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
right) 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