Lavenham, renowned for its historical ties to the Suffolk wool trade, boasts over 300 listed medieval timber-framed buildings, a testament to its rich heritage. A perfect example of this stunning architecture accessible to the public is The Guildhall, located in the marketplace and now owned by the National Trust; The nearby Little Hall was built on the main square in 1390 as a family home and workplace but extended over the years before its restoration in the 1930’s and is now opened as a museum.
Beyond its architectural charm, Lavenham thrives as a vibrant community, bustling with activity. In 2023, the village proudly launched its film festival, and visitors can immerse themselves further in the creative atmosphere during the bi-annual literary festival, experience the enchantment of late-night Christmas shopping, and explore the unique offerings at makers markets and craft fairs. This lively tapestry of events weaves seamlessly into the village’s rich history, making Lavenham a destination that captivates not only with its timeless allure but also with the ongoing vibrancy of its community.
The village streets, adorned with colourful historical facades, host an array of unique independent businesses—from art shops and antique emporiums to clothing boutiques and bookstores. Take a leisurely afternoon to explore and browse these treasures, pausing for a break at one of the many charming cafes or restaurants, or indulge in complete relaxation at the Temple Spa within the Swan Hotel.
For those eager to extend their exploration, Lavenham offers many local footpaths to explore (including two trails on the ‘Love Exploring’ app). Guided walking tours regularly depart from the Swan Hotel foyer.
Whilst the buildings of Lavenham belie its medieval heritage the area also played an important role in the Second World War with Lavenham airfield manned by the US Army Air Force 487th Bombardment Group who flew 185 missions and over six thousand sorties. The prominent Hollywood screenwriter, Lieutenant Colonel Beirne Lay, Jr., who wrote the screenplay for ‘Twelve O’clock High’, was stationed at Lavenham but was shot down on 11 May 1944 in one of the group’s earliest actions. Today visitors can see memorabilia relating to the airmen from 487th in the Airman’s Bar at The Swan and they have undertaken their Signatures Project to locate each of the names on their wall to pay tribute to the squadron’s bravery and camaraderie.
Lavenham’s Grade 1 Listed St Peter and St Paul’s Church, with its awe-inspiring 141ft tower and stonework, remains a global attraction and regarded as one of the finest examples of Late Perpendicular Gothic architecture in England. Built in gratitude to Henry Tudor after the Battle of Bosworth, its bells still ring on Sundays.
Just outside Lavenham, St Mary’s church at Brent Eleigh reveals a hidden gem— in 1961 a set of three paintings were discovered on the east wall, previously hidden by ornate Victorian screens (reredos). These paintings have been dated to the 14th Century and are an exceptional example of Medieval folk-art.
Accommodations in Lavenham cater to diverse tastes, ranging from the Angel Hotel, a quintessential 600-year-old establishment, to boutique bed and breakfasts like Rectory Manor, set in three acres of private grounds and considered to be one of the finest in Suffolk. Parts of the building are known to date back at least 600 years and John Hopkins wrote the Book of Psalms within its walls. Self-catering options abound, including unique experiences like glamping at Apple Mount Retreat, offering picturesque views from their pods equipped with hot tubs and a swimming pool. For a touch of literary magic visitors can even stay in Harry Potters childhood home as the rooms of De Vere Hall are available to rent on AirBnB. The hall, along with the Guildhall formed the backdrop for Godrics Hollow in The Deathly Hallows (Part One) where Harry’s parents were murdered, Voldemort met his first downfall and Harry gained his famous scar.