Step into Tudor England: Family adventures at Lavenham Guildhall (National Trust)

Wide shot of Lavenham Guild Hall

The O'Hallorans

The OHallorans

We’re made up of Lyndsey, John and Erin, who all love a new adventure. We try to get away as much as possible, especially during school holidays and variety is a must for us. That means staying anywhere from a luxury hotel to a hostel and it’s not often we go to the same place twice. 

During the time of Tudor England, Lavenham was one of the wealthiest villages. Lavenham Guildhall, the Guildhall of Corpus Christi, tells the story of the rise and fall of the cloth industry, and what happened to the building afterwards. Be prepared for a fun and educational day out at a National Trust property for the whole family. 

Address and contact info

Market Place
Market Lane
CO10 9QZ

Phone:  01787 247646

Entry prices

Entrance to Lavenham Guildhall is free for National Trust members. Prices below are for 2024.

Ticket typeGift aidStandard
Family One Adult (1 adult & up to 3 Children)£14.90£13.50

Parking at Lavenham Guildhall

There is no direct parking available at Lavenham Guildhall. However, there is plenty of free parking around the village of Lavenham, a short walk away. 

Map of Lavenham

Discover the history of Lavenham Guildhall

Before you even step foot in the building, take some time to admire how beautiful the exterior is. As a 500(ish) year old  timber-framed building that’s been around since Tudor times, it’s a sight worth seeing. Pay attention to the original features, and take in a part of this local history.

The hall of the Guild of Corpus Christi

Originally, the building was used as the hall of the Guild of Corpus Christi. During this time, the religious guild was basically a group of very wealthy cloth and wool merchants. This area was known for the manufacture and export of woollen cloth, particularly ‘Lavenham Blew’ cloth. Thanks to their success, they were able to build up the village of Lavenham. Sadly, although there were huge successes, this also led to others making cheaper copies and foreign products were made available. The wool trade and the cloth trade became less profitable than it once was, especially with the taxes from the Crown. 

On the lower level of Lavenham Guildhall, and some areas upstairs, you can learn all about this part of its history. Find out who used the Guildhall, how the cloth and wool was made and what from, and what made everything go wrong. On the ground level you can also learn about some superstitions during Tudor times and meet a mummified cat called Rameses. 

A workhouse and prison

Between 1655 and 1836, different areas of the Guildhall were used as both a workhouse and a prison. This was one of the areas that we found the most interesting. Children can dress up in these areas, wearing clothes similar to those who were in the workhouse. We also really enjoyed learning all about the prison and some of the things people were put there for. Although the prison was mostly used for petty offenders, one notable story was of Ann Baker, who was imprisoned at only age 12. For escaping the workhouse, Anne was found guilty of burglary and previously escaping the workhouse, and was sentenced to serve 3 years at the Guildhall. 

Daily food menu at the workhouse

As for the workhouse, it was a bit different to others during this time. Run by Judith Snell, a widow who came to be known simply as ‘the Widow Snell’, the workhouse was more to help the poor who needed some help. Instead of being a permanent place to stay, Judith Snell trained anyone who stayed there. This might be wearing and sewing, or girls might have been taught how to be housemaids. Boys might have been able to work in an apprenticeship after some training in the workhouse. The goal was to help people get back into work as soon as possible 

Erin learning about the history at Lavenham Guildhall

This is such an interesting area of the Guildhall and we spent most of our visit here. You can learn all about the crimes of prisoners, how the workhouse came to be and what people would eat there on a daily basis. There’s loads to learn but in a way that’s suitable for everyone. 

What is there to do for children?

After scanning our National Trust cards at reception, Erin was given a clipboard and trail sheet, which she could follow as we walked around. The trail sheet was really well laid out, with things to find in each section of the museum. Some things were harder than others to find, however, the friendly staff were always happy to help us find the answers. There are also quite a lot of hands on things for children to do including a dressing up area. 

Erin using the dressing up station at Lavenham Guildhall

Some National Trust properties are better than others with their children’s activities but Lavenham Guildhall is somewhere I’d really recommend for children.

Second-hand bookshop

Lavenham Guildhall also has a small second-hand bookshop on site. You can buy a range of second-hand books here, as well as additional items such as DVDs and CDs. 

Tea room

Whether it’s before or after your visit to Laveham Guildhall, be sure to visit the tea room. You’ll be able to get a cup of excellent coffee, a range of tea, cakes and light lunches. You can either sit inside or in the courtyard gardens. The tea room is a lovely place to take a break before making the most of the rest of your day. 

Lavenham Guildhall tea room entrance

How long should you plan to visit for?

We spent a couple of hours at Lavenham Guildhall and we didn’t rush at all. It’s not somewhere you can spend the whole day though so maybe plan to explore Lavenham at the same time.

Don’t forget your National Trust Passport stamp

Did you know you can collect stamps at National Trust properties? Get yourself a National Trust passport (most gift shops have them) and start collecting on your next visit. Find out more about the passports in this post.

Lavenham Guildhall National Trust Passport stamps

Other ideas for your weekend break in Suffolk

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