Sudbury is an ancient market town set in the Stour Valley in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town dates back to the time of the Saxons and has a long heritage in the weaving and silk industries. This work was particularly important to the area during the late middle ages when nearby market towns like Lavenham were booming due to their role in the wool trade. Part of the explanation for Sudbury’s historic wealth relates to its location – near to the coast for shipping wool exports via the River Stour, and near to London & Colchester for domestic transport. Sudbury is only fifteen miles from Colchester and has good road and rail links with the rest of the UK, especially London.
Things to do in Sudbury
There are a wide variety of shops on offer in the town, and the area around North Street is particularly popular. If some of the streets look familiar then it is possible you have spotted them on one of the television programmes that have been filmed here. The most famous series is probably ‘Lovejoy’. As you pass by St Peter’s Church look out for the drinking trough by the side of the building. This is where the ‘101 Dalmations’ reportedly stopped for a drink as they raced through Suffolk and away from Cruella De Ville.
Belle Vue Park is a lovely spot for kicking back and watching the world go by. There are beautiful lawns and floral displays along with a collection of animals and some aviaries.
The Quay Theatre, at the heart of Sudbury’s entertainment offering, offers a variety of plays and films there throughout the year. Sudbury also has its own Choral Society who hold regular concerts at St Peters.
To do justice to the area you’ll want to stay for a few days and there are plenty of good accommodation options in Sudbury, and local restaurants to make your stay in Sudbury a break to really remember.
Sudbury is an excellent base to explore surrounding Constable country and Flatford Mill as well as Long Melford, Lavenham are both nearby, as is Bury St Edmunds and Hadleigh.
A potted history of Sudbury and the Silk connection
Religious persecution of the Huguenots, the French weavers, from 1572 led to their evacuation from France to England. At first they settled in the Spitalfields area of East London, most notably Fournier Street, but wages were high and conditions in East Anglia were more favourable due to better water supplies, access to ports, cheaper premises and a good supply of skilled, cheap labour within easy distance of London. So silk production migrated to Sudbury, Nayland, Hadleigh and some parts of Essex, and by 1714 the trade was established in the region. George Courtauld lived in Sudbury and started a silk business nearby in 1798, and Reginald Warner started the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company in 1903, which is still thriving in Sudbury today.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Sudbury is also well known for its natural beauty. Thomas Gainsborough was born here and the surrounding countryside inspired much of his work. The statue at the top of the article is the centrepiece of Sudbury in the market Square, with St Peters Church behind him. His birthplace is now open to the public and has been converted to a museum and art gallery. The collections on show exhibit a large number of Gainsborough’s paintings as well as those of other artists. See Gainsborough’s House for more information & for opening hours.
Another artist who was inspired by the local area was Constable. The River Stour can be seen in much of his work and the meadows in the area provide many opportunities for visitors to take in the scenery. The Croft is one local area that attracts those looking to enjoy the countryside. The green lawn rolls down to join the river where the children will love to feed the ducks and swans.
Sudbury itself has a traditional Suffolk mix of architecture – combining Victorian terrace houses, Georgian manor houses and some spectacular medieval timber framed Halls, and even the occasional building from the time of Queen Anne. Three fine medieval churches remain along with an impressive range of timber-framed cloth merchant’s houses and three storey 19th C silk weavers cottages.
Places to Stay in Sudbury
If you’re looking for a beautiful, scenic getaway then consider Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa. Surrounded by 300 acres of rolling countryside, you can indulge in fine dining, the luxurious spa or their state-of-art gym. Alternatively, you also have the fabulous delights of the picturesque Rectory Manor Hotel or the peaceful Newmans Hall Bed & Breakfast.