Visit Lavenham: Places to stay, things to do

Emily Blacker goes back in time to the medieval village of Lavenham


Why go there?


Lavenham is famous for its cloth industry, its wool trade, and of course for being Britain’s finest example of a medieval town. From the 14th to the 16th Century, the town was at the centre of England’s cloth making industry, and many reminders of its hay-day still remain, especially the Guildhall that dominates the market square. The town has over 300 listed buildings, all shapes and sizes, making sure that little has changed over the years.

There are plenty of shops and galleries to browse, many unique craft shops and boutiques harking back to the legacy of the wool trade can be found in the numerous winding, narrow streets off the market square. Every month, the town holds a farmer’s market in the square, with a range of stalls selling the regions best local produce, from food and drink, to handmade gifts and home wares.

The Suffolk Archive and Classic Film Festival often finds itself in the town’s village hall, with an array of classic titles. Sit back, relax and enjoy the film, or if you’d rather take to the streets, then the annual carnivals and shows may take your fancy. The annual Rare Breeds Motor show always attracts owners of weird and wonderful motors, and is now in its eleventh year.

If it’s the history of the town that seems most interesting, there are numerous guided walks and tours of the medieval town, starting mainly in the square. In addition to the town tours, there are several circular railway walks at the 19th Century railway, or for those who feel more energetic, a 5-mile walk to the next village.

Where to stay?

Without a doubt, The Swan Hotel is one of the most luxurious in the area. Serving great food as well as offering lavish accommodation, it’s said the oldest part of the inn dates back to the late 14th Century. Relax in front of one of the many roaring log fires, take a walk in the hidden gardens, and enjoy the peaceful, welcoming atmosphere surrounding the establishment. Choose from a classic room, luxury suite or one of their charming feature rooms, all with original Tudor features.

Where to eat?

There are numerous pubs and restaurants in Lavenham, but perhaps one of the quaintest is Munnings Tea Rooms on the High Street. Serving breakfast, lunches and afternoon tea, with a selection of traditional homemade cakes and speciality teas, this 16th Century tearoom is one of the finest in the area. Or if you’d prefer, The Greyhound is a great place to dine and enjoy a traditional pub atmosphere. The pub was the town gaol until the 15th Century, and as with the rest of the town, it keeps up the traditional medieval appearance of the building.

Tell us a local secret

In 1524, Lavenham was named the fourteenth wealthiest town in the country. However heavy taxation later in the decade, and disrupted export markets through war on the continent, brought a rapid decline in industry in the town. This is possibly why most of the timber-framed buildings date from about the 15th century, since there was no wealth left to build anything of quality later in the century

Did you know?


In the late eighteenth century, the village was home to poet Jane Taylor, and it was while living in Shilling Street that she wrote the poem The Star, from which the lyrics for the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star are taken.