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"LAVENHAM, (or Lanham), a parish and small town in the hundred of Babergh, county Suffolk, 7 miles N.E. of Sudbury, its post town, 10 N.W. of Hadleigh, and 19 N.W. of Ipswich. It is situated on a branch of the river Brett, and near the Great Eastern railway. It was given by the Conqueror to Robert Malet, and was subsequently held by the De Veres, earls of Oxford, who once resided here. It is a polling and petty session town, and had, until recently, a market. It was formerly of more importance than at present, and was governed by six capital burgesses, styled headboroughs, elected for the last time in 1775. The town still consists of several streets, but the houses have a mean appearance, showing the decline of trade. There is a horse-hair seating manufactory, and some of the inhabitants are employed in wool-combing, and in plaiting straw for bonnets. Courts leet and baron are occasionally held by the lord of the manor. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Ely, value £658, in the patronage of Caius College, Cambridge. The church, dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, is a stone and flint structure, with a lofty tower containing eight bells. It was rebuilt in the reign of Henry VI. The roof of the church is richly carved, and contains the arms of the De Veres, and of the family of Spring, wealthy clothiers, at whose expense this edifice was erected. There are curious monuments of alabaster and marble to Allaine Disler, and the Rev. E. Copinger; also three brasses of the Spring family, one bearing date 1486, besides several other monuments of ancient date. The register dates from 1558. The charities produce about £450 per annum. The almshouses, for forty aged persons. were rebuilt in 1836. There is a grammar school for five free scholars; also National schools. There are places of worship for the Independents and Wesleyans. George Richard Pye, Esq., is lord of the manor. Fairs are held on Shrove Tuesday for horses and cattle, and on 3rd and 11th October for butter and cheese.

Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)


Church History

Descriptions and photographs of churches in the parish may be found in Simon Knott's Suffolk Churches.

Description and Travel

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  • A description of Lavenham transcribed from Stephen Whatley's "Gazetteer of England" (1750) by Mel Lockie © 2011.
" LAVENHAM, (Suffolk) or LANHAM, 52 cm. 61 mm. from London, is a pleasant and pretty large T. on a branch of the r. Bret, from whence it rises gradually to the top of a hill, where are its Ch. and a spacious market-place, encompassed with 9 streets, or divisions, in a very healthy air. It had formerly a very considerable trade in blue cloth, and had 3 guilds, or companies, with each their hall. It has still a considerable mf. of serges, shalloons, says, stuffs, and spinning fine yarn for London; and many hundred loads of wool are delivered in a year from its wool-hall. It is governed by six capital burgesses, who are for life, and chuse the inferior officers. Mr. Tho. Spring, the rich clothier, ancestor of Sir William the present Bt. if he was not born, got his estate here. The Church, and its steeple, which is 137 feet high, are reckon'd the finest in the Co. the two pews in it bel. to the Earls of Oxford and the Springs, whose ancestors rebuilt it in the R. of Henry VI. are hardly to be equalled by any in K. Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster. The arms of both families are engraven on several of the arches, and in the Ch. is the aforefaid Mr. Tho. Spring's statue in brass. Its tenor bell, though not much more than a ton, has as deep a note as a bell of twice that weight. Here is a fr. sc. and a Bridewell, part of which is a workhouse, where the poor children, etc. of the p. are employed in spinning hemp, flax, and yarn; besides which, here are other considerable charities. Both the T. and manor were the ancient inheritance of the Veres Earls of Oxford; but the late Ld. of the manor was Sir Simonds D'Eves. The tenants of the manor, and the other inh. were always exempted from serving at any court held for its H. They have that tenure of land here which is called Borough English. Its Mt. is on Tu. and on Th. for wool. Its Fair, which is on Sept. 29, is in special repute for good butter and cheese. King Edw. I. granted it a Fair at Whitsontide, which has long been disused. "

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Historical Geography

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