One of the great benefits of Lavenham is that it is not really on the way to anywhere for most people. This village has grown to be a small town but the centre still has the feeling of a village community. This is possibly because so many of the houses in the centre are of the same Tudor period as there are over 350 Listed buildings from the very grand Guildhall to former bothies. They must share the same endless problems of living in delightful but high maintenance houses. If Lavenham had been in the Home Counties, property developers would be salivating at the numerous sites that they could exploit. It is fortunate those pressures are not there which leaves those essential breathing spaces creating a more relaxed and better presented environment in which to meander.
I was admiring the houses including a rare 21st century in-fill which works a treat in the village street scene; it rightly won a Civic Trust Award. Surely the biggest recent increase in interest around the village is that it was chosen as the location for scenes in Godric’s Hollow and a doorway of one of the houses just near the Swan, was also used in a Harry Potter film.
The relaxed atmosphere of the village is reflected in its approach to parking with notices on a couple of the car parks “PARKING. No Tickets, no Fines, no Clamps. Just a £2 or £3 voluntary donation will help us to maintain these facilities for the benefit of the visitors. Any surplus will be given to the charity that runs the village hall”. A refreshing approach which should be applied across the country!
The Swan Hotel and Spa is brim full of history including from the fifteenth century right up to the second world war when American and RAF pilots adopted the bar as their focal meeting point. The Airman’s bar has many pieces of memorabilia but even more fascinating is the graffiti of so many pilots’ signatures. Even today, relatives from far and wide – especially Americans are visiting the bar to see these snippets of history. The Swan Hotel and Spa – the latter a new addition, combines several buildings which have been knitted together in a rather higgledy-piggledy manner to create a surprisingly big hotel with some 45 bedrooms.
The spa both in design and therapists is truly excellent, ranking with some of the very best we have experienced; it sets a standard that puts some pressure on the facilities in the hotel bedrooms we inspected. Hotels from all periods are constantly faced with a continuing need to keep up to date whilst respecting the historic nature of their style. Easier said than done, there are fire regulations, Conservation Officers to contend with and a very light touch is needed in any works carried out. The Swan is no different but overall the atmosphere in the hotel is cosy and welcoming.
This is a friendly hotel situated in the heart of an amazing medieval village surrounded by the beautiful Suffolk countryside, with plenty of stately homes and antique shops to explore nearby. So it is an excellent place to base yourself for either a weekend break to recharge the batteries or if you enjoy an olde worldy atmosphere, this is a good place for a visit.