Suffolk CO10 9QZ
The medieval village of Lavenham in Suffolk is famous for its many timber-framed buildings. One of the largest and finest is the Guildhall in Market Place. It was built in 1529 by the Guild of Corpus Christi and has been lime-washed to protect its ancient timbers and carvings.
Social History Museum
This wonderful building is cared for by the National Trust and open to the public. Lavenham is not just an incredibly pretty place but historically very significant. To get the most out of your visit we thoroughly recommend a look around the social history museum in the Guildhall.
There are interesting displays explaining how timber-framed buildings were constructed; what were the purpose of Guilds and who belonged to them; what life was like for the wool and cloth workers; and the implements and machinery used by these craftsmen.
The Coming of the Railway, Airfields & WW2
Other displays describe the coming of the railway and the part played by the local airfields and American allies during the 20th century. The museum is a microcosm of the changing fortunes of the village from incredible wealth in Tudor times to the unspeakable poverty of the 19th century.
The Guildhall Building
Both inside and out the old oak beams, door and corner posts are elaborately carved. The quaint casement windows are leaded with old wavy glass panes. Inside there are massive inglenook fireplaces and uneven floors. Upstairs houses most of the museum and downstairs in the basement is the tea-room and shop.
The walled garden is planted with plants used in the cloth industry. You can see woad that was used to dye Lavenham cloth its distinctive blue colour.
The Guildhall has had many & varied uses
In its heyday the Guildhall was used for Corpus Christi Guild activities including storage of its wool and cloth. After the boom times the building was used as the Town Hall, a prison and a mortuary. Two little brick buildings in the garden served these purposes and are also open, suitably furnished.
At one time the Guildhall was Lavenham’s workhouse, a place where the poor, sick and old were provided with a roof over their head. It all sounds very philanthropic but it was no retirement village; residents were expected to do some sort of work for their keep, and married couples were separated with the women in one dormitory and the men in another.
Plan Your Day
Accommodation - Search & Book through Lastminute here:
Opening Days, Times & Admissions
From April – October open daily 11:00 to 17:00 hours.
Parts of the property close occasionally for community use, e.g. for the free Lavenham Christmas Fair in December
For admission costs and other opening hours go to National Trust Website link below.
No toilets. Level entrance to the ground floor. Uneven floors and many steps with a handrail to the upper floors. Some steps in the walled garden.
- National Trust Shop with local souvenirs
- Tea Room
- Children’s quizzes, trails and Tudor dressing up clothes.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1787 247 646
The Guildhall is in the Market Place, just off Lavenham High Street.
There is free parking in the Market Place if you can find a spot.
See the Lavenham article in this website for directions.
Google Map - Lavenham