Hadleigh is a quintessential market town situated near Ipswich, though being far enough to preserve its own unique character and history. Prior to the 17th century, Hadleigh was a cloth-producing community, like many of its neighbouring towns, including Long Melford, Kersey, and Lavenham. Pargetting still adorns beautiful timber-framed homes in the town, which speak volumes of the town’s wealthy history.
Hadleigh’s fortunes waned as the cloth industry declined, but the town rebounded when railways came to the district. Some of the antiquated structures that had been neglected for centuries were re-faced in Victorian fashion, resulting in Hadleigh’s mishmash of architectural styles. Actually, many of the structures are medieval.
With its varied architecture, Hadleigh is home to a wide range of buildings dating from different periods. For instance, there is a Grade 1 listed gatehouse near the Church named the Deanery Tower, dating back to the late 1400s. Guildhall is pictured; it is Grade 1 listed and has three stories. The building, constructed in the mid-15th century as the Market Hall, contained many lovely shops on its ground floor. The building has been used for many purposes over the years, including a corset factory and a workhouse.
The various halls of the Guildhall are open for hire today and make for the ideal setting for a party or event. The Suffolk’s oldest bell that still chimes the hours can be found in the flint and freestone Parish Church of St Mary near the Guildhall.
There are 250 listed buildings in Hadleigh, and the oldest part of the town, which is centred on the High Street, is easily accessible. Hadleigh’s High Street is nearly one mile long and runs beside the River Brett, which defines the town’s boundary on the western side.
Hadleigh has several intriguing stores, all of which are independently run rather than chains. Plenty of interesting things will catch your eye, even if you’re just window shopping. There are a number of structures in Hadleigh that date from the 19th century when many of the buildings were re-faced.
Hadleigh has a lot more treasures to offer visitors besides the independent shops. The River Brett runs through George Street, providing numerous public footpaths. Hadleigh Maid is a maker of exceptional handmade chocolates and sweets located there. Stalls offering fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables, as well as jams, flowers, cheese, and olives, are available on Friday mornings at Market Place.
Hadleigh’s residents organise a Show every year (usually taking place on the third Saturday of May), which is a traditional family event featuring show jumping, vintage tractors, dog displays, and many other wonderful things. There are also plenty of watering holes, restaurants, bars, and cafes in Hadleigh, so you certainly won’t go hungry or thirsty!