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MARKET TOWNS OF SUFFOLK (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Lavenham in 1842

Lavenham, (colloquially shortened to Lanham), is in the hundred of Babergh, 10 miles south-south-east of Bury. The area of the parish is 2,800 acres, and it had a population in 1831 of 2,107, about one-third agricultural. It is in a healthy situation on the declivity of a hill, at the foot of which flows the little river Bret. It is irregularly laid out, the houses are mean, and the streets are neither paved nor lighted. The market-place is spacious, and there is a stone cross in the centre. There is a bridewell in the town.

Lavenham was formerly the seat of a considerable manufacture of blue woollen cloth, and for the regulation of this trade, three guilds or companies were established. The wool-hall of the town was much frequented. This manufacture has long passed away, as well as the manufacture of shalloons and serges which succeeded it, and of hempen cloth, a branch of industry of still later date. A little wool-combing and spinning, and a little silk-weaving are still carried on. There is a market, almost disused, on Tuesday, and there are two yearly fairs. Formerly the town was governed by six capital burgesses chosen for life ; but the authority of these officers, if not the office itself, has come into disuse.

The church is large and handsome ; it is 156 feet long, 68 feet wide, and has a steeple 141 feet high. The character of the architecture is perpendicular, the clerestory is lofty, and the tower fine, with bold buttresses. The battlements and some other portions are much enriched. The roof is curiously carved ; the windows are numerous, and some of them are still embellished with painted glass ; and there are one or two remarkable monuments. There are meeting-houses for Wesleyans and Independents, and there are several almshouses belonging to the town.

The living is a rectory, in the rural deanery and archdeaconry of Sudbury, and the diocese of Ely, of the clear yearly value of £658, with a glebe-house. There were in the parish in 1833, six day-schools with 125 children, viz., 72 boys and 53 girls ; two day and Sunday national schools, with 150 children (75 boys and 75 girls) in the week, and 140 children (70 boys and 70 girls) on Sunday ; and two Sunday-schools with 148 children, namely, 57 boys and 91 girls. One of the day-schools is an endowed grammar-school ; and two other day-schools are partly supported by endowment.