A journey through Tudor Suffolk
We are wonderfully placed in Suffolk to be surrounded by a rich and vibrant history. Pick any period and you are almost certain to be close to an interesting link from that time. One of the most interesting periods of British history is undoubtedly during Tudor rule. Suffolk played a big part in the lives of some key figures during that time, so if you are interested in learning more about Tudor Suffolk history, here are some key spots you need to visit.
Birthplace of the infamous Thomas Wolsey, once the second most powerful man in the country, his name can be found all over the town. From a theatre, to a school, to a pub, Ipswich is the place to learn about Wolsey. There is a plaque on 47 St Nicholas Street, just up from Wolsey’s statue, proclaiming that his boyhood home originally stood on the opposite side of the road.
But apart from the influence of Wolsey, you can find Tudor history all over the town. There are the ruins of the Blackfriars monastery, which was destroyed during the Reformation. The beautiful, wonky, Tudor buildings that still stand in the town centre. And, quite possibly, the most beautiful building in Ipswich, Christchurch Mansion.
Originally the home of a wealthy merchant, it is now open the public and is free to visit. With paintings by Constable and Gainsborough on display, you can spend your time taking in the art, learning about past ways of life, or simply admire the architecture.
Framlingham Castle may have become more famous recently for being “the castle on the hill”, but it was once owned by Mary I. It was here that she assembled her forces in preparation to march on London to take the throne in 1553.
Now the castle is owned by English Heritage and you can pre-book your slot to visit the castle, taking a walk around the walls, trying to imagine what life would have been like in the 16th Century.
A quick walk from the castle takes you to St Michael’s Church where you can find the Howard family tombs. You might recognise the surname from Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII. She was the niece of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, with the castle falling under the ownership of the dukedom in 1483. He is buried in St Michael’s, as is his son-in-law Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII.
The Estate of Henham was gifted to Charles Brandon, first Duke of Suffolk, by his friend Henry VIII in 1513. It then passed to the Earl of Stradbroke, with the family still owning it today.
Unfortunately, the original house no longer exists. It was burned down in 1773 after an incident involving a drunken butler and a candle and would not be rebuilt for another twenty years.
These days, Henham Park is more popularly known as the venue for Latitude Festival.
Bury St Edmunds
Speaking of Charles Brandon, in 1515, Mary Tudor, younger sister of Henry, would marry the Duke of Suffolk in what became a scandal at the time as they did not have her brother’s consent to marry.
She had been, for a very brief time, the Queen of France. But when her older husband died a few months into their marriage, she was free to marry the man she truly loved. She would spend most of her time at Westhorpe Hall (now a care home for the elderly) and was buried in Bury St Edmunds. You can visit her resting place at St Mary’s Church, not far from the Abbey Gardens, and admission is free.
One of the most beautiful villages in Suffolk, walking through Lavenham feels like you have taken a step back in time. The timber-framed buildings still line the streets and there is no shortage of tea rooms to visit while you’re exploring Lavenham. Having become an incredibly wealthy village during Tudor times thanks to a successful wool trade, this led to a building boom featuring most of the same timber-framed buildings you can walk past today, as well as the impressive village church.
A jewel in Lavenham’s crown has to be The Swan. The 15th century building is now a luxury hotel with a restaurant and spa. They serve an amazing Afternoon Tea, which is definitely a good excuse for a visit to enjoy some sweet treats under the exposed wooden timber beams.
These are just a handful of places to see to feed your interest in Tudor history. The true list is endless! If you have a particular favourite Tudor link to Suffolk, share it in the comments below.
Article by Megan Musgrove Ward. Visit her Instagram page by clicking here.