quintessentially, historical England. It is a must see.

Lavenham, despite its popularity, is one of the easier places, and one of the cheapest places, to park your car. Perhaps there is a local bylaw that prevents ugly ticket machines spoiling the view when people are photographing the town. There is always Photoshop I suppose, but long may this state of affairs continue. Today, we are able to park in the town square. There is no market taking place, just a travelling fish van that has gathered a substantial queue.

A bit of background. Lavenham is a marvellous survivor from Medieval times. One of the finest examples in the UK of such architecture. From the atmospheric town square to the surrounding winding streets the amount of preservation is staggering. Most towns in England have lost all their connection with their medieval history but here it is laid out like a theme park, all still in use. Lavenham was prosperous back then because of its buoyant wool and cloth trade. This eventually died away due to intense competition and the town went through a long period of decline, but its architecture remained. The building were divided into smaller units but because no one really was interested in developing the town, its poverty did in fact save it. A visitor from the 15th Century would certainly recognize where he was.

The starting point of any walk around Lavenham will no doubt be in front of the Guildhall in the village square. This spectacular building is now in the care of the National Trust, dominating the town just as it did back in Tudor times. The guildhall has served many purposes over the centuries from its early religious guild associations. Many of its uses, including its role as the town workhouse, could have ended this fine structure. In WW2 it had a variety of roles to play. The area was home to a large American Air Force base and the Guildhall was a focal point in their integration into town life.

Alt="Photo of Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk"
Medieval Little Hall in Lavenham Suffolk

Walking anti-clockwise around the town square, with the town cross in the centre of your stroll, you will be attracted to the colourful 14th Century Little Hall. This is now a museum and has a delightful garden attached to it. The colour is extraordinary. Is it orange, sandy maybe? You will have to decide. You certainly won’t be able to miss it. Next to Little Hall, inevitably, is The Great Hall. This is now a boutique Hotel and restaurant. An enticing place for a fine lunch or today just for an envious glance inside.

Alt="Photo of Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk"
Angel Hotel in Lavenham Suffolk

The square has a number of independent shops displaying their wares and inevitably attracting you inside. As you walk around, by all means enjoy the shops, but do not forget to look up and admire the architecture. The angles will play with your head and may make you dizzy but it is worth the discomfort. Enjoy too, the views down the streets leading away from the square. Some give great views over open, rolling countryside.

Alt="Photo of quiet garden in Lavenham Suffolk"
Quiet corner in Lavenham Suffolk

Lady Street leads the way out of the square and at the bottom of this architectural gem of a street is the restaurant Number 10. An exceptional lunch made us ready to continue our exploration. Opposite the restaurant is the rear of the Wool Hall, its former use self-explanatory. This is now part of the Swan Hotel. As you round the corner of the structure onto the High Street you get the full experience of the size of what is now the Swan – in your imagination exactly the type of Hostelry that may have survived the centuries. It sets the tone for the entire High Street. This street will take you some time to explore with one extraordinary building after another. Some seem to be defying gravity, but they are still standing after all these centuries. Gift shops, antique shops, cafes, wine bars, art galleries all vie for your attention. It may cost you a little expenditure along here but you will at least go home with or have enjoyed quality. Today it was a fine leather handbag that came home with my wife. Check out the tea room in the crooked house, again a self-explanatory name. It is impossibly shaped, but yes, still standing.

Alt="Photo of Lavenham Suffolk High Street"
Lavenham Suffolk High Street

There is so much to see and do in Lavenham. The architecture is unforgettable. The sense of times past, and a way of life, being preserved is all around you. I am certain you will not find any cheap or chain shops here. The town is a haven from all that seems to bedevil English town centres. If it takes you a very long time to make your tour of the town and all the shops on offer then there is a compensation for that – you can always stay for dinner.

The town has an excellent website and includes this helpful map to enable you to walk the town and not miss anything :  


Alt="Photo of medieval house in Lavenham Suffolk England"
Medieval House in Lavenham Suffolk

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Published by Neal Atherton

My passion is writing about travel and particularly French travel. I have traveled extensively in France and wine and food has always featured on my travels and now in my books. My friends always await our return from France with the latest new finds from the vineyards and I was more than happy to keep sampling. I am from Lancashire in the north of England but have now relocated to Somerset (nearer to France) and able to enjoy devoting my time to writing and new discoveries. France came late to me as a destination, in fact so conservative was my travel upbringing that it was a long time before I even ventured to Cornwall. I have more than made up for the slow start and have enjoyed helping many others with their travel plans to France and especially to Paris and Provence. I have written a series of four books on France - Three are now on Amazon:THE FIRST TIME WE SAW PARIS about our first steps in French Travel, THYME FOR PROVENCE our discovery of that glorious region and the people and places we met and discovered, A DREAM OF PARIS a personal memoir of our times in Paris with friends. France has been fun, we have been burgled on our very first arrival, we discovered the best cafe that changed our travel lives on the very next day, we learnt about French wine, we escaped from the most horrendous gite, we found the best of gites, B & B's and people, we laughed and cried with dear friends in Paris, I was hosed down by a crazy owner to cool me down in Provence, our breakfast in a remote village was served by the French army, we stepped totally out of our comfort zone and discovered the best of French culture. The experiences are varied and many and please come with me as I retell the stories and my footsteps are there to follow. I am also writing about ancestry and genealogy and my first book about our incredible family story themed around war and the military is now on Amazon - A BULLET FOR LIFE. I love the English game of cricket, golf, soccer, photography, walking and cooking. Oh, and travel of course.

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