Beautiful day today – blue sky…..and relatively warm!! I was still in a polo neck and a cardi, but it was a great relief to get rid of that cold wind for a bit. When we went out on Monday it was 9 degrees, today was up to 22 degrees. Bit of a difference.
Today we went here:
And what a little gem of a place it is. Lavenham has 230 medieval buildings still in use. My camera was red hot! The village (once a town, but now small enough to be a village) was one of the foremost cloth making centres in England. From the 14th to the 16th century it was famed for its blue broadcloth which was shipped all over Europe as far as Russia and to the Americas.
The many magnificent buildings that remain are testament to the town being the 14th wealthiest in England at the time, ahead of Lincoln and York.
The pictures below are some of the wonderful buildings you can see there. The crookedness of the buildings is accounted for by the fact that they were built of green, unseasoned wood and so, over time, the wood shrank and warped taking the fabric of the house with it.
And the most crooked of all:
We went in to have a look around the Guild Hall – which has 500 years of history – it has been a guild hall for the town’s wool merchants, a prison, a workhouse, a storage space and tenements to house poor families. It is still in use for meetings, parties and lectures.
The guild hall has interesting exhibitions on all the different aspects of its history – how the cloth was produced, personal accounts of people who were in the workhouse, information on prisoners and their misdemeanours as well as a general history of Lavenham and the local area – from the ice age up to present day.
There’s a lot of information about how wool is produced, sacks of raw wool which you can have a go at carding to straighten it out ready for spinning, spinning wheels and a floor standing loom with cloth in the process of being woven. Sadly, there was nobody working on it on the day we were there. I’d have liked to see it in action.
The building fell into a state of serious disrepair at one point and was acquired by one Cuthbert Quilter (love his name!!) who restored the building and said this about it:
“In 1881, I acquired the old hall of the Corpus Christi Guild. For centuries it had seen hard use as a prison and workhouse. Such a disgraceful sight!! This formerly grand room was now just a grain store.
I have the honour to represent this town in parliament. My main objective in restoring the building is to promote the happiness and welfare of the people of Lavenham. I intend the Guildhall to be a centre for recreation and intellectual improvement.
I hold the greatest respect for fine old buildings. I believe that the carved work and other interesting features of this Guildhall are worth restoring. One day others will understand that these will attract sightseers. I insist that my builders learn the skills of the old craftsmen.
I have requested that local residents form a Guildhall committee They are to manage the building and make it self-supporting”
He was right, wasn’t he? The Guildhall is now a National Trust property and full of sightseers every day.
One of the exhibits that interested me was information about dyeing using natural resources – and outside there was a section of the garden purely for plants used in dyeing. Something I’ve been meaning to look into for a while – ever since we had a talk at Quilters del Sol from a German lady who uses natural dyes for the wool that she then weaves. She makes the most wonderful jackets and vests and the colours are stunning.
The Dye Garden:
A weaving that was on display in the Guildhall:
This piece was designed, spun, dyed and woven by the Lavenham Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in 1995 to mark the National Trust’s centenary.
After the Guildhall we visited Little Hall which was restored from near dereliction to its former glory by twin brothers – the Gayer-Andersons – who then used it as their residence. It’s a lovely place to look around. The brothers were very well travelled and brought back all sorts of artefacts and antiquities from their journeys.
During the war they took in 5 evacuees, all boys, from London. They kept in touch with at least 2 of them and there were personal accounts from 4 of the boys about their time living there. It sounds like they had a ball. Two of the boys received legacies from the will of the last of the twins to die and all 4, probably inspired by tales of exotic journeys, emigrated. Two to New Zealand, one to Australia and one to the USA. Each of these has returned to see Little Hall as a tourist attraction and left accounts of their time there. Just one of the evacuees remains untraced.
The building began its life as a Hall House – which means that it was just one big room in which everything was carried out – daily life, cooking, eating, sleeping. There was no fireplace originally, so the norm was for the fire to be made in the middle of the room and the smoke would just drift upwards and dissipate through the thatch on the roof. There is still a faint smell of smoke coming from the beams upstairs.
Some embroidery and design ideas from Little Hall:
And here’s what to do with your boring door and cupboard panels:
There was a room full of these – all different.
And lovely gardens outside Little Hall:
The garden at the top doesn’t look anything special on the photograph, but when you are in the space, it has a lovely atmosphere. Very peaceful and tranquil even though there were lots of people about.