Exploring Sudbury

Cattle at Sudbury water meadows

Cattle at Sudbury water meadows - Credit: Archant

Great shopping, great food and drink, and lots of fascinating history

Gainsborough's House facade
museum shortlist

Gainsborough's House facade museum shortlist - Credit: Contributed

Sudbury is a vibrant market town at the heart of the Stour Valley. The river runs through it and has always played an important part in the town’s fortunes.

Sudbury has a long heritage in the weaving and silk industries, which was particularly important during the late middle ages, when nearby market towns like Lavenham were benefiting from the wool trade. Part of Sudbury’s historic wealth comes from its location – near to the coast for shipping wool exports via the River Stour, and near to London and Colchester for transport. Sudbury is only fifteen miles from Colchester and has good road and rail links with the rest of the UK, especially London.

Singing the praises of St Peter's Church on the Market Hill in Sudbury - standing historic towering

Singing the praises of St Peter's Church on the Market Hill in Sudbury - standing historic towering over the statue of Thomas Gainsborough - Credit: Andy Abbott

Sudbuy is also well known as the birthplace of the painter Thomas Gainsborough. There’s a statue of him in the market Square, with St Peters Church behind him, and you can visit his birthplace, Gainsborough’s House, which is now a museum and art gallery. www.gainsborough.org

There are lots of lovely walks in and around Sudbury, particularly the water meadows, which have been immortalised by the works of Gainsborough and John Constable.


- Credit: citizenside.com

The meadows have been continuously grazed by cattle since the middle ages, and are carefully maintained today by the Sudbury Common Lands Charity. Dissected by the meandering River Stour, they are a rich source of wild flowers, insects, birds and mammals. The best way to enjoy the meadows is via the 3.5 mile Meadow Walk.


Sudbury and silk

Religious persecution of the Huguenots, the French weavers, from 1572 led to their evacuation from France to England. At first they settled in the Spitalfields area of East London, but wages were high and conditions in East Anglia were more favourable due to better water supplies, access to ports, cheaper premises and a good supply of skilled, cheap labour within easy distance of London.

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So silk production migrated to Sudbury, Nayland, Hadleigh and some parts of Essex, and by 1714 the trade was established in the region. George Courtauld lived in Sudbury and started a silk business nearby in 1798, and Reginald Warner started the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company in 1903, which is still thriving in Sudbury today, as are Stephen Walters and Vanners.

Eating and drinking

The Secret Garden café, Friars Street, open for freshly cooked breakfast and pastries, light lunches and snacks, and cream tea. The Secret Garden Wine Bar & Restaurant, Buzzards Hall, Friars Street, lunch and dinner, events and cooking lessons. www.tsg.uk.net

Huffers, King Street, cafe and restaurant.

The Angel, Friars Street, gastro pub and restaurant serving locally sourced food. www.theangel-sudbury.co.uk

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