The ancient market town of Sudbury is set in the heart of the Stour Valley, on the banks of the River Stour.
The town has Saxon origins and a rich cultural heritage. It is one of the wool towns that Suffolk is so well known for and once enjoyed great wealth, which contributed to the fine architecture which can still be seen today. So significant was this wealth, that in the 14th century, Sudbury was one of three Suffolk towns (along with Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds) on a list of England’s wealthiest towns.
This industry declined in the 16th century and many of the smaller towns and villages in Suffolk suffered greatly as a result. Sudbury’s diverse economy meant the town was able to withstand most of the economic slump and the town developed in other areas. One of these was silk weaving and since the 18th century, the silk industry has played a key role in the town’s prosperity and today there are four silk weaving factories, manufacturing high quality fabrics. Some of these fabrics have been used to furnish royal houses such as Windsor Castle and royal clothing, such as the wedding dresses of both the Princess Royal and the late Princess Diana.
There are lively markets here on both Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the year and a farmers’ market takes place monthly along with various craft markets and book fairs.
In the Town Hall, there is the Heritage Centre and Museum, with a fascinating historical photo archive of the town. In the evening the thriving Quay Theatre with its bar and art gallery, is a source of continually changing entertainment, including theatre, music, lectures and film.
There is a good selection of cafés, restaurants, pubs and a club or two, and the town is surrounded by some lovely countryside. Don’t miss the Sudbury Water Meadows, near The Mill Hotel and the Valley Path along the disused and very picturesque railway walk.
Only 70 miles from the centre of London, Sudbury is a great place to visit at the weekend or to use as a base for touring East Anglia. There is an hourly rail service to Colchester and London. It is only one hour’s drive from Harwich and Felixstowe ports and 40 minutes drive from Stansted Airport.
Need to Know…
Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury is the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough, where the artist’s life is comemorated. The museum is open all year round and contains a large collection of his work as well as some interesting personal artefacts. Here you can also enjoy the garden, with its 400 year old Mullberry tree and shop. There is also the print workshop where you can take courses and learn a wonderful new craft.