The Guildhall of Corpus Christi, in the Market Place, is one of the most well-known buildings in Lavenham.
Now a National Trust property, the Guildhall is open year-round and houses a fascinating social history museum and National Trust Tea Room, as well as having a delightful garden with collections of plants associated with the history of the building and the cloth industry.
The collection of timber-framed buildings that form the Guildhall today are testament to the wealth of Lavenham created in Tudor times. The role that they have played in village life reflect the ups and downs of the community over 500 years. The oldest end of the building houses the National Trust Tea Room and was once a medieval shop, serving customers through arched openings. Later it served as a primitive Methodist Chapel.
The Guildhall itself served its original purpose, that of a religious Guild, open to all, for less than 20 years. It later became a prison, workhouse, wool store and housed the poor before being rescued by a local 19th-century benefactor – Sir Cuthbert Quilter Bart. MP. During the Second World War the Guildhall became the focal point of village life for local people and American Airman, housing both a British Restaurant and ‘Welcome Club’ for the US Airman stationed at the nearby Lavenham Airfield.
Since being placed in the care of the National Trust in 1951, it has continued to play a central role in village life, as well as housing displays which share the stories of the building and its inhabitants. There is also an annual Community Exhibition exploring the wider history of Lavenham.
Location: Market Place, Lavenham
View website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lavenham