Lavenham is a village and civil parish in Suffolk, England. It is noted for its 15th century church, half-timbered medieval cottages and circular walk. Its population has never exceeded 2000. In the medieval period it was among the 20 wealthiest settlements in England. Currently, it is a popular day-trip destination for British people from across the country and Americans from the air bases of Lakenheath and Mildenhall, along with another historic wool town in the area, Long Melford.
Lavenham prospered from the wool trade in the 15th and 16th century, with the town's blue broadcloth being an export of note. During the 16th century Lavenham industry was badly affected by Dutch refugees settled in Colchester who produced cloth that was cheaper and lighter than Lavenham's, and also more fashionable.
The town's wealth can be seen in the lavishly constructed parish church of St Peter and St Paul which stands on a hill top at the end of the main high street. The church is excessively large for the size of the village and with a tower standing 141 ft (43 m) high it lays claim to being the highest village church tower in Britain. The church is renowned for its Late-Gothic chantries and screens. Other impressive 'Wool Churches' nearby include Holy Trinity church in nearby Long Melford.
The Guildhall of the wool guild of Corpus Christi stands in the centre of the village overlooking the market square. Established in 1529, most of the timber framed building seen today was constructed in the 17th century and is now maintained by The National Trust. One well-known example is the Crooked House, an orange building on High Street which now serves as an art gallery.
In the late eighteenth century, the village was home to poet Jane Taylor, and it was while living in Shilling Street, that she wrote the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Like many East Anglian settlements, Lavenham was home to an American Air Force base during World War II. USAAF Station 137 was manned by the US Army Air Force 487th Bombardment Group between 1944 and 1945. The airfield has since been returned to arable farmland, though some evidence of its structures and buildings remains.
Lavenham market square was the main location of the 1968 Vincent Price film Witchfinder General. In 1986 a more contemporary film Playing Away, about a visiting cricket eleven from Brixton, was also filmed here.
The village formerly had a railway station on the Long Melford-Bury St Edmunds branch line, which was opened on 9 August 1865. There were plans for the Hadleigh branch line to be extended to Lavenham, though these never came to fruition. The line was an important freight route during World War II and was guarded by numerous Type 22 pillboxes, most of which are still visible in the surrounding farmland. The station was closed to passengers on 10 April 1961 as part of the Beeching Axe, with a freight service surviving until April 1965. Today the disused line is used as a public footpath and is a designated nature reserve.