Wool Towns

The Heart of Suffolk is well known for its elegant towns and pretty villages, with thatched roofs and high streets that take you back in time.

Heart of Suffolk Wool Towns

Many of the historic Suffolk Wool Towns are in the Babergh Mid Suffolk area. Much of the fine architecture of the houses and churches owe their grandeur to the wealth generated by the manufacture of woollen cloth in the 13th century.

This was a major industrial area several hundred years ago and included the bigger towns of Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury as well as the small, outlying villages, which are known as the Suffolk Wool Towns. 

During the reign of Henry VIII Lavenham was listed as being England’s 14th richest town. Lavenham Blewes, the cloth produced here was even famous internationally however, by the mid-16th century, the woollen cloth industry was in decline as the demand for lighter, finer, and cheaper fabrics increased.

Some Suffolk wool towns and villages were hit very hard by this change, especially Lavenham and Nayland, where around 70% of residents were involved in the woollen cloth industry. Other industries had to be developed and for some villages, agriculture took over as the main source of employment. 

Dedham Vale has created a Stour Valley Visitor guide which you can find on their website.


With over 300 listed buildings, Lavenham is a perfectly preserved medieval gem and is often quoted as being ‘one of the finest medieval villages in England.’ 

It certainly is magnificent and an excellent example of a Suffolk wool town where it has frozen in time. Though the decline of the wool trade hit hard, Lavenham has since prospered as a popular Suffolk visitor destination.

Full of half-timbered buildings, one very wonky house that was once a gorgeous tearoom, the famous Harry Potter House (link), the stupendous Guildhall of Corpus Christi (owned by the National Trust) and a very grand church, Lavenham is one location in the Heart of Suffolk not to be missed!


With a more diverse economy,  Sudbury was robust enough to withstand the collapse of the woollen cloth trade. Here, silk weaving took over and by the late 18th century, this industry was well-established and continues today in three silk factories in the town. 

Sudbury has become known as England’s Silk Capital and regular guided walks take place in the town. These explore the silk weaving history as well as the town’s connections with artist Thomas Gainsborough and Simon of Sudbury.

The Sudbury Silk Stories website brings heritage to life to demonstrate just how silk is shaping Sudbury today. Find out more about the silk mills – past, present and future.


Once a Viking Royal Town, Hadleigh is the reputed burial place of Danish King Guthrum. In the 15/16th Century it was among the other towns to do well through its woollen cloth trade. The town of Hadleigh is a popular market town with timber and plasterwork buildings lining the high street. St. Mary’s Church with its tall lead spire is bordered by a magnificent 15th C. Guildhall and red-brick Deanery Tower.


Kersey probably has the best collection of medieval buildings in East Anglia, dating between the 13th and 15th centuries.  A linear village, Kersey has see very little changes since Medieval times. Many of the village’s beautiful buildings are from 15th century and similarly to Lavenham have been preserved. This is mainly due to the poverty in later centuries after the decline of wool production. Because of its historic beauty Kersey has been a hotspot for filming locations including Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders.