Lavenham is famed for its streets of timber-framed buildings, and foremost among them is the Guild of Corpus Christi. It is testament to the wealth created by Suffolk’s cloth industry during Tudor times. Located on the Market Square, its role in village life has reflected the ups and downs of the community over 500 years.
It served as a guildhall for less than 20 years, and the guidebook describes its many subsequent roles as cottages, a bridewell, workhouse, chapel, school, grain store, shop, restaurant, youth club, museum and a community space for meetings, events and social gatherings.
The guildhall was rescued from near dereliction by a local 19th-century benefactor who wanted it to fulfil a social purpose for the community. During the Second World War it became a focal point of village life for local people and American airmen. Since being placed in the care of the National Trust, it has continued in this role as well as becoming a local history museum largely devoted to the cloth industry.
About the author: Anna Forrest has been a curator for the National Trust in the East of England for 15 years, during which time she has had curatorial responsibility for a wide range of properties including Ickworth House, Wimpole Hall, Oxburgh Hall and Flatford. It is, however, the vernacular buildings in her portfolio and the stories of the ‘have nots’ rather than the ‘haves’ that are Anna’s particular passion and she has carried out much research in to the lesser-known National Trust properties in the region.
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