CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

What can you discover at Laxfield Museum?

PUBLISHED: 12:59 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:59 14 August 2018

Laxfield Museum

Laxfield Museum


Laxfield’s family-friendly, much-loved Mid-Suffolk guildhall is packed with village treasures and colourful characters | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Fancy time-out with buckets, spades, jetties and fishy stuff of a different kind? Then whisk the family away to put a toe in Suffolk’s backwaters.

For whether you dip into Laxfield as you dive cross-country from Framlingham Castle to the coast, or come to a halt there after letting off steam at the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, you’re sure to spot an impressive medieval pile that turns out to be a springboard into another world.

Anchored to some tiny white cottages opposite the stone-clad church tower, Laxfield’s historic guildhall is like some mighty vessel tethered on a slip way, straining on its ropes and seemingly ready to drift off downhill towards Low Street any minute.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

So how come this rather slippery fish has survived for centuries, complete with its protruding first floor ‘jetty’ (think alternative medieval guttering) and exquisite herringbone brick ‘nogging’? To catch all the answers and piece together the past, just stop and pop inside. Laxfield’s fascinating little free and family-friendly museum will soon have you hooked.

‘Museum upstairs‘ declares a notice pinned to an ancient beam at the back of the ground floor parish council meeting room, currently decorated with reverent memories of local Great War heroes. “Do take care coming up,” calls a kindly voice from on high, as a first distinctive creak from the steep spiral staircase announces the imminent arrival.

The time-tunnel ascent is all dark wood and deep steps. At the top, somewhat unexpectedly, daylight floods into big rooms through 20th century windows.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

Where to look first? Ron Fuller’s whimsical automaton entitled ‘Laxfield Singing Class 1948’, or his eye-catching Mr Pratt the Sausage-maker, perhaps? The toy shop window across the room that’s home to magic lantern slides and marbles, spinning tops and tea sets?

Or what about the ‘General Store’, busy with cottons and cocoa powder, lotions, potions, even thimbles and mouth organs? There’s a harmonium and everything including clocks, crocks and candle-snuffers to gaze upon in the Victorian parlour.

Rows of milk bottles and a wash-day mangle sit alongside the old privy shed, itself a rare village treasure transported lock, pot and family-friendly double-seater from the garden of Mill House up the road.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

Making very full use of another corner, the odd job man’s workshop has shelves dangling with rusty keys, cans and measures, every item stored and saved as ramshackle real life would have it, for that rainy day or can-you-just job.

And by the pond scuppit and long-handled flasher (a dastardly gadget for thinning out hedges), the turnip hook, cart plates, curry combs and horse harnesses, old Suffolk boys look on – a shepherd, a farrier, a lunching labourer with wicker-basket and stone flagon, their moment captured, their precious photos shared by loving local relatives, proud of their rural roots.

“Back in the late sixties, a parish councillor invited people to bring along village bygones and old photos for an exhibition,” explains curator Elaine Nason, herself involved with the museum for over 40 years. “It was an idea to get people to the AGM really.”

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

The cunning plan worked. The exhibition-cum-meeting attracted 70 locals and, over an additional couple of days, 600 came to view the displays. “When they went to return the artefacts, lots of people didn’t want them back. That was how it all started, and we still accept donated items today.”

The vast reserve collection lives alongside the rare queen posts in the guildhall attic, but the ten-strong museum committee is forever enterprising under the mentoring hand of Museum of East Anglian Life’s Lisa Harris, and creates new annual displays in the Marchant Room.

In this year’s royally inspired exhibition, you’ll even find Elaine’s own wonderful ‘Mum-made’ wedding dress, alongside stylish examples from the 1920s and fashionable ‘70s nylon creations.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

It all fits naturally with the other bustling bygone village memories close to hand, tales of Victorian tradesfolk like Anna Ball, the ‘gloveress’, the straw-bonnet makers and drapers, the cobblers who just might have mended those shoes found under farmstead floorboards in Monk Soham or stuffed up Ubbeston chimneys for good luck.

Over the years, Laxfield had a thriving community of makers and merchants even though its market days came and went. One 17th century wholesaler even ran his business from within the guildhall itself.

Laxfield guildhall has a distinctly chequered history. Locals who founded a religious guild in 1452 to care for their spirits, educate their children and secure a social space, were eventually granted land and by 1515/1520 had raised enough money to pop up the timber-framed building.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

Their hall was at the heart of the community from day one. Over the centuries, it was a place for medieval get-togethers, a school room from 1597, tenements for the needy in the 1800s and, in living memory, the school kitchen and dining hall (just ask committee member Colin about the school dinners), a working men’s club, bank, doctors and parish council offices.

Oh, and a welcoming museum that’s home to Winston Churchill’s head – the maquette for the Parliament Square statue courtesy of local sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones – tales of heroes, martyrs and artists, and amusements from solitaire to shove ha-penny.

“We’re also at the centre of the monthly community market, organised by my wife, Catherine,“ shares steward Rob Capp. The market is one of the friendliest around with about 40 stalls, selling everything from plants to pork sausages. “We open up the museum during market times, “ adds Barry.

Laxfield MuseumLaxfield Museum

“Families enjoy coming in for a whole string of reasons, including our new puzzles and games.”

Who knows, maybe a few who happen upon Victorian tales of Laxfield produce seller James Fisk and his ‘sausage-maker’ wife, Mary, will make the connection and marvel at such a traditionally caring community that so loves sharing its past.

Famous Laxfield folk

Alfred Munnings, Sheila Fisher, Mildred Holland, David Gentleman, sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones – Laxfield’s museum honours the area’s artistic connections. Don’t miss the tribute exhibition to Laxfield model-maker, Ron Fuller.

Magna Carta baron William de Huntingfield also puts in an appearance alongside falconer to Edward the Confessor, Edric of Laxfield. Australian first fleeter Henry Keable, shoe-maker martyr John Noyes and that dubious defacer of churches, William Dowsing.

See it for yourself

With 1,000 visitors a year including special group tours, Laxfield’s free museum is always looking for helping hands. “From digitising old photographs to dusting and DIY, there’s always lots to do,” says committee member Lynne Ward.

T: 01986 798531/798295


Laxfield & District Museum, The Street, Laxfield IP13 8DU

The musuem is open until Sept 30, Sat, Sun & Bank Holiday Mon 2pm-5pm, first Sat of month mornings (market days). Group tours by appointment.

Free entry (donations welcome)

Access: The museum is upstairs in an ancient building. By appointment arrangements can be made for visitors with limited mobility to view some artefacts, photos and documents downstairs (steps into building). Family activities located at child-friendly heights.


Follow Suffolk Mag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Friday, December 7, 2018

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search