Lavenham History


Lavenham is regarded as being the finest surviving example in England of a mediaeval town, with superb ancient buildings - over 300 of them listed as being of architectural and historical interest.

It is said that in Tudor times, Lavenham was the fourteenth richest town in England. With fine timbered buildings and a beautiful church built on the success of the wool trade, the Lavenham of today is a fascinating place to explore.

The history of Lavenham goes back to Saxon times but it is best known as a medieval wool town. In 1257 its market charter was granted and the town started exporting its famous blue broadcloth as far afield as Russia. 

The town started to prosper in the 14th century when Edward III encouraged the English weaving industry but, in the late 16th century a lighter, cheaper and more fashionable cloth was woven by Dutch refugees in Colchester causing the woollen trade in Lavenham to begin to fail. The majority of the buildings in Lavenham today date from the 15th century and due to the decline of the weaving industry, many of these were never altered, so the size of the town is still very much as it must have been back then.

The timber-framed Guild Hall was built in the late 15th-century by the Guild of Corpus Christi, one of three guilds founded in Lavenham to regulate the wool trade. It overlooks and dominates the town's market square and these days, there are exhibitions inside on local history, farming and industry, as well as the story of the medieval woollen trade. 

Lavenham is blessed with many great public houses, good places to eat and fascinating shops to browse around as well as its many historic buildings. This whole part of Suffolk is well known for its historic houses and pretty villages: Chelsworth, Monks Eleigh, Stoke by Nayland, and Brent Eleigh for example. 

Long Melford, with its many antique shops and associations with the British TV series 'Lovejoy', is close by and the towns of Bury St. Edmunds and Sudbury are also easy to get to. Drive a little further and you can be in the heart of Constable country at Dedham or Flatford Mill.

Images of Lavenham