Towns and villages
Our county is well known for its elegant towns and pretty villages and we think we have the finest Suffolk towns and villages of them all! Names such as Lavenham, East Bergholt, Chelsworth and Eye are instantly recognisable to many people and conjure up images of thatched roof cottages, medieval architecture and quintessentially English village life.
Many of the Suffolk Wool Towns are in the Heart of Suffolk and much of the fine architecture of the houses and churches, owe their grandeur to the wealth generated by the manufacture in the 13th century, of woollen cloth.
Thomas Gainsborough's Sudbury
Some of our villages and towns most definately do have a history that is significant on a national scale: the market town of Sudbury for example, is the birthplace of painter Thomas Gainsborough and his home, Gainsborough's House, is open as a museum, gallery and print workshop. It houses the largest collection of the artist's work, outside of London and is a dynamic and fascinating town to visit.
Along a similar vein, the Suffolk village of East Bergholt is the birthplace of John Constable and Flatford is the place where he lived and did many of his most well known paintings, such as the Hay Wain and Willy Lott's Cottage. The area is known as Constable Country and lies within the Dedham Vale (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Constable Country is known the world over and attracts visitors eager to see the place they know so well from John Constable's many paintings that are housed in national and international galleries as well as from placemats that seem to turn up in pubs across the globe! Much of the attraction of Constable Country is that it remains largely unchanged from when the artist lived and worked there.
Lavenham, with over 300 listed buildings, is a medieval gem of a village and is often quoted as being 'one of the finest medieval villages in England'. It certainly is magnificent and the sort of place that makes your jaw drop when you first visit. Full of half-timbered houses, some of them leaning at alarming angles, the stupendous Guildhall of Corpus Christi (owned by the National Trust) and a very grand church, this Suffolk village is definately one to spend some time in or better still, to base yourself for a few days.
The pretty village of Chelsworth, has an annual open garden event which draws visitors from across the region. The event is so popular because the village is such a quintessentially English village and the gardens are so different from each other but all exceptionally beautiful and well-tended.
The village of Eye with its castle ruins and nearby Thornham Walks is another gem not to be missed.
Have a browse through the information about our Suffolk towns and villages and discover the fascinating history that lies behind their facades.
Here are our featured towns and villages, including related items of interest within each:
Set along a broad, tree-lined street over a mile in length, Long Melford contains a delightful spread of 18th and 19th century fronted shops and houses, interspersed with the occasional original Tudor building. The village has become a major centre for the antiques trade and also has many lovely small shops, galleries, pubs and some fabulous restaurants.
Haughley developed within the outer bailey of a Norman castle. This gives the village its distinctive shape. Only the earthworks remain (a privately owned and protected site).
Polstead is a picturesque village across the River Box from Stoke by Nayland at the point where the south Suffolk plateau breaks up into a number of small valleys.
Laxfield became a settlement on the edge of some flat land where there was a stream big enough to support it.
This part of Suffolk has a fascinating heritage and much of the fine architecture of the houses and churches, owe their grandeur to the wealth generated by the manufacture in the 13th century, of woollen cloth. This was a major industrial area several hundred years 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.
Woolpit is a very pretty village, the centre of which is a conservation area with many brick-faced, timber -framed buildings.
Situated in the lovely Suffolk countryside in the Stour Valley, is the Suffolk wool town of Clare. The town has a fascinating history and several interesting places to visit.
If you followed the BBC's "Great British Story" with presenters Michael Wood and Dr Carenza Lewis, you will have seen that Long Melford was featured a while ago. Being involved in the community Big Dig was an exciting time in the village and as a result, two local amateur archaeologists John Nunn and Rob Simpson were inspired to set up the Long Melford Heritage Centre in 2011.
The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum in Castle House, Dedham in the heart of Constable Country and the Dedham Vale (AONB), is the home where Sir Alfred Munnings KCVO lived for 40 years.
Debenham is a Suffolk wool town in the heart of the countryside, just over 11 miles north of Ipswich. It lies near to the source of the River Deben and is a large, peaceful village with a rich past as a thriving wool centre. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and its name is thought to mean 'the village in a deep valley'.
Stonham Barns Leisure and Retail Village is a collection of small specialist shops including gift, fabric and clothing shops. There is also a garden centre, The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, crazy course, Carters of Suffolk (who make pottery teapots), the Mid Suffolk showground, fishing lakes, a restaurant and more. This is a family-friendly visitor attraction in the heart of Suffolk and has a children's play area and a holiday park.
The Wildlife Art Gallery in Lavenham, specialises in 20th century and contemporary wildlife art. It's a wonderful art gallery with regular exhibitions by many of Europe's leading wildlife artists, such as painters Robert Gillmor and Eric Ennion as well as sculptors such as Rosemary Cook and Nick Bibby.
Situated in the high street in the medieval town of Lavenham, this light and modern gallery is filled on two floors with the wonderful, vibrant work of Suffolk artist Paul Evans, one of the leading landscape painters in East Anglia.
Set in the lovely surroundings of the Thornham estate, the Beyond the Image photography gallery has regularly changing, imaginative photographic exhibitions, workshops and exhibition space for photographers, artists and students.
A wonderful opportunity to learn a creative skill in the grounds of Gainsborough's House, which is full of great works of art by Thomas Gainsborough, who was born in Sudbury and whose house is now a museum and open to the public.
What better place is there to attend a creative course, than Flatford Mill in Suffolk, where artist John Constable gained so much of his inspiration? Flatford Mill was owned by Constable's father and John grew up there, walking across the fields from Flatford to Dedham to attend school each day. It is the gentle landscapes around the River Stour and throughout the Dedham Vale (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), which inspired him to become a painter, and you can follow in his footsteps!
Join Deborah Baynes on the lovely Shotley Peninsula for one of her pottery courses. Learn to throw a pot with different types of glaze and in all sorts of different styles. Deborah's course can be either residential or non-residential, they are friendly, relaxed and informal.
The museum was established in 1985 after the local history group found pieces of Roman and medieval pottery and decided to share their finds with the local and wider community.
The village of Wingfield lies in the northern part of Suffolk and is widely scattered with many medieval houses.
The ancient market town of Sudbury is set in the heart of the Stour Valley, on the banks of the River Stour.
Stowmarket is an ancient town, although its exact origins are impossible to date. Its name has pre-Saxon roots and evidence of a Roman settlement has been found close to the town centre.
Stoke By Nayland is a pretty village between Sudbury and Colchester and was a favourite with artist John Constable. He was a frequent visitor there and made many sketches and paintings of the area. He was particularly fond of painting the church in the village and the imposing church tower features in many of his works.
A pleasant market town in Suffolk, Needham Market has a fascinating history. The town and market were founded in around 1245 to take commercial advantage of the road that goes from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds.
Lavenham is often called the finest medieval town in England and is perhaps the most famous of the Suffolk wool towns. Lavenham once enjoyed such a high standing that in the reign of Henry VIII, it was ranked as the fourteenth wealthiest town in England.
Hoxne is a beautiful and historic Suffolk village and well worth a visit. It is the place where King Edmund was martyred at the hands of the Danes at a site just yards from the market's venue.
East Bergholt lies in the heart of the Dedham Vale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the area often referred to as 'Constable Country'. It is the birthplace of John Constable and you can still see (from the outside) his studio and the place where his house once stood.
St Peter and Saint Mary's Church in Stowmarket is part of the Church of England and has stood in the centre of this Suffolk market town for over 700 years, although there has probably been a Christian Church here since 637AD.
The lofty 15th century tower of Stradbroke Parish Church can be seen for miles around and will guide visitors through winding country lanes to the heart of this rural community. Inside, All Saints' Church is beautifully proportioned with fine 15th century Gothic arcades and high quality Victorian glass and woodwork reflecting its 1870s restoration.
St Mary's Church lies just outside the centre of the village of Polstead, up on a hill with sweeping views over the Box Valley. This is one of Suffolk's finest Norman churches as visitors can see inside from the nave arcades and rare brick arches.
Hoxne Church is a very long medieval church with a massive embattled tower, order an impressive nave and north aisle and faint remains of old wall paintings.
The painter John Constable was born in the village of East Bergholt and one of his finest works is of the church porch. The house where he was born was destroyed in a fire, but a plaque in the main street shows where the house once stood. Members of John Constable's family are buried in the churchyard as family friend, Willy Lott, made famous because of John Constable's painting 'Willy Lott's Cottage' in Flatford.
Woolverstone Hall is a beautiful, large country house, now in use as Ipswich High School for Girls, educating over 500 3-18 year olds. The hall was built in 1776 for London property developer William Berners by the architect John Johnson. Johnson's design is classically Palladian, consisting of a central block with the main living areas, flanked by two smaller wings containing the domestic offices: kitchen, larders, laundry, brewhouse and so on, which made the typical English country house a self-sufficient community.
One of the joys of having some time off work, is enjoying the freedom to go for long walks and bike rides and to explore new places, taking some time out along the way to enjoy a hearty meal at a traditional English pub.
Sitting proudly at the top of the Shotley Peninsula, Shotley Marina provides a safe harbour for yachtsmen and women and a wonderful base for exploring the rivers and inland of this lovely corner of Suffolk.
The Bristol Arms is situated at the bottom of Bristol Hill at Shotley Gate, on the very tip of the Shotley Peninsula. From here you can look across the River Stour towards Harwich and the bustling international port, or turn your gaze westwards and look down the river where the sunsets can be so stunningly beautiful.
The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers the area around East Bergholt, Dedham and Flatford where the artist John Constable was born and which is often referred to as Constable Country. It remains remarkably unchanged since the artist lived and worked there and it is obvious to see what inspired him to paint the Suffolk countryside as he did.
A fine Grade I listed, Medieval timber-framed guildhall built when Hadleigh was one of the most important woollen cloth towns in England.
The Angel Gallery is a 15th century, Grade II listed wool merchant's residence in the centre of medieval Lavenham, located in the historic Market Place. The Gallery is home to exhibitions by local, national and international artists and permanent collections are held of work by Leslie Gibson A.R.C.A. and costume drawings from the 1930s by Mary Wild A.R.C.A.
The pretty Suffolk town of Eye derives its name from the old English word for island and it is believed that the first settlement here was once surrounded by water and marshland.
The Barrandov opera is possibly Britain's smallest and most intimate opera house, the fulfilment of an opera lover's dream inspired by the cultural tradition of Prague.
From seed to ceramics, fiery foods to fine clothing, gifts and gourmet delights - you'll find more than just chillies here at The Chilli Company in the heart to the Suffolk countryside!