Parish Church and Gainsborough Statue
Church of St Peter, Sudbury © Travel About Britain

This old weaving and market town is famously known as the birthplace of the English born artist Thomas Gainsborough.

The ancient settlement, mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, stands in a loop of the River Stour. It became an important river port following an Act of Parliament in 1705, enabling navigation from Sudbury down to Manningtree in Essex. The river was then serviced by the flat-bottomed Stour Barge, carrying cloth and other trade goods to the coast.

Once the largest of Suffolk's medieval wool towns, it's fortunes later diversified into silk manufacture. An industry that is still prevalent today - although only a few companies remain weaving silk, mainly for the rich and famous. The material used in the Princess of Wales's wedding dress was woven here.

Sudbury Corn Exchange

The town has a number of interesting historic buildings, including a 19th-c Corn Exchange and a 15th-c Chantry, Salter's Hall and a Moot Hall, with oriel windows and an overhanging upper floor.

A number of attractive medieval and 18th-c houses can be found around Market Hill. The Corn Exchange, which overlooks the marketplace, is an excellent example of early Victorian civic architecture, and is now the town library.

At the top of Market Hill stands a bronze statue to Gainsborough, whose house on Gainsborough Street, is now a museum and art gallery, displaying an important selection of his work. The famous portrait and landscape painter died in 1788 and is buried in St Anne's Church, Kew.

Three medieval churches can be found in the town centre, just a short walk from one other. The 15th-c Parish Church of St Peter, on Market Hill, was once an important wool church but is now under the control of the Churches Conservation Trust. St Gregory's, on Gregory St, was rebuilt around 1365 on the site of a much older place of worship. The splendid Norman All Saints Church, near Ballingdon Bridge, belonged to St Albans Abbey before the English Reformation and is now a very fine parish church. The tomb of Thomas Gainsborough's family can be found on the north side of the churchyard.

Sudbury theatre
Sudbury Quay Theatre © Travel About Britain

The route of the old Stour Valley Railway has been transformed into a peaceful trail (Valley Walk), which runs alongside the river, leading to Friars Meadow. Easily accessed from car park at the back of Waitrose.

The town's Quay Theatre has been imaginatively formed within an 18th-c wharf-side granary. The brick built warehouse was initially constructed in 1791 for The River Stour Navigation Company, to store grain for transport on the river. It was purchased on 1977 by the Sudbury Dramatic Society (SDS) and opened in 1981. It hosts a regular programme of entertainment, covering music performances, shows, plays, drama, pantomime and film.

Places of Interest to Visit in Sudbury

Thomas Gainsborough Museum

This red brick house with a fine Georgian facade (1725) is the place where Thomas Gainsborough was born and grew up.

Now converted to a museum and gallery, it proudly displays a collection of his masterpieces, drawings and prints, along with his only known sculpture.

The property also contains much fine period furniture. Although it has Tudor origins, the excellent Georgian frontage was added by Gainsborough's father, a local cloth merchant.

Opening times: closed to the public until 2021 - Admission Charge
Location: District, 46 Gainsborough St, Sudbury CO10
Tel: 01787 372958

Sudbury Heritage Centre

Located in Sudbury Town Hall, this interesting little museum contains a collection of artefacts and permanent exhibits, depicting the town's history from ancient times to modern day. ‚Äč

Opening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 12:30, Sundays closed - Free Entry
Location: Town Hall, Gaol Lane, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 1TL

Map of Sudbury

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