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What isn’t known about Lavenham

In this village, which is also a civil parish, situated in  the county of Suffolk, in the south of England, there is so much history that the people have lost their freedom to demolish or restore their homes.

 

edith article (3)Text and photos by Edith Tacusi Oblitas

 

Those who live in medieval houses, know that they cannot demolish them. In fact some of them are as sacred as Buckingham Palace in England.

1.722 people live in Lavenham, whose ages vary, mostly between 30 and 64, and in houses that were constructed during medieval times. And although time has passed, these houses are very well preserved.

A lot of things have happened here.

It is said, for example, that in the fifteenth century, this town prospered from the wool trade, and constructed the lavish church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

And in fact, because of that wealth, the inhabitants had to pay more in tax than wealthier cities like York.

But things were changing, and Lavenham moved from the wool trade to the world of tourism.

edith article (2)As well as this change, others have occurred during the history of this town. Just like the case during Second World War, when many soldiers from the United States arrived in Lavenham to set up their air force base.

But now, from this force, there only remains the control tower, the rest is agricultural land.

After the war, the bodies of US soldiers were repatriated to their country of origin.

But their names are inscribed on a memorial plaque placed on the church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

And so it is known that 233 US airmen were killed or missing in action.

In a larger space, the church preserves the names of local soldiers who died during the First and Second World Wars. And so, it can be seen, that this village lost more men in the First World War.

When everything returned to normality, and just after the Second World War, one of the residents remembers returning to England with his parents and seeing his relatives for the first time.

edith article (6)Christopher was born in Japan because his parents were there as missionaries. He was 7 when they took the last boat that left for Canada.

After living for a short period of time in that country, he travelled to England.

Having reached the age for National Service, Christopher travelled to Hong Kong. Having finished this, he returned to England and decided on pastoral work.

In fact, he was the rector of the church of Long Melford for 22 years. Now, he says that he regrets having left the mountainous island of Hong Kong.

But wars are not only in the past. A son from the Suffolk area died at the age of 26 in Afghanistan. His name was Jonathan Woodgate and he died six years ago. Today he is honoured in this Anglican church.

On the other hand, not only heroes and celebrities have visited Lavenham.

edith article (5)Thirty-six years ago, a nuclear physicist, philosopher and former drug dealer was arrested in the bar of the luxury Swan Hotel.

It was Howard Marks, who relates in a book that he wrote, that two men approached the bar, one of them asked him for his watch and then they arrested him.

Now, out of prison and with cancer, he says he enjoys his time, and his life at 70 doesn’t depress him.

With a rich history which can be heard, touched and seen, this village is very busy [with tourists] in summer, amongst them Japanese tourists who are amazed by the historic houses and buildings, such as the hotel that was the house where the first “Harry Potter” film was made.

It is said that the Vere family, former owners of this house, became the second richest family in Great Britain, and were the last owners of the residence that now belongs to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The house was sold to a hotel chain in 2012 for £950,000, but the new owners cannot touch it.

It is as sacred as Buckingham Palace and included in the statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest and is listed as Grade 1 building.

edith article (4)Although many medieval houses cannot be modified or demolished without special permission from the local planning authority, the train station, which had remained open for 102 years was destroyed completely in 1967. There was no lack of reasons, the recession started here in the fifties.

(Translated by Duncan Rooth – Email: duncan@surfacelanguages.com)

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One Comment

  1. It was great and an a very interesting subject
    Thank you to Edith of the Prisma
    fabulous heritage of County of Suffolk

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