Lavenham Tour 6 December 2014
On a bright frosty Saturday, 12 of our members joined us outside of Lavenham’s Guildhall for the start of a walking tour around this beautiful village. Dinah James was our blue badge guide for the morning; her knowledge and delivery of the historical information was superb.
From the Guildhall, we stopped off at the Little Hall, built in 1390 and now a museum very worthy of a visit. We learnt how much of the fine architecture of the houses and churches in Lavenham owe their grandeur to the wealth generated by the manufacture in the 13th century of woollen cloth. Many houses still exhibit The Fleur de Lyse denoting that is was used for the clothing industry. During the reign of Henry VIII Lavenham was listed as being England’s 14th richest town. However, by the mid 16th century, the woollen cloth industry was in decline, as the demand for lighter, finer fabrics increased.
Our trip to Lavenham coincided with the village Christmas festivities, so although there was a lovely festive atmosphere, our group had to be mindful that we didn’t get knocked over by Santa’s sleigh which was having problems reversing down the narrow street where we were standing – imagine explaining that one to our insurers!
We then headed off down the fascinating Shilling Street where the Taylor family lived; their two daughters, Jane and Ann, wrote the poem Twinkle Twinkle Little Star here in the early 1800s.
Water Street, the main road into Lavenham for many, was named because it literally was built over handmade culverts which still flow today as a natural source of water. And De Vere house, one of many built for the family dynasty in Lavenham, and used in the latest Harry Potter movie.
The famous Swan Hotel was originally built as one of four Guildhalls in Lavenham, The guild of our Lady, but subsequently used as a wool store, hence the references within the hotel to this fact.
Our walk then took us to the magnificent church, funded by the generosity of the De Vere and Spring families who made their fortunes from the wool and clothing industry. Their family crests are clearly evident on the tower and church facades. The building of the church commenced in 1420.
By this time, our feet and hands were frozen, so what better way to complete the tour than to finish with our customary tea and coffee along with some warming soup and fresh crusty bread at the local Cock Inn.