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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain interacting with special places. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.

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To see last week's post on the church at Lavenham - go here:

Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest: 19 Jan 2024
It’s that time of day where the sun reveals and conceals. Pockets of light pepper gnarled and ancient surfaces. At times like this I get caught between my urge to date and categorise and the unadulterated joy of enjoying the pattern of things.

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Like a wormhole into different time. C12th Romanesque entrance to St. Mary's passage in Stamford, Lincs is framed by a C19th Dickensian facade. If buildings could speak...


"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning..."

T. S. Eliot, The Four Quartets


It took quite some time for the wonky lines of the timber-framed-vernacular-fest that is Lavenham to have an effect upon my sense of balance, and before I head off for the church, I spend the time during first light walking around the empty village trying to ponder as to why these buildings are so appealing.

I’m drawn to them because of their honesty: the indigenous construction emerges from the ground in organic forms without any regards for symmetry. Buildings like the Palace of Westminster are an embodiment of an architect, an age and an ideology, whereas places like Lavenham have no common agency, they haven’t been built to impose a greater will onto the senses. It’s this lack of conscious imposition that underpins their appeal.

In these buildings a window is a window because it needs to be so - a blind window or a ghost door are not the results of rigid classical symmetry, but of the evolution of the home or workplace - form follows function.

Unlike our brick and stone buildings, which are held together by compression, timber framed buildings are held together by tension. If a giant were to pull up a stone building from its foundations it would crumble in his hands. But if it plucked the timbered Lavenham Guildhall from the street and rolled it down the hill into the river Brett, it would hold together (with a bit of loss of plaster) and probably bottom up from the river's depths.

And then there’s the personality behind the buildings.

Alain De Botton says:
‘So refined is our skill at detecting parallels to human beings in forms, textures and colours that we can interpret a character from the humblest shape. A line is eloquent enough. A straight example will signal someone stable and dull, a wavy one will appear foppish and calm, a jagged one angry and confused.’

There are those that peep.

Those with furrowed brows.

Those that lean.

Those that celebrate their roofs with a Mexican wave.

Those that are pre-cursors to the Arts and Crafts,

And those that are reformed - caught in a straight jacket of the latest fashion.

Some are messengers for the latest fad in brick, but even they can’t belie the studded heritage of their neighbours.

And then there are those that show their faces and connect with our inherent Pareidolia.

Say cheese!

And those that share their joy through their arch braces with a collective Yay!

Beyond our interpretation of line and contour, timber-framed buildings, in their very nature, allow us to express ourselves through the use of natural materials.

I’m reminded of Hugh Conway Morris’s words:

'Vernacular architecture is the community's expression of itself in physical and enduring form. It is a pure expression of culture; manifold examples have shown how the myths of a certain community are not only embodied but reinforced in the physical structure of their buildings.'

Each and every building in Lavenham has a story to tell, either within the pattern of the dragon post or writ large within a wall.

After photographing buildings for twenty odd years, I often find myself keyed into the narrative of a facade - in Lavenham, it is a little overwhelming at times, because there are messages flying through the ether like swallows through a barn.

Shhh. Don't tell everybody. If you only have one place to visit this year, then make it Lavenham.

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Lavenham Suffolk - Part Two: The Buildings.

I have my favourites, of course.

The Crooked House, High Street, Lavenham.

Originating in the C15th and so delightful I could eat it. Love the jaunty angles - as if the building is trying to 'right' itself - and, of course, it is: timber framing is sacrificial to ground movement beneath.

De Vere House, Water Street, Lavenham.

That won't do - will take out the post for you.. for a better view.

Another C15th delight with oriel windows and herringbone brick nogging.

I do prefer a brick nogg to an eggnog.

Environmental psychologist Lily Bernheimer says that older buildings appeal to use because of their fractal nature. The use of materials and patterns that reflect natural forms.

One element of that is their nested complexity. From one pattern formed in the grand view of a building:

Then drilling down to the pattern and decoration on the smallest scale:

The Old Wool Hall (The Swan), Water Street, Lavenham.

If I were able to spend some time away from the van - I'd love to stay here. Originating in the C15th. It was originally the hall of Our Lady's Guild and then converted to a Wool Hall in the C17th.

If ever there was cause for celebration - it's the knowledge that such a petit fenetre exists within a large window. The understanding that such things matter, and are worth taking the time over:

And then after the celebration, we should permit ourselves a moment of ecstasy at the survival of this little fella...

Lavenham Guildhall, Market Lane, Lavenham.

Once the hall of the Guild of Corpus Christi, founded in 1529. It has a delightful two storey gabled porch and is open to the public. This is perhaps the most decorated building in the village.

Little Hall, Barn Street, Lavenham.

A C15th former Wool Hall on Market Place with tart colour and delightful details. Open to the public.

🌟Member Goodies🌟

✨ Members can immerse themselves in a wonderful aerial VR of Lavenham with St. Peter and St. Paul's church by clicking the box below (viewable on any device):

Be there: St. Peter and St. Paul, Lavenham in glorious VR
The church is a wonderful example of C15th-C16th perpendicular architecture and, in the early morning light, presents itself like a richly inlaid jewellery box.

✨ Members can also see a glorious aerial video that spirals around the church with extensive views of the surrounding landscape - helps put the church and village in context.

Aerial Video of St. Peter and St. Paul, Lavenham, Suffolk.
The church is a wonderful example of C15th-C16th perpendicular architecture and, in the early morning light, presents itself like a richly inlaid jewellery box.

And finally, one of the most underestimated and unseen 'buildings' in Lavenham.

The Walls

Lavenham has, perhaps, the most varied wallscape in the country. Caught in the right light they sing with pattern and texture. Just looking at this wall on Barn Street in Lavenham lowers my heart rate. Can't quite explain why the combination of texture, colour, and materials seems to impact the senses so much.

The walls tie the buildings together and are sentinels to ancient walkways and rights of way.

They incorporate and embellish the buildings around them.

And replicate the pattern of timber on the surrounding buildings.

They are narrataives in brick, flint and stone and hold some quirky archaeology.

Beyond the wall is a biota of living things...

..and both physical and spiritual. Notice the bottle inserted into the wall at the top? Looks like a modern intervention but has historical precedents.

Last week's post on the church at Lavenham:

Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest: 19 Jan 2024
It’s that time of day where the sun reveals and conceals. Pockets of light pepper gnarled and ancient surfaces. At times like this I get caught between my urge to date and categorise and the unadulterated joy of enjoying the pattern of things.

I forego the joys of the hob in the van and make for a vernacular sandwich. And when it's made with a certain person's patronage - who can argue?


Van Life Gallery
My van, Woody, is my time-travelling machine, taking me to some remarkable places that have altered my mind like wine through water.


Luxury Hotel & Spa in Suffolk | The Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa
Relax In Contemporary Sophistication At The Swan Hotel & Spa, Nestled In Historic Lavenham.
Lavenham Guildhall │ Suffolk
Discover the four-century history of Lavenham Guildhall, near Sudbury, Suffolk, now cared for by the National Trust.
Little Hall Lavenham-The Story of Lavenham in a Unique Home
Little Hall Lavenham is a 14th Century hall house that in the 20th century was the home of the Gayer-Anderson twins. It is now owned by the Suffolk Building…
The Crooked House, Lavenham
The Crooked House is a 14th century historic house, hosting experiences and events, antiques and art. It is located in the heart of Lavenham, Britain’s best-preserved medieval village.

BBC Radio 4 - Building Soul - with Thomas Heatherwick, How to Ditch Boring and Humanise Our Cities
Designer Thomas Heatherwick offers his practical vision for a better urban future.

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A scroll through the buildings of Lavenham

All the buildings - pure scroll.

Click here to see all the buildings

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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.