History of Lavenham
Lavenham is one of the United Kingdom’s best-kept medieval villages with over three hundred listed buildings, many of which are protected by the excellent work of our country’s trusts and charities. One of the historic ‘Wool Towns’, Lavenham was famed for its fabulous wools and it even has its own official colour, the famous Lavenham Blue, which you’ll see throughout our website. But how did it all begin?
Although commonly associated with its medieval roots, the Lavenham area, as shown by Channel 4’s Time Team back in 1996, was actually inhabited by the Romans. Uncovered ancient field systems established in the early period of our occupation, coupled with the discovery of many artefacts and treasures, have led experts to believe that the area was home to a thriving farming community, only abandoned a short time before Roman occupation had ended.
It wasn’t until the mid-13th century that Lavenham gained official recognition as a settlement. Some 750 years ago, Henry III granted the village ‘market status’, which stimulated the most prosperous period in its history. It proved to be a real turning point, as traders flocked to the area with the Abbott of Bury St Edmunds even complaining the town’s market was overshadowing his own. By 1524, largely thanks to the famous Lavenham Blues cloth and wool trade, the town was ranked as 14th richest in the country. Quite a feat in such a short time.
The reign of Henry VIII is largely attributed to the demise of the town, which ironically is argued to be one of the main factors behind why it is so well preserved today. Imperial campaigns in France led to heavy taxes and imposed sanctions on the trade that made Lavenham what it was, consequently reducing the wealth of its people. As the residents could not afford to improve their properties, this relative poverty helped preserve the place in its medieval glory.
Today, Lavenham is a thriving village with a strong community spirit, boasting a hub of art galleries, cafes, pubs and of course plenty of buildings to visit, including The Swan – one of the country’s finest historic hotels, and amongst the most unique hotels in Suffolk.