An afternoon at Lavenham Guildhall is full of surprises. A widow who made strange potions, a girl imprisoned aged 12, a mummified cat, an ancient fire engine and a mortuary. What could be more diverse?
The stories surrounding all these characters and artefacts are woven into the fabric of a building that has seen joy and hardship, success and failure, and of course great change.
Lavenham Guildhall once housed a Bridewell, or jail. Ann Baker was committed to the Bridewell in 1783 after running away from Cosford Union workhouse in Semer, Suffolk, where she was prisoner.
With its draughty beams, dark interior and no heating, the Guildhall was in a very poor state of repair, looking much different to the way we see it today. Prisoners could even escape through the beams! There was nothing to sit on, no straw or even water. They were locked up indoors all the time because the courtyard wasn’t secure. This must have been terrifying for children like Ann.
More stories and discoveries lie waiting for you at the Guildhall, but don’t worry there are plenty of tales of good deeds and acts of kindness too.