Lavenham and Long Melford, 2017

June 2017

Concerns about June heat and a high pollen

count were relieved by excellent air

conditioning in the Reynolds coach, but we did

spend a deal of time seeking out the shade

when on our feet. Our guide, Peter Lawrence,

an old hand in these matters, chose a route

round the less well-known back lanes of

Lavenham that kept us as shadily cool as possible, but no less well-informed.

Several of us had been to Lavenham before, but there were still oohs and aahs as newcomers set eyes on the remarkable architecture of England’s best preserved mediaeval settlement. Nowhere will you see so much timber-framing, not all of it painted black, and all the essential framework of the building. You wonder why so many are still standing, being delightfully lop-sided and leaning casually on their neighbours, with overhanging first floors threatening to tumble into the roadway. There are over 200 Listed Buildings in this one village, whose population is only half that of Martham.

 

We saw lots of places that tourists see, including the ancient Guildhall (Chris’s photo above) and a magnificent church, even grander than ours. These speak of riches, so how is it that the buildings remained unaltered, not being gentrified with new Georgian and Victorian facades? Unexpectedly, the answer is poverty! Not now, for few of us could afford to live there, but back when the wool trade collapsed. People could not afford “improvements”, houses were over-occupied and sub-divided. Effectively, the village became frozen in time.

There were lots of little details to learn, like dragon heads, pargetting and off-ridge chimneys. But I didn’t write them all down. Why not go there and find out?

Then we went on a handful of miles to Melford Hall, a lovely not-too-big NT property, where we all said “You know, I could imagine myself living here”. Mmm! Sorry, but only room for a Chris picture this time.   

Noel Mitchell

 

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