Guide to Self-Catering Cottages and Country Cottage Holidays in Lavenham, Suffolk

Lavenham is one of the Suffolk's best medieval wool towns. Evidence of its former prosperity derived from wool and weaving lines most of the roads in the village.  It's highly unusual to find a village with quite so many half-timbered houses, many of which date back to 1450s and 1500s. Lavenham can be highly recommended for those who adore historical buildings and the town even has a medieval Guilhall protected by the National Trust.  This part of the world is ideal for a self-catering holiday for anyone who likes to sightsee and visit ancient buildings and antique shops and fairs. There are country pubs and olde worlde pubs for meals out during your holiday.


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medieval half timbered houses line many roads, stay in a country cottage near Lavenham to take time to explore on your holidayLavenham is built on a hill which affords excellent views of the many superbly maintained half-timbered and colour washed houses from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Each house tells its own story; former weaver's homes, wool merchants house, manor house, guildhall, hunting lodges are all represented here. Flemish weavers came to the thriving wool trade in Lavenham in 1334 and continued their trade of dyeing and weaving cloth for export.  Some made their homes in Water Street where a stream was diverted to provide water for the dye houses. 

Many people became very rich; including master weavers like Thomas Spring I and his clothier son Thomas II.  Wool products were the industry to be in if you wanted to become wealthy. Blue serge was in high demand during the War of the Roses which contributed to the further growth and prosperity of Lavenham.  

The Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, LavenhamWhen in 1485, the Lord of the Manor, John de Vere returned to Lavenham after victory at the Battle of Bosworth, he and clothing merchant Thomas Spring II jointly funded the initial building of Lavenham Parish Church. Its proportions are impressive considering the size of the community it served.  A visit to the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is highly recommended not only because of its architectural splendour but also to view the kneelers, cross-stitched by the community as their Millenium Project. The kneelers (one of which shown on right) portray 'The history of Lavenham church and village 1000-2000 AD' and make a fascinating pictorial record.  Women spinning wool outside their cottages was once a common sight and this too is featured.

There is a famous peal of eight bells, some ornate woodcarving and stained glass windows. The de Vere star can be seen in the flintwork halfway down the tower, which is also circled with the Spring coat-of-arms.

A small shop inside the church is staffed by friendly and informative locals.  It sells items of interest to tourists as well as Christian literature.

In 1524, Lavenham was rated the fourteenth richest town in England.  Various other clothiers and merchants contributed to both the church and major buildings.  Four  guilds developed to administer the activities of the cloth trade, the guildhall of one of them, the Guild of Corpus Christi, built in the 1520s can be found on the south side of the Market Place.  It experienced several incarnations through later centuries as a prison, town hall, a work house and wool store.   There are so many ancient interesting buildings - one of the best things to do is to obtain a guide for 'a walk around Lavenham' from the church shop which clearly describes them.

The village has produced several famous people:

  • Ann and Jane, the daughters of Isaac Taylor, the engraver wrote poems including the famous 'Twinkle, twinkle little star'
  • John Constable landscape painter famed for 'the Hay Wain' and  'Flatford Mill' was  educated at its Grammar School in Barn Street for a short time before going on to Dedham, as was the poet William Clubbe

From the late 16th century, demand for wool fabrics fluctuated with the inevitable loss of some merchants and clothiers and poverty became widespread.  A short respite arrived in the 19th century with a demand for horse hair cloth for upholstered seating but this too went out of fashion with the development of modern cheaper synthetic materials.   

The Cock Pub where you can eat an excellent meal in attractive surroundings whilst staying in your country cottageSeveral of the village's public houses came into being in the 14th century; the White Horse, Swan Inn and the Crown and Anchor.

The Cock Pub, shown on the left, can be found over the road from the Church and is an attractive place for a good lunch or evening meal if you're in Lavenham sightseeing.

Views from the High Street 

Memorial stone Cottages, rub shoulder to shoulder down the hill

A trip to Lavenham is highly recommended.  The village is unique in its wealth of historic houses and is a living and working monument to the former generations that built it.

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