Suffolk Voices Past: Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time

I am delighted to tell you that my second local history book, Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time, has now been published by Amberley Books and is available in “all good bookshops”.

Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time by Kate Cole

Suffolk is an incredibly beautiful county with a very rich heritage, so I was absolutely delighted when Amberley agreed that three towns/villages within the county would make an excellent addition to their phenomenally successfully Through Time local history book series. Thus my book Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time was born. This is my second Through Time book for Amberley – my first Bishop’s Stortford Through Time was published in 2014.

In common with all books in the Through Time series, each page of my book contains:-

  • Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time Sample PageA “then” picture. An historic photograph of a building or street dating from between the early 1900s and the 1920s, for example a vintage postcard or old photograph.
  • A “now” photograph. This had to be an (almost) exact replica of the vintage view. So I had to locate and stand in the same location as the early 20th Century photographers, and capture a replica modern-day view. This in itself caused quite a few challenges; the main one being that Edwardian photographers did not have to contend with lorries and cars hurtling through the streets, but I did! As a consequence, many of my photographs had to be shot early in the morning; more often than not, on a Sunday. But even photographing early Sunday morning didn’t stop cars taking a prominent role in some of my images.
  • A short caption and narrative about the view, detailing the view/building and setting it in its historic context.

Writing such a book is a great delight for me, and encompasses some of my life-long hobbies; local history and postcard collecting. I have answered some questions below about my book and hope this q&a session inspires my readers to consider writing their own local history book.

Row of Tudor shops, Lavenham

Row of Tudor shops, Lavenham

Swan on the River Stour, Sudbury

Swan on the River Stour, Sudbury

Hall Street, Long Melford

Hall Street, Long Melford


What was your catalyst that inspired you to write your book?
I have collected postcards ever since I was a small child – inspired by my father’s own love of collecting postcards. I suppose I was somewhat quirky as a teenager; at an age when most of my contemporaries were involved in normal teenage activities, I was haunting postcard fairs buying postcards of fluffy cats and images from children’s story books (I have a fabulous collection of Louis Wain and nursery-rhyme postcards dating from my teenage years.) But as I grew older, I became more and more interested in history and genealogy. As a consequence, as an adult, my postcard collecting tastes turned to postcards with views of the towns and villages I’d lived in. So three years ago, when I started to blog East Anglian local history on this website, it was a very natural progression to start to blog articles about my very eclectic collection of vintage postcards. I never dreamed that I could turn my childhood hobby into a book, until a Commissioning Editor from Amberley Publishing stumbled across my blog and contacted me. Amberley’s Through Time series of books was right up my street, and after a very short negotiation period, we settled on me writing several Through Time books, including my new book on Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham.

Why Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham? Well, these are three towns and villages that I know very well. Although I live in north Essex, my son goes to school in a tiny village a few miles from Lavenham. My driving route from Essex to this village regularly takes me through Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham. I had already fallen totally in love with each place and, even before Amberley had commissioned me to write my book, had spent extensive periods walking and cogitating each place’s history.

Gainsborough Street, Sudbury

How did you decide what images to include / exclude?
Amberley have a very strict criteria that there can be no more and no less than 96 pages to each of their Through Time books. As I was covering three towns/villages, this gave me roughly 30 pages per place; plus room for the normal pages of any book (such as title and copyright pages, introduction, contents page and bibliography). These restrictions, in themselves, gave a certain amount of guidance as to what images I could and could not include. I had to be very strict with myself and with a limited number of pages per place could only include images which would add to the overall story of each town/village. I became very ruthless with my own cutting of images/pages. For example, by the time Amberley’s editors had produced their publisher’s typeset near-final draft, my book had spilled over their limit, so they cut a random page from my manuscript. I objected to the page they had cut and insisted another one was removed and their deleted page reinstated. It took me two seconds to choose what page I wanted deleting. The page the editor had cut was far too important to not be included; so another page/image just had to go. I won’t tell you what was nearly deleted and what was removed in its place! But suffice to say I am more than happy that I took the action that I did. My deleted page still remains in my “those that got away” folder on my computer; perhaps one day I’ll publish all “those that got away” on this blog!

Sudbury's Market Place

Sudbury’s Market Place; one of my “must have” images

What resources did you consult to in order to write the details which accompanied each page?

British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper Archive – click the picture to explore this rich online archive from the British Library

As a trained historian, I used many primary and secondary sources for my book. This included Victorian census returns and trade directories, reports from all Suffolk’s local newspapers along with other national newspapers. I also consulted The National Archives, Historic England’s Listed Buildings register and local authority/council’s archaeology/conservation reports. I also read many antiquarian books, journals, local historical society publications/websites, Victoria County Histories, and read transcriptions of the Domesday Book of 1086.

Census return

Census return from Long Melford. Click the image to be taken to a 3rd party online ancestry resource.

I also took to walking the streets of each town/village to look at street furniture such as plaques on houses/buildings. In particular, Lavenham is stuffed full of buildings with date plaques from the Georgian and Victorian period commemorating being built by local industrialists; Thomas Turner the woolstapler, W. W. Roper the horsehair manufacturer, Thomas Baker the miller and maltster. Each date plaque had to be investigated and researched and, if appropriate, a story written about that person and their buildings. I also talked to local people as I walked each town/village. Many people stopped me during my photographing trips, and from these nameless people I owe my gratitude for pointing me in new directions for my research.

Thomas Turner's cottages, Lavenham

A row of the very successful woolcomber Thomas Turner’s Victorian workmens’ cottages, Lavenham

One fascinating but underused resource I used was Suffolk County Council’s Suffolk Voices Restored. These are cds containing incredible eyewitness oral histories from men and women who grew up, lived and worked in Suffolk during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I listened to these recordings of people (now sadly long dead) for hours and hours on end, with absolute fascination. The story of the creation of the cds comprising of Suffolk Voices Restored is remarkable in its own right (you’ll have to read my book to find out how/why they came about!). If you are interested in social history and live in Suffolk, then the majority of Suffolk County Council’s libraries will have access to these cds. Do ask the librarian for them, they are fascinating snippets of a bygone age.

I also watched many British Pathe short news clips.  To name a few; Lavenham in the 1940s, Lavenham’s weavers of 1949; a princess who operated Long Melford’s level crossing; and an incredibly moving film from 1946 showing how a religious shrine of the Virgin Mary (dating from the 1500s) was carried aloft through the streets of Sudbury.

I like to think that I looked through and researched every single source that I possibly could, to gain a full insight into the story of each town and village within my book.

Was there any images or stories that you simply felt that you had to include?
During the research for my book, strong stories for each town/village started to shine through, and it was these stories, along with any relevant images, that had to be included. I fell totally in love with each town/village; these are my favourite stories from each:-

  • Sudbury: So many stories from this beautiful, but often overshadowed market town, emerged. Simon of Sudbury, the medieval archbishop of Canterbury who was viciously murdered in London during the Peasants’ Revolt. Charles Dickens’ caricature of the Rose & Crown Inn (and, indeed the town of Sudbury) in his acclaimed Pickwick Papers. Thomas Gainsborough’s inclusion of Sudbury’s All Saints Church in, arguably, his most celebrated of paintings Mr and Mrs Andrews.  (Click on the link to be taken to the National Gallery’s online image of this outstanding painting, and see if you can spot Sudbury’s church.) The list goes on for Sudbury. But above all, I was struck by the staggering beauty and serenity of the scenic water meadows of Sudbury’s Common Meadows. I was lucky enough to have researched my book during the winter months, so was able to spend a great deal of time walking through these picturesque lands, whilst frost and snow cracked under foot. I remember coming away from my photographing trips to the water meadows with freezing feet and icicles in place of my fingers, but with a very happy and full heart.
Mill stream, Sudbury

An Edwardian view of the mill stream in Sudbury’s beautiful common lands

  • Lavenham: Remarkably the historic medieval village of Lavenham was nearly lost to us during first quarter of the twentieth century. Many of the medieval buildings had fallen into disrepair and were near derelict by that time. Some of its most famous medieval buildings, such as the old Wool Hall (now part of the Swan Inn), De Vere House, and Schilling Grange, were in the process of being either totally demolished or taken down piece by piece, some to be sold elsewhere (possibly America). It was only the outcry by local people and societies which stopped the destruction of Lavenham’s medieval gems. The story of how the foresight of local people, along with more prominent people (such as Queen Victoria’s daughter, the Duchess of Argyll), saved Lavenham shone through my research. In particular, one local man F Lingard Ranson. Where ever I stepped, Mr Ranson had walked decades before me; both as Lavenham’s historian and its saviour. I didn’t have enough room to extol and give him the full credit he is due in my book, but I will do it here. Simply put, without F Lingard Ranson, our knowledge and understanding of Lavenham, along with the village’s very buildings, just would not exist today. Today’s Lavenham owes a huge debt of gratitude to Mr Ranson and his ilk.
Wool Hall, Lady Street, Lavenham

The Wool Hall (on the left), Lady Street, Lavenham as it was at the turn of the 20th century. Without the personal intervention of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, the Duchess of Argyll, this exquisite medieval building would have been lost to the nation.

  • Long Melford: Many modern-day tourists who flock to Long Melford are seeking antiques, shops, along with the Tudor heritage of Kentwell Hall and Melford Hall. But nestling alongside Tudor manor houses are the remains Melford’s industrial past; D. Ward’ ironworks, Chestnut Terrace built for the Victorian workers of Long Melford, and the Scutchers Arms celebrating the village’s part in making Irish Linen. But more extraordinary is the story of Long Melford’s riot of 1 December 1885, when villagers fought a violent and bloody battle with men from the neighbouring village of Glemsford. The Riot Act had to be read by a local big-wig, which still didn’t stop the riot, and it only ceased when troops from the barracks in Bury St Edmunds were brought in by train (on a rail line that no longer exists) to quell the riot. The soldiers marched into the village in square formation with fixed bayonets, and cleared out all the pubs and beer-houses in their path. You will have to read my book to learn more about this, one of the most bloody riots in Suffolk’s history, in this picturesque sleepy village.
Sir Cuthbert Quilter

Sir Cuthbert Quilter. This man was the reason for the riots in Long Melford in 1885

If you purchase my book Sudbury, Long Melford and Lavenham Through Time, I hope you enjoy reading it and this blog post gives you some understanding as to how the finished book came about.


Newspaper article about my book

East Anglian Daily Times 21 August 2015

Article about my book in East Anglian Daily Times on 21 August 2015



About the author, Kate Cole
I have a Masters in local and regional history from Cambridge University, a BA in history from the Open University, and an Advanced Diploma in local history from Oxford University – all studied whilst a mature student. Amberley have commissioned me to write 5 books in their Through Time series, and a further book on the First World War. I also give talks about various aspects of East Anglian history (such as the English Reformation in Tudor Essex and the Essex Witches from the Tudor period) to local history societies and groups. I live in Maldon, Essex, and regularly write about the local history of Essex and East Anglia on this blog. Before starting my second career as a local historian, for over 30 years I was a business technologist and computer consultant working in the City of London.


This blog
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You may also be interested in the following
– Henry VIII and the looting of the monasteries
– Saffron Walden and Long Melford: Reading the Riot Act

You may also be interested in the following posts, written during a book tour of my first local history book

Bishop's Stortford Through Time by Kate Cole

– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: The postcards that got away
– Bishop’s Stortford and Local history
– Vintage postcards and local/family history
– Correlation between local and family history
– Teaching history to children
– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: How to get your local history book published
– Bishop’s Stortford Through Time: The process of writing a local history book

© Essex Voices Past 2015.

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