Lavenham (St. Peter and St. Paul)

LAVENHAM (St. Peter and St. Paul), a market-town and parish, in the union of Cosford, hundred of Babergh, W. division of Suffolk, 18½ miles (W. by N.) from Ipswich, and 61 (N. E.) from London; containing 1871 inhabitants. The town, which is remarkably healthy, occupies the acclivities of two hills rising gradually from the river Bret, and consists of several small streets; the houses are in general of mean appearance: the inhabitants are well supplied with water. The manufacture of blue cloth formerly flourished here, under the direction of several guilds, each of which had its separate hall; at present, wool-combing and spinning, but only on a small scale, are carried on, and the women and children are employed in platting straw for bonnets. The market, now almost disused, is on Tuesday: the market-place is a spacious area, containing a stone cross. Fairs are held for horses and cattle on Shrove-Tuesday, and October 11th, 12th, and 13th; the former is well attended, but the October fair, which was once for the sale of butter and cheese, and the hiring of servants, is no longer frequented for such purposes. Lavenham was long governed by six capital burgesses, styled headboroughs, elected for the last time in 1775.

The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £20. 2. 11., and in the patronage of Caius College, Cambridge: the incumbent's tithes have been commuted for £850, and certain impropriate tithes for £37; there are 144 acres of glebe. The church was rebuilt in the reign of Henry VI., partly by the De Veres, earls of Oxford, who resided here, and partly by the family of Spring, wealthy clothiers. It is an eminently beautiful structure, in the later English style; the body is of rich workmanship, having a most elaborate open-worked parapet, and the tower is a structure of massive grandeur. The entrance is by a porch, supposed to have been erected by John, the fourteenth earl of Oxford, and much enriched; over the arch is a finely-sculptured double niche, and on each side of the niche are three escutcheons, each bearing quartered coats of arms of the De Vere family. In the church are, a curious mural monument to Allaine Dister, a clothier of the town; and another of alabaster and marble to the Rev. Mr. Copinger. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. The free school was founded in 1647, by Richard Peacock, with an endowment of £5 per annum, augmented in 1699 by Edward Colman, with £16 per annum. A national school is supported by the proceeds of a bequest of £2000 three per cent. consols. by Henry Steward, in 1806; and some almshouses, rebuilt in 1836, are inhabited by forty aged persons. The Rev. George Ruggle, author of a Latin comedy entitled Ignoramus, and other dramatic pieces, was born at Lavenham in 1575.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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