Hadleigh is a market town fairly close to Ipswich, but far enough away to have it’s own character and unique history. Up until the 17C Hadleigh was a cloth-making town in common with the rest of the area (Kersey, Lavenham, Long Melford). Consequently it was a wealthy town and it still contains some lovely old timber framed houses with pargetting. However as the cloth industry declined so did Hadleigh and it wasn’t until the age of the train that the town really prospered again. At that time some of the older properties which had been neglected for centuries were re-fronted in Victorian style, which gives Hadleigh the appearance of mixed architecture when in fact many buildings are medieval.
Hadleigh also contains many buildings dating from different periods and therefore has a uniquely mixed architecture. For example, near the Church is a great gatehouse called the Deanery Tower which dates back to 1495 and is Grade 1 listed.
Below is a picture of the Guildhall which is also Grade I listed. It has three stories and was built in the mid 15C as the Market Hall, with shops on the ground floor. Over the years the building has been used for a variety of purposes including a workhouse and a corset factory!
Near the Guildhall is the flint and freestone parish Church of St Mary (see top photo), which has the oldest bell in Suffolk that still marks the hours. Hadleigh Choral Society is an active choir organising many fantastic concerts in St Mary’s and surrounds – for a full listing of their forthcoming concerts see Music In Suffolk and their own website, Hadleigh Choral Society
Hadleigh has 250 listed buildings, and the oldest part of the town consists of the High Street and surrounds, so is easily accessible.
The High Street is nearly a mile in length and runs parallel to the River Brett which forms Hadleigh’s western boundary. There are lots of interesting shops in Hadleigh, most of them independently owned rather than chains. Of the 137 properties on the High Street 90% are listed! So even if you don’t go into the shops you’ll still have plenty of interesting sights to see.
Many of Hadleigh’s buildings were re-fronted during the Victorian times, but there are still quite a few that date from the 19C entirely.
In addition to the independently run shops, Hadleigh has quite a few more gems to offer the tourist. Hadleigh Maid is a supplier and manufacturer of quality handmade chocolates and confectionery based in George Street. There are numerous public footpaths throughout the town, several taking advantage of the close proximity of the River Brett. On Friday mornings there is a Market Day in the Market Place offering a wide range of stalls, including fish, fruit and vegetables, flowers, jams, olives and cheese.
Every year the residents of Hadleigh put on a Show which is a traditional family event (usually third Saturday in May) including Dog Displays, Vintage Tractors, Show jumping, trade stands.. and much more. And then of course there are the watering holes – the pubs, cafes restaurants, you won’t go hungry or thirsty in Hadleigh!