The Swan at Lavenham by Laura Porter
From the moment we booked I knew we were going to have a wonderful stay at The Swan. I chose the hotel as it’s an incredible building with 15th century architecture in one of the most beautiful medieval villages in England.
Of course, that will bring the interest but the continual return bookings are because of the excellent staff who made me and my daughter feel at home as soon as we arrived. Always professional yet wonderfully friendly, the team at The Swan have service just right. We got to know everyone by their first name and all had time to talk to my daughter too which is always a winning sign for me.
Steeped in History
Lavenham was the fourteenth most prosperous town in England because of the wool trade during King Henry VIII’s reign, and this was when many of the postcard-perfect half-timbered houses were built. The Swan Hotel was once three houses and they have records of the buildings back to 1425. It was a popular inn by the 1800s and there was stabling for fifty horses.
There are only 45 rooms at The Swan so service can be tailored to your needs. We stayed in Room 38, also known as the Bildeston Room as rooms are named after local Suffolk villages. Each room is individual and you’re guaranteed peace as the rooms are not all on one floor but guests head off in different directions at bedtime. The timber beams and leaded windows add charm, as do the ‘Please mind your head’ signs in the corridors under the low beams. (Don’t worry, padding has been added so you won’t get caught out.)
The Bildeston Room is a suite and this meant my daughter could watch the flat-screen television while I did some work at the desk (there is free wifi throughout the hotel), then when she went to sleep I could relax on the sofa and read the great selection of magazines in the room.
Many come to Lavenham just to admire the quintessentially English village buildings and to stop for tea. I didn’t have time to enjoy afternoon tea at The Swan on this trip but it was clear the Lounge is immensely popular for tea and cakes with good friends.
Weddings at The Swan must be magical and even if you’re getting married elsewhere it’s a wonderful location for your wedding eve – it’s where Claudia Schiffer chose to stay – or for your honeymoon. (Claudia Schiffer lives nearby at the Grade I listed Coldham Hall.)
Lavenham has over 320 listed buildings including the lime-washed Lavenham Guildhall of Corpus Christi, now managed by the National Trust. Established in 1529, this was one of the last buildings to be built before the wool economy crashed. The previous wealth can also be seen with the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, built around 1500, which is excessively large for the size of the village and its tower is 141 ft (43 m) high.
Another popular building is De Vere House which has been a film location including the birthplace of Harry Potter, featured in the last two instalments of the film series.
Exploring The Area
Art lovers will be in heaven as in nearby Constable Country you can literally step into the setting for John Constable’s The Hay Wain painting from 1821. The unchanged landscape of the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley is an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) for a good reason.
Gainsborough’s House, the museum at the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury, has recently completed a major redevelopment and at Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich you can see the biggest collection of Gainsborough and Constable paintings outside of London.
There’s so much more to see and do in Suffolk I’d happily return to The Swan again and again.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on twitter and @AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. You can find out more about her at about.me/LauraPorter.