Lavenham is undoubtedly one of Suffolk’s most beautiful villages and makes for one of East Anglia’s most popular destinations for a day trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. One of the best preserved medieval villages in the UK, Lavenham boasts around 320 listed timber framed buildings, a beautiful 15th century church as well as a wonderful circular walk.
Henry III granted Lavenham ‘market status’ around 750 years ago, stimulating one of the most prosperous periods of time for the unique village. Traders, especially those with interests in wool, flocked to the village and by 1524, Lavenham was ranked the 14th richest town in the country due to the famous Lavenham Blues cloth.
Demonstrating their wealth, the Lavenham residents built the famous timber-framed houses, including the Lavenham Guildhall, which can be seen to this day while taking a short walk around the town. The Guildhall is now operated by the National Trust and is used to house a local history museum (focusing on the medieval cloth industry), as well as a beautiful walled garden with dye plants that have been used since the middle ages. Other buildings built during this time that still stand proud today include the St Peter and St Paul Church as well as the Lavenham Priory.
Reminiscing in tradition, Lavenham is the home to the Lavenham Farmers’ Market, which has been officially named the best market in Suffolk. Held on the fourth Sunday of every month in Lavenham Village Hall, the market showcases over 35 of the highest quality artisan producers in the region and attracts over 1,000 customers through the door each month. Everything that is sold at the market is sourced locally and includes fresh fruit and vegetables, locally baked fresh bread, Suffolk beef, pork, lamb and venison, home baked cakes and pies, as well as local eggs, home produced jams, pates and chutneys to name just a small sample.
With Lavenham providing such wonderful surroundings, many artists have been inspired over the years, leading to the opening of many galleries for both local as well as international artists. The Angel Gallery is a former wool merchant’s residence that exhibits local, national and international artists, with permanent displays of the works of Leslie Gibson, Mary Wild and John Leach. The Lion House Gallery is a friendly gallery showcasing the work of owner-artist Lizzi Stevens alongside carefully selected original work by leading artists from East Anglia and beyond. For those with a taste for sculpture, look no further than the Lavenham Hall Gallery and Sculpture Garden which displays the work of local Lavenham sculptor Kate Denton.
Options for eating are just as diverse, with Lavenham offering plenty of first class restaurants, cafés and pubs. The Great House, owned by Regis and Martine Crepy, is one of Britain’s finest small luxury boutique hotels. This highly renowned restaurant-with-rooms delights its guests with award-winning modern French cuisine and a handful of beautifully designed five-star bedrooms. For a more relaxed experience, the recently restored The Lavenham Greyhound has an extensive restaurant menu that uses locally sourced ingredients to create and produce innovative dishes, while the contemporary styled bar offers locally brewed draft, bottled beers and lagers, and an interesting selection of wines.
Adding to such an impressive history, Lavenham has been recognised internationally for its unique offerings – especially in pop culture. Lavenham’s Market Square was a location for the 1968 Vincent Price film Witchfinder General, while in 1986, a more contemporary film named Playing Away (about a visiting cricket team from Brixton) was filmed there. Other filmmakers including Stanley Kubrick and Pier Paolo Pasolini have also used the village as a location, while in 2010, under conditions of strict secrecy, scenes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2 were filmed there.
A thriving village with a strong community spirit, Lavenham has a selection of galleries, eateries and places to stay – making it perfect for a weekend away as well as a place to set up home and stay.