All over Britain, archaeological and historical sites are everywhere, but in Suffolk, there is one site that is in fact a whole village, steeped in archaeology – the village of Lavenham.
Lavenham has been occupied for centuries, dating back to before the Norman invasion, but it really made its mark in the Middle Ages. After being granted the rights to use market trade, in 1257 by Henry III, Lavenham quickly became the place to go for traders to sell their wool.
This sudden boom of trade just got better in the 1390s, when the export of woollen cloth took over the sales of wool, particularly a blue broadcloth known as Lavenham Blue. It was even sold as far as North Africa and Russia! Because of the fantastic trade, the town became one of the richest in all of the UK, and wealthy merchant families flocked to the town, building the incredible buildings which are all over the Medieval town today. Granted, it looks like a few of them are halfway on the way to toppling over, but they are structurally sound, and very picturesque and colourful.
The Guildhall of Corpus Christi (named after a catholic religious feast) was built in 1529, one of the four guildhalls built in the village. Archaeologists first started looking into the village’s buildings to learn more in 1951, when the Guildhalls were given to the National Trust to preserve and study. By this time, the Guildhall had gone through years and years of use, being used as a pub, workhouse, alms-house, grainstore and restaurant, but now, it is safely kept as a museum and exhibition for visitors, as the archaeologists keep learning more about the houses.
Next week we will look more into the houses themselves and the finds in the Village of Lavenham!