Suffolk is renowned for its timber-framed buildings, and one of the most important in the county has been granted £85,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a major project to update and redisplay how it tells its story, and how local people can get involved with its work. Jane Gosling is the Manager at Lavenham Guildhall…
The Guildhall of Corpus Christi in the picturesque Suffolk village of Lavenham was built in the 1520s on the back of the high profits of the booming woollen cloth trade. Within a generation though, not only had the cloth trade crashed leaving Lavenham an economic backwater, but religious guilds themselves had been abolished by King Edward VI. Over the centuries the Guildhall and its adjoining buildings have had a varied history including times when parts were a prison, a workhouse, and a Methodist chapel. Since 1951 the property has been in the care of the National Trust.
Many of the displays and interpretation methods in the museum have stood us in good stead for a number of years, but it’s time to review how we present the story of not just the Guildhall, but also that of Lavenham and its people in a way that is more enticing and engaging.
One the common threads throughout the story of the Guildhall is that despite its many differing uses, it has always been a place that has been used by the community – and that continues to this day. So, we will be creating new volunteering roles as part of this project, to help more people get involved with the work here at the Guildhall, as well as building stronger links with local schools, community groups and organisations.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said:
“The history of Lavenham and the stories of its people are embedded in this wonderful building. We are delighted to support this project that is a great way of bringing the interesting tales to life.”
The benefits of the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also go further than just re-presenting the Guildhall Museum and developing participation in it. Whereas once the fortunes of Lavenham were dependant on the cloth trade, today tourism is a key aspect of the village’s economy. By improving the overall experience that the Guildhall offers, we will ensure that visitors will keep returning to this magnificent building, but also the village itself, its shops, galleries, restaurants, businesses and residents.