Street scene, Lavenham
Photograph: B. Cox (1975)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Lavenham is often regarded as the perfect Medieval town. Certainly a great many buildings survive from around 1500, and unusually whole blocks of housing remain. But their survival, like Medieval churches, has been the result of constant adaptation and repair. And, if anything, this makes looking at Lavenham’s architecture even more engaging.
This photograph captures a particularly charming view of the town, the corner of Lady and Water Streets. At first sight the houses seem remarkably uniform. Two-storied, with high clay-tiled roofs, their half-timbered façades are made up of ranks of warped timbers, standing up to attention. Occasional flourishes of carving can be seen, such as the bracket on the corner. Mostly, though, it is the plain timbers, pitted and cracked with age, that we notice.
Over time, changes have crept in. Windows and doors have been mended or replaced. Most obvious is the house on the far right, originally an early sixteenth-century shop. Its windows have long been blocked up, and covered in plaster. And change continues: since this photograph was taken further restoration has occurred. The timbers are no longer stained, off-white limewash has been applied, and the houses have lost their lively exteriors.