Although Lavenham isn’t a regular feature on British tourist maps, this lovely village definitely has so much to offer. Located in southern Suffolk, Lavenham has always been thought of as a good one-day-trip destination for people from nearby cities, e.g. Ipswich and Cambridge.
Still, in a recent couple of years, the word about the beauty of the city has spread across not only the United Kingdom but the entire world. The reasons why Lavenham is getting more and more popular as a tourist destination are numerous. Let’s talk about some of them!
One of the most iconic buildings in this part of England is Lavenham Guildhall. As its name suggests, the building was built to serve as the headquarters of a guild. And the guild in question was the wool guild, which was one of the most powerful in Suffolk in the late 15th century. In order to show their wealth to the world, the people from the wool guild of Lavenham decided to construct a building which, at the time, was a true architectural masterpiece.
The time we’re talking about was the early 16th century. The richest families from the area, which were involved in wool trading, invested a lot of money in the construction of an impressive Guildhall. It took many years before the building was complete and finally opened in 1529.
The official name of the building at the time was the Guildhall of Corpus Christi. For nearly two centuries, the guildhall was used as a meeting place of local wool traders. It was the place where many business deals were made, which later proved to be of a huge significance for the whole region.
The business of wool trade started declining in the late 17th century, at least in this part of England. This is why the building changed its purpose. Instead of being the headquarters of the wool guild, it was used as a workhouse for another 150 years. Over time, the building deteriorated to a point when it was no longer safe to use it. But, then, in the 20th century it was restored and given to the National Trust for England, who turned it in a sort of museum, which nowadays, is open to the public. And this means that you can visit in on your Lavenham trip!
Lavenham Wool Hall
Wool trade played a huge role in the history of Lavenham and there are several buildings to testify it. The obvious one is the Lavenham Guildhall, which served as the focal point for wool trade in Suffolk in 16th century. But, there’s another important Lavenham building that shows the town’s important role in the wool trade.
We’re talking about the Wool Hall, or as some locals call it the Woolroom. The Wool Room a timber framed building, initially constructed at the turn of the 16th century. Same as Lavenham Guildhall, it also started as a guild-owned building. When its construction was finished, it became the headquarters of the Guild of the Blessed Virgin.
Over the years, it changed its role many times, but since the 1960s, Lavenham Wool Hall serves as a hotel. It’s now a part of the Swan Hotel, so if you’re looking for an unforgettable stay in a historic building that’s renovated to provide high-end amenities, the Wool Hall might be your perfect choice!
Enough about wool! Let’s talk about other important buildings you need to check out the next time you visit Lavenham. Okay, it seems that when Lavenham is concerned, everything has to have something to do with wool, even churches. St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Lavenham was built by donations from rich wool traders from the area, who wanted to make one of the largest religious structure in England in the early 16th century.
The church was built in the English Gothic style and such is a wonder of architecture and design. The church is still the tallest building in the area, with a height of 141 feet (43 meters). It has eight bells, each weighing over a metric ton.
Taking photos in front of the church needs to be on your list when you visit Lavenham, but we also advise getting inside the church. It’s still used as a religious building of the Church of England, but tourists are allowed to enter. The entrance is free of charge and once you get in, you will be stunned by the beauty of its painted rood screen, various paintings, and misericords.
Lavenham Market Square
If taking photos next to the Lavenham Church isn’t enough, you can do a photoshoot literally anywhere in the Market Square. Lavenham Market Square is packed with interesting buildings, many of which are tilted to one side. Actually, that’s the main reason why this village was the location of many feature films.
Witchfinder General, a 1968 movie starring Vincent Price was shot here. Several scenes of a 1986 film called Playing Away were shot on this location as well. And in 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono filmed an experimental movie called Apotheosis in the Market Square. Stanley Kubrick and Pier Paolo Pasolini also used the scenes from the Market Square in some of their movies.
More recently, the seemingly-distorted buildings on the Market Square were featured in one of the movies from the Harry Potter franchise. The movies in question are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2.
Other Things to Do in Lavenham
If you want to properly discover Lavenham, it’s not enough just to spend a few hours in the village, stay there and enjoy a few days or even more. Here are some of the best hotels in Lavenham:
. Sure, your travel itinerary needs to include paying a visit to Lavenham Church, Lavenham Market Square, and the two guild buildings, but this village has so much more to offer.
Lavenham, Suffolk seems is a calm and peaceful village, but there are many interesting things going on in this place. Of course, it all depends on the time when you plan to visit it. For instance, if you’re going to do it at Christmas time, you’ll be able to visit Lavenham Christmas Fair.
Lavenham Christmas Fair
Lavenham Christmas Fair is organized annually, starting in early December and lasting for a couple of days. Usually, it happens on the first full weekend of the month. The fair is the event that allows you to experience some unforgettable moments such as trying out regional dishes and drinks, listen to bands performing live, and so on.
A special place in Lavenham Christmas Fair is reserved for fairground rides, including a big Ferris Wheel set in the middle of the Market Square. The fair also has stands that sell all kinds of souvenirs, including those related to the festive season and those celebrating the village of Lavenham and surrounding areas.
Lavenham Playing Fields
If you’re visiting Lavenham during hot summer days, you can have some nice time in the large park in the southern part of the village. Lavenham Playing Fields is a park where you can walk around and enjoy nature, but also where you can play all sorts of sports with your friends and/or friendly locals.
This is the place where you will fill all kinds of playing fields, where you can play sports like tennis, golf, cricket, football, and many, many others. The thing that people love the most about this place is that despite being large and beautiful, this park is not too crowded. This means that you will probably be able to find a free field to play your favorite sports, without having to wait for your turn.
Apart from visiting the village itself, you definitely need to consider checking out some places nearby on your next Lavenham trip. The most important question here is: where is Lavenham? The answer is: between Cambridge and Ipswich, close to the Dedham Vale and Thetford Forest Park. All of these places are at less than a one-hour drive from Lavenham.
All of these places deserve an article on their own for the fact that they have so much to offer to tourists. No matter what your traveling preferences might be, you will find something to your liking in this part of England.
But, if the reason why you’ve decided to visit Lavenham was that you’re a fan of the English countryside, why not visit a few other villages from the same area? Here are a couple of beautiful villages nearby that deserve your attention!
This is the closest village to Lavenham and the reason why you should consider paying it a visit is that it’s basically a smaller version of Lavenham. It has a village hall that looks as it comes straight from a fairytale. It also has a large church built in the 1300s.
Another Suffolk village you may find interesting is Great Waldingfield. Located a couple of miles to the south from Lavenham, the village is famous for St. Lawrence church, a large building from the medieval period.
One of the largest villages in the area, Alpheton is also famous for its large church in the middle of the village. But, unlike all the other churches nearby, Alpheton’s St Peter and St Paul church is several centuries older. It’s estimated that its construction started in the 10th century or even earlier!
Another large village that had a big importance in the past is Long Melford. The evidences of its impressive history are all over the village. There’s a large church in the middle of the village, which is much larger than most other village churches in England. It was built during the right of Edward the Confessor. Apart from the church, Long Melford is also famous for its two large guildhalls.
Places to Eat in Lavenham
Lavenham wouldn’t be so popular among travelers if it didn’t offer good cuisine. Although the village is small, there are a couple of restaurants where you can enjoy exceptional dishes. Here are some of those!
Cock Horse Lavenham
Cock Horse is an in that offers its visitors everything they would expect from a traditional English countryside pub. Apart from great beer, the visitors can also enjoy some Suffolk specialties, sourced locally.
Unlike Cock Horse, Greyhound Lavenham is not a traditional English establishment. It’s actually a tapas bar. But, there’s a catch. This isn’t a regular Spanish tapas bar; it’s a combination of a pub and a restaurant that offers English dishes tweaked in a way they resemble Spanish tapas.
Hadley’s at Lavenham
This place is famous in the area for its ice cream. Hadley’s at Lavenham is where you can enjoy hand-made ice cream that’s received various awards for its taste and quality. Locals claim that you won’t be able to find better ice cream from Lavenham to London.
Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms
English people love tea and they always did. This venue is a perfect example of how Suffolk people used to drink tea and coffee back in the day. Apart from offering a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, this tea room also has cakes and cookies on the menu.
If you got a sweet tooth, Sweet Meats is the best place for you in the whole of Lavenham. This is where you can enjoy ice cream of all sorts of different flavors, as well as many cakes and cookies. And on top of everything, this place also serves as a tea room and a coffee shop.
So, Is Lavenham Worth Visiting?
The simple answer is: yes! The more complicated answer is: yes, especially if you’re a fan about the English countryside. This is a village that has so much to offer to its visitors, starting with many historic buildings, constructed nearly an entire millennia ago.
Another thing people love about Lavenham is that it’s a calm and peaceful place, which offers many venues where you can enjoy nice meals with your friends and family. So, if you’re looking to get away from the crowd and noise of a big city, Lavenham is your ideal destination!