The Crooked House is one of Lavenham's more famous landmarks, and often features in pictures of the town. Built in 1425, it is now an art gallery featuring a variety of local artists, jewellers and sculptors. The timbers have warped over time causing the upper floor to look distinctly crooked - hence the name!
The Guildhall of Corpus Christi, Lavenham, dates back to some time around 1530. Regarded as one of Britains' best examples of a timber framed building of around that time, the Guildhall is now in the care of the National Trust. You are able to go inside and take a look around the building and the enclosed garden area for an entry fee (from memory no more than about three or four pounds sterling). The rooms are quite bare, but really you are there to see the carvings in the timbers, the massive inglenook fireplaces and leaded windows with ancient wavy glass. Upstairs the rooms have been given over to a museum detailing the history of Lavenhams wool trade and explaining how the local people lived and worked. You can also go down into the cellar and there is (as ever) a tea room and a National Trust gift shop.
What is a Guildhall exactly anyway? A guild was a sort of club or organisation to which members would pay a fee. Originally, it would have been concerned with the welfare of the members souls and social wellbeing, but over time they became more concerned with crafts and trade. Some guilds would have met in a local home. The Guildhall of Corpus Christ however seems to have been built for the purpose of accommodating the probably elite merchant members of the Guild and storage of their wool and cloth.
In later years the Guildhall was used as the local workhouse (a workhouse housed the poor, sick and homeless). In the walled garden are 2 small brick buildings - these were once the lock-up and the mortuary.
It is a massive building (oh for a decent wide angle lens!) which dominates the market area of the town. (note, the area in front of the Guildhall is a parking area - if you do have the opportunity to get a decent, wide-angle shot, try to arrive early in the day). The timbers are pale and old and the door posts, the corner posts and the huge beam supporting the jettied upper level are heavily carved.
Lavenham's parish church of Saints Peter and Paul is a large building which can be seen from many miles around. It is a direct result of the wealth of Lavenham, as it was largely paid for by wealthy clothiers in the 15th Century - most notably Thomas Spryng - although a church has stood here from Saxon times.
The church was built as an act of thanksgiving by John de Vere, the thirteenth Earl of Oxford and Lord of the Manor of Lavenham, who lead Henry VII's troops to victory in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. His emblems of a boar and a star can be seen carved both inside the church and outside on the stonework (check over the doorway, that isn't a headless sheep, it's an eroded boar!).
There are many wonderful features to appreciate in this church - heavily carved parcloses which protect important tombs, monuments and brasses, the ancient stone font. For more information and pictures see my travelogue.
Located on Market Place in Lavenham are a couple of interesting historic buildings - the Guildhall and the Little Hall.
The cream timber-framed Corpus Christi Guildhall was built in the 16th century, and was once used as a prison and later a workhouse. The building is now managed by the National Trust, and you can visit the Guildhall and see an exhibition on the wool industry - Lavenham was formerly the heart of the regions wool trade.
Nearby, you can visit the ancient looking Little Hall. This is a 14th century merchants house, which was restored in the early 20th century. The house and garden is open to visitors for a small fee, and there is an interesting collection of furniture and art on display.
Lavenham is home to the impressive Church of St Peter and Paul. Dating back to the 15th century, the church is one of the famous Suffolk wool churches - so named as its building was funded by the rich clothiers of the time. It has a flint tower standing 140 feet tall, which is the highest structure for miles around.
Today it is surrounded by gorgeous shaped hedges, amid the gravestones. Take the time to stroll around the garden and admire the grand structure from outside.
I found the interior a little dark and sombre….but hey, it is a church! I was amused by the colourful pew cushions, and happy that the Lavenham locals could avoid having a 'numb-bum' during a long service ; )
The local tourist information office is in Lady Street, which leads off from the Market Place. I think it looks a little out of place, a 1970's looking building snuggled next to a much older timber framed beauty! But they have heaps of good local information, not just about Lavenham, but some of the other surrounding villages in the area. A good place to start if you are trying to get a feel for the area or find a nice place to stay. They also carry a small range of gifts and postcards.
Outside the front of the Guildhall an old cross identifies the Market Place. As I mentioned before, Lavenham was granted a charter by the crown back in the thirteenth century which allowed the townsfolk to hold a market. The cross that you see know is not quite that old - but is still pretty old! It was put there in 1501, paid for from the will of a local merchant, William Jacob. A plaque on the cross commemmorates William and his bequest.
Lavenham no longer holds a market, but in times past they would have been held every week.
One of the main buildings in Lavenham is the Church of St Peter and St Paul. It is covered with magnificent carvings both inside and out and the tower rises to a height of 141 feet (about 41 metres) so it is the tallest church in Suffolk.
If I'm honest, my mum is the real expert on Lavenham and places like this around Suffolk. I took my girlfriend there one summer evening so everywhere was closed including the Crooked House Gallery.
The building itself is incredible and dates back to 1425. Today it is run as a gallery with arts and crafts from all over the country.
It's a MUST-SEE place once in Lavenham. Have a look at their web-site for full history and details of what it's all about.
Impressive example of a guild building of Tudor/16th century period. Probably more interesting outside than in, although a fair size and with a small exhibition of local history and industry. Also with a shop and tea-room.