A Suffolk garden: where commerce meets culture
PUBLISHED: 11:19 11 August 2015 | UPDATED: 13:47 14 August 2015
Tucked away among Lavenham's medieval streets is the The Sculpture Garden at Lavenham Hall. Jane Crowe went to meet its creator and owners. Pictures: Clare Dawson
It is widely acknowledged that the village of Lavenham is one of the most magnificent examples of Suffolk’s medieval heritage. Endless streets of timber framed houses, an imposing Guild Hall and the dominating presence of the great wool church that the boasts the patronage of not one, but two Saints, Peter and Paul.
This was a place that gloried in the wealth of East Anglian’s wool trade. Here lived the merchants, the craftsmen and the traders; but where were the animals, the source of all this wealth?
Wander off the main street, take the lane behind the church and coming across Lavenham Hall, you may have found an answer. Nowadays the rambling old house looks out over simply landscaped gardens and the tranquil beauty of a lake. The courtyard around the back leads out into a huge old farmyard. Here are loose boxes, vast barns, and a stockyard that could hold at least 500 sheep. In its hay day this was a bustling working farm of real importance.
But nowadays, apart from two lively blond Alsatians and a few hens running free amongst the vegetables, the place is serenely quiet. The perfect place for the contemplative work of a deeply sensitive sculptor.
Five years ago Kate Denton and her husband Anthony Faulkner left the city and created their home, a studio and a gallery in this peaceful place. Kate has worked for 30 years as a sculptor and has exhibited with great success throughout the UK, South Africa and the Channel Isles.
Her work is full of life and vitality and captures the very essence of her subjects, be it the magnificent grandeur of a Suffolk stallion, or the playful frolicking of a couple of hares. Her sculptures can hold one enthralled.
The beautiful gallery displays her smaller pieces to perfection , but the best way to encounter the full impact of her life size work is to wander through the gardens and meet them in a natural habitat.
A young girl sits on top of a wall with her dog patiently waiting at her feet; a wolf can be glimpsed slinking across a lawn beneath some trees, and is that a stag grazing by the lake? But the piece that really takes one’s breath away is a swan in the shallows, neck arched, wings raised, proudly poised for action.
Most of the practical gardening projects at the hall are carried out by Anthony and Kate themselves, with many of the plants being raised by Kate in her burgeoning greenhouse .
The kitchen garden has been resurrected from the old victorian plan complete with neatly trimmed box hedges. Fruit trees have been planted and two small corners of wildflower meadows encourage the bees and the butterflies, altogether productive and satisfying.
Intriguingly out in front of the house, half hidden by the lawns and borders overlooking the lake, are signs of the ruined remains of a huge hall. Could this have been an ancient monastery or settlement whose history has long been erased by time? There seem to be no known records and any mention in the past of a Time Team excavation has not, unsurprisingly, been greeted with any form of enthusiasm.
Kate and Anthony make a formidable team, she as the creative power and he as the business brain behind the gallery.
This is a place of mystical beauty that does not need to be disturbed. It is quietly fulfilling it’s role in the 21st century, bringing back commerce and life enhancing culture to Suffolk’s rich heritage.
Lavenham Hall Gallery, Hall Rd, Lavenham CO10 9QX
The gallery is open any time by appointment please Tel 01787 249841