Every Picture Tells a Story    February 2018

Timber Frame Houses on Water Street
Lavenham, Suffolk, England


Lavenham, Suffolk, England

by Ben Johnson

Lavenham in Suffolk is widely acknowledged as the best example of a medieval wool town in England.

In Tudor times, Lavenham was said to be the fourteenth wealthiest town in England, despite its small size. Its fine timber-framed buildings and beautiful church, built on the success of the wool trade, make it a fascinating place to explore today.

Although Lavenham goes back to Saxon times, it is best known as a medieval wool town. It was granted its market charter in 1257 and started exporting its famous blue broadcloth as far afield as Russia.

In the 14th century Edward III encouraged the English weaving industry and Lavenham began to prosper. However in the late 16th century Dutch refugees in Colchester began weaving a lighter, cheaper and more fashionable cloth and the woollen trade in Lavenham began to fail.

Most of the buildings in Lavenham today date from the 15th century, many of these were never altered due to the fall of the weaving industry. Consequently the town is still very much on the same scale as it must have been in the 15th century.

The late 15th-century timber-framed Guild Hall overlooks and dominates the town’s market place. The hall was built by the Guild of Corpus Christi, one of three guilds founded in Lavenham to regulate the wool trade. The carving of rampant lions on the doorpost of the hall is the emblem of the Guild. Today there are exhibitions inside on local history, farming and industry, as well as the story of the medieval woollen trade.

As well as its many historic buildings, Lavenham is also blessed with good pubs, fine places to eat and fascinating antique shops to browse around. This part of Suffolk is renowned for its historic houses and pretty villages: Stoke by Nayland, Brent Eleigh, Monks Eleigh, and Chelsworth, for example.


We stayed in a lovely self catering cottage on Water Street directly across from the "Harry Potter House" (the De Verre House) as seen on the cover. Great place to stay with lovely restaurants and lots of charming villages near and interesting walks. We used a combination of The Good Pub Guide and The British Auto Association 1001 Walks to fill our days. We usually have breakfast in (or a latte out), a morning walk arriving at the desired "good" pub followed by and afternoon walk.  Walks are sometimes substituted with a visit to a National Trust Property, a stately home and occasionally shopping. We end the day with supper in and a relaxing evening reading or blogging (not me) by the fire.

Water Street

Water Street

The Old Grammar School

Water Street from out cottage window

Water Street

Number Ten - a nice restaurant

Cordwainers Cottage

High Steet

High Street

The color is your choice

A thatched cottage on High Street

High Street

High Street

High Street with the Swan on the right

Molet House in Barn Street

Lavenham Community Primary School

Water Street

Shilling Street

The Priory Inn on Water Street  

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All Photography by Philip Illingworth