The Great Woolly Church of Lavenham

It is of course not the building material of which the headline speaks, but of the source of the money that built one of the most visited of East Anglia’s great wool churches: St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Lavenham, in the green and pleasant county of Suffolk. The village of Lavenham is itself very much worth a visit by anyone with even a smattering of interest in history and/or architecture – apart from the cars it is like walking into a film set in the 15th century – but that is a post of its own. The first trace of building work on the church is dated 1473, and it was finished in 1525. More details here, for the interested reader. We have the generosity of the rich clothier Thomas Spring and the patronage of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, for the magnificence of this ecclesiastical edifice.

I only want to add a few words about my own sense of a awe, as I entered what is a worship in stone, masonry and wood. A reminder, more needed than ever, of a time when material wealth were, as of course, channelled into the spiritual needs of the community. I also sensed that it was a living church, NOT a museum. They had a children’s area with toys and soft furnishing, a second hand book corner (I really loved that – with an honesty box to pay for your chosen goods), and a little shop. I will leave the pictures to give you an, albeit inadequate, impression, and hopefully tempt you to visit, if at all possible.

Sir William Addison, in his book Local Styles of the English Parish Church, notes that light was all important to the builders of the great East Anglian churches (page 118). I hope my pictures (amateurish as they are) can give you at least a morsel of a sense of this. The overwhelming sensation when standing at the back of the nave of this church was space and light.


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