Medieval Lavenham Tour
- The road to Lavenham: Enjoy a leisurely drive across Suffolk County's green, rolling agricultural land – dotted with small hamlets, streams, ponds and windmills.
- In Lavenham: Get a sense of what life was like in the Middle Ages in a town that never quite left them. Even the ATMs are probably wood and leather.
- Free time: Wander at will. You're on no one's agenda but your own. Explore, eat, visit the Guildhall, poke about the shops, imbibe, or laze as you please.
About this Harwich tour
GoBe cranks up the way-back machine and sets it for about 600 years ago, as we head through Suffolk's peaceful pastures and pastel-washed villages to Lavenham – once one of the wealthiest, swankest, most happening towns in all of Britain. It had a prime location, solid port and road connections, fertile soil, ready labor, a market charter from Henry III, and a booming wool and weaving trade. Lavenham Blue cloth – renowned for its unique dark blue haze –was sought after all across Europe.
By 1524, Lavenham had climbed to number 14 on England's richest town list. Local millionaire merchants were building stunning timber-framed houses to show off their wealth. Landmark buildings like the Guildhall in the market square, the richly detailed St. Peter and St. Paul Church, and Swan Hotel were going up. Then … suddenly … the music stopped.
Why? New competition from Flemish weavers. A huge strike, prompting 5,000 workers – the largest gathering of its kind in Europe – to descend on the town and demand a pay raise. Henry VIII extracting heavy taxes to help finance his frequent wars. And a few other things.
Vast fortunes went south, quick. And the town went into a sort of long-term hibernation. Which is great news for us, since this left most of its medieval texture intact and unimproved for a long, long, long time.
So you can step into Lavenham now, and step backwards in time – steeped magically in the unchangedness of it all. The magnificent Tudor Guildhall. The charming old crooked houses. The market place, museums, pubs, galleries, and small shops filled with carefully crafted items on the High Street. All still soaked in the character of bygone days. It's a kick.
Prosperity has its ups and downs
Just ask the De Vere family, who were given charge of the Lavenham area soon after the 1066 Norman Conquest. As the family's wealth grew, so did the increasingly prosperous village – supercharged by demand for Lavenham Blue wool. By 1487, Henry VII had to fine the De Veres for showing too much wealth in his presence. But then the wool trade tanked, and by 1604, Edward de Vere was spectacularly broke. Poor management of his estates and Caribbean investments. And the fickleness of fortune.
Arriving by cruise ship? Please meet your guide at the tour dispatch area outside of the terminal building. Please look for our tour representative with the displayed logo sign.
There are wonderful photo opportunities on this tour. Unique shops and boutique style stores in Lavenham. Includes gifts, fashion, food, homeware, perfume, antiques.
This tour is not wheelchair accessible. Although the walking involved is mostly at your leisure, when needed, there are steps and walking on cobblestones.
Cultural, Scenic, Bus Tour, Walking Tour, Shopping
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated mild. To participate fully, you may be required to walk over primarily even surfaces at a leisurely pace. You may encounter a limited number of steps, cobblestones, or uneven surfaces, and you may have to stand for extended periods of time.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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