As was the case when we lived abroad, whilst we are in this part of the UK we want to explore as much as possible; as it’s highly likely we won’t be here all that long (possibly not even in England all that long come to think of it – time will tell)… Where better than to pop a mere hour up the road from Cambridge to explore one of the best preserved Medieval Villages in the UK? Lavenham – nestled in the heart of Suffolk, an area of the UK I personally currently know very little about…
Lavenham made its riches from the Tudor Wool trade, giving it the title of 14th wealthiest town in the whole of the UK back in Medieval Times. At one point, it paid more in taxes than York believe it or not – quite a feat for somewhere a fraction of the size…
There are over 300 listed buildings to admire here today, many of them at such challenging angles you wonder how they are still upright (thanks to timbers shifting over time!). Lavenham is actually thought to be the inspiration for the nursery rhyme The Crooked Man, which, along with Goosey Gander was never one of my favourites to be honest. Why the Crooked Man wanted to encumber himself with so much crooked rubbish after a lifetime of suffering, is beyond me.
Anyway, a nursery rhyme I do like (and still get to hear at least 45 time a day currently!) is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and its poet author Jane Taylor resided here with her family at the time it was written. We had a chat with the current owner of her family house on Shilling Street (our visit happened to coincide with a series of table top sales throughout the village, and he sold us a cricket bat!) who told us that at one point his beautiful house had a bit of a hole in the roof so she could see the stars (and this was not some designer skylight either!) through it…
Centuries after Lavenham’s rich beginnings, it fell on much harder times, and many of the houses fell into complete disrepair. So much so that we are really lucky to see it how it is today, thanks to a lot of love and hard work that’s gone into restoring and preserving each and every ancient building…
The beautiful Guildhall has had a varied past too, from its original use as Town Hall, to jail at a later point, then much later down the line a home to War Time evacuees, before eventually being entrusted to the National Trust in the 1950’s. Once you have finished looking around (and stopping for a cream tea!), there is a great Crooked House Trail (and compass) to be found here (you can download it too!), which will take you on a trail around the village, and is full of fun facts for small people. Don’t believe any audio tour guide available info you might stumble across online, this hasn’t existed for a long time now, and the kind lady in the Chemist (where you could originally pick them up from) must be sick of people asking…
Small people might also enjoy the great play park in the middle of the meadow at the bottom end of the village, and for further blackmail material, the ice cream parlour isn’t half bad either (try the stem ginger ice cream – delicious!). All you have to do to get them really interested in Lavenham though is mention that part of Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows (1&2) was filmed here, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s been used in many a film set, from famous wizarding films, to slightly lesser known John and Yoko epics, to the very last Episode of LoveJoy back in 1994 if you remember that far back…
The entire village is packed full of houses that will have staring in wonderment at such things as the double doorway of De Veer Hall (used as part of Godric’s Hollow all you HP fans!) and its ancient doormen guarding the way. There are medieval status symbols all over the place. Just don’t hurry by, or you might miss the best, and all the gorgeous pargetting (patterns and shapes in the plaster) so typical for this area
Do pop into the great Timbers antique shop on the High Street! It’s always a worry when I go in these places with my daughter, who sadly seems to take after me in the clumsiness stakes – but we managed to inspect various tightly packed shelves and cupboards, without anything untoward happening. These were her favourite antiques on offer, and I have to say as old dolls go, they are far less scary than the other ones we found recently.
So much about Lavenham reminded us of Rothenburg ob Der Tauber (which you must visit if you ever go to Bavaria), just on a much smaller scale, and without the city walls, the tourists to a certain extent, and the Night Watchman, but still packed to the brim with charm however!
I know I will return to Lavenham at some point (most probably with my photographer Mother who will insist!), but also because I am going to book myself into the infamous Swan Inn at some point for some peace and quiet, and for a proper look around the museums we didn’t make it to this visit… Shhh, don’t tell anyone….
If you live in Suffolk and have any more tips of places to visit, do let me know. Where would you recommend – pretty please?
It’s so nice to read blogs from other expats, repatriated or not. I’ve been feeling a little bit of the repat blues lately and hearing about other people’s experiences help. I was doing well for awhile, but I think the fire threw me off. It’s hard for me to get my head in the right place when my routine is interrupted–especially by such scary circumstances. But you’ve reminded me about trying to just enjoy a place while you’re there. It’s a great place to start.
Can I ask what the job is that might make your family into expats again?
Oh gosh I haven’t read about the fire. I will pop over. Hope you are OK… Mr R works in a particular field of design engineering that means the companies he works for tend to be in certain countries.
Yes, we’re okay. Thank god everyone got out okay.
It’s cool that his job gives you all the possibility of moving around. :)
I am glad! Thank you, it really is. I have itchy feet to go somewhere else already! :D
Wow, I’ve never seen the like, or can’t believe I have never ever heard of Lavenham! It looks just like a film set. Yes, definitely would love to visit your post has sold it to me. x
We will go, it’s very sweet! :) x
It look like a lovely place to visit! Very pretty!!xx
Thank you. We will have to go! :) xx
Southwold and the surrounds are lovely. Have you been yet and I’ve missed it? There is a brilliant out door pool at Beccles. Walberswick. Aldburgh.
Lavenham does look very Germanic.
Southwold is on our list over the summer! Thanks for the pool tip too! It really does doesn’t it? xx
Midlife Singlemum says
I love these medieval buildings. There are a terrace of tiny Tudor cottages near where I grew up but they’ve been restored so much that they now just look like a model of a Tudor building. When I was young I remember them being the real thing and very like some of your photos here.
You really can restore something too much can’t you? Thanks Rachel!
Oh my, what a pretty and fascinating town. I love that England is full of quaint finds like this. You have really inspired me to visit one day.
It really does have some beautiful places doesn’t it? Thanks Mari x
Eat Explore Etc says
These photographs are gorgeous – I think I really do need to try and get to Rothenburg… I wasn’t sure it’d be worth the very awkward public transport though. By the way, I love the photographs here. The houses are just picture perfect!
The public transport thing has always puzzled me. Is there a coach route or something that might be easier? You really must get there (and Dinkelsbuhl) before you leave! :)
Michelle Twin Mum says
I’m afraid I don’t know Suffolk either but this looks a wonderful little town to explore. So much history and those quirky buildings are fantastic. Mich x
Thanks Mich! :) x
Mary @AsturianDiary says
Wow – wonderfully wonky indeed! Somehow I now feel incredibly homesick for ye olde England all of a sudden…
Anytime you fancy doing a house swap, you just let me know! :D x