Exploring the history of Sudbury

An archive image of School Lane in Sudbury village

Just outside the grounds of Sudbury Hall and gardens sits the historic estate village of Sudbury, still the beating heart of a thriving country community. With help from the owners of Sudbury Estate, decendents of the Vernon family, we’ve created a new village map allowing you to explore the estate’s wider history, just pick up from visitor reception when you visit.

Explore Sudbury Village
Sudbury village explorer map

Timeless country charm

 Although there have been many changes over the years the village itself has remained largely the same, with buildings still easily recognisable from archive images. Learn more of the people who would have lived and worked both in the village and on the wider estate.We hope that the new map will encourage visitors to not just explore the house but also to get a real feel for what life would have been like for those working on the estate.

Autumn colour at Sudbury Hall
Sudbury hall in Autumn

Proud to be part of the village

Since 1967 Sudbury Hall and a proportion of the original gardens have sat in the care of the National Trust, passed on by the late 10th Lord Vernon. Unusually, Sudbury hall is closely flanked by its own estate village much of which is still under the custodianship of George Vernon’s descendants. As a general rule estate villages are generally located away from the mansion house, often disguised by woodland and hidden out of sight. Sudbury Hall however sits proudly alongside and the family are reputed to have been ‘much respected by their tenants, a respect earned by their kindliness and concern for the villagers.’

Sudbury Village
Sudbury village archive image

A not so quiet village

To visitors today Sudbury is a quaint little estate village, looking almost as it would have done a hundred years ago. The A50 is a relatively recent addition to the landscape and actually cuts right across estate land splitting it in two. Before the by-pass was opened in the 1970s traffic was forced to come through the village, which with the volume of traffic it sees today would be impossible, not to mention dangerous. In March of 1971 children from Sudbury school completed a traffic survey finding that within one hour 861 vehicles passed through the village with 366 of these being lorries! 

Sudbury village in 1972
Sudbury village in 1972

Sudbury Church

Sitting just a stone’s throw from the Hall itself, records suggest that there has been a church on the site since the middle ages. Of the church’s six bells one dates right back to 1598, not long after the first arrival of the Vernon name at Sudbury in 1513 on the marriage of Sir John Vernon and Ellen Montgomery. The Vernon family’s personal entrance to the churchyard can still be found in the Hall’s garden wall. The Church is steeped in Vernon family history with beautiful monuments dating back to the 1600s, far outdating the Hall we see today. 

Church gate, the Vernon family's private entrance to Sudbury Churchyard
Church gate at Sudbury Hall

Sudbury School

Sudbury school has always been a place of pride for the village and it’s still doing a fantastic job today. Sudbury had no need for the first Education Act in 1833 as Sudbury already had two school houses one for boys and one for girls. It was compulsory for all villagers living in an estate cottage to send their child to school. The school had a reputation of high standards of education thanks to the keen interest the Vernon family showed and the value they saw in education.

Pupils of 'Lord Vernon;s Boys' School' around 1880
An old archive image of Sudbury school students

Here at Sudbury we still work closely with Sudbury School, they recently helped our collections team to create a brand new exhibition as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project 'Exploring Childhoods' looking to develop the museum’s collection. Follow the link below to find out more about the project.

Sudbury Courtyard

The Vernon family have recently renovated the old Sudbury Courtyard which up until recently was used as the Sudbury Estate's service yard as a base for maintenance staff working on the wider estate. This would have been very similar to the original use of the buildings, once housing joinery workshops and at one point even an ambulance station. It now houses some boutique shops and a small cafe.

sudbury estate logo

Sudbury Estate Courtyard

Why not make a day of it and head over and see our next door neighbours. Sudbury Hall's historic family the Vernon's still own much of the wider estate, pay them a visit at their new shopping courtyard just next door!