Halesworth and the Town Trail

Halesworth is a market town in north east Suffolk, about ten miles inland from the Suffolk Heritage Coast, a beautiful area to visit at any time of year. A small market town built upon a Roman settlement Halesworth is full of interesting buildings, from timber framed structures to Victorian former alms-houses.

Halesworth and the Town Trail

East Anglia is renowned for its big open skies and mild and dry climate.  The area surrounding Halesworth is popular with walkers, bird-watchers and cyclists alike.

Museum

The Old station buildings are now home to the Halesworth museum housing a wide range of fascinating articles and artefacts showing Halesworth through the ages. In 1991 an archaeological excavation outside the White Hart pub discovered part of a causeway dating from the late Saxon period. Parts of the causeway can be viewed at the Halesworth and district museum along with other curiosities such as mummified cats which were discovered in the walls of the Maltings in town, thought to have been placed there to bring good luck.

Thoroughfare

At the centre of the town is the Thoroughfare, once the busy route through the town but now by-passed and pedestrianised so it is a pleasure to stroll along, look in the shops and then from the bridge watch the antics of the ducks on the Town River.  The thoroughfare leads on to the market place where there are some lovely old buildings, and beyond is ST Mary’s Church and the Arms houses.

Shops

The shops in Halesworth are a treat – shopping like it used to be. There are a diverse range of shops, many independently owned, selling everything from clothes to stationary, carpets to books!

One end of Thoroughfare is Bridge Street with its splendid library and this is just a few minutes’ walk to The Cut Arts Centre – where performing arts, films, lectures and more take place in a converted Maltings.

History

Steeped in the history of brewing, malting and agriculture, Halesworth in modern times is a wonderful mix of old buildings and new, making it a lovely day out following the towns circular signs, featuring a duck, which are sunk into the ground. These are waymarks for the route of the Town Trail which, together with the information boards along the way, prove an informative walk and an excellent way of getting to know Halesworth.

Halesworth Town Trail.

The trail takes you from Angle Link near the birth place of the town past the Angel Hotel which was an ancient coaching inn, used as a court and a council meeting place dating back to the 16th century. Pat the Corn Hall which was built behind the Angel Hotel in 1841 and was used for concerts and dances, then in 1925 it became a cinema before being demolished in 1964.

The area between the inn and the church has given evidence of a mediaeval industrial site, with finds of bronze pin making, pottery, lead working and bell casting.

Continue walking past a shop decorated with a frontage of ornate Italian style terracotta which can be found directly opposite Angle link, whilst next door to the Angel link is the Bank House – Georgian style and originally Gurney’s Bank built in 1782 and then becoming Barclays bank in 1896.

Where the Thoroughfare meets the Market place is a triangle where a new lamp marks the spot where a commemorative Jubilee lamp was installed to celebrate Queen Victoria’s jubilee.

War Memorial

The towns war memorial stands by the trees of the arboretum which was planted by Mr Notcutt early in the last century, next to the black and white timber house which dates back to 1589.

From here you can see the former White Lion public house – now a private residence it was also previously known as the blue boar public house until 1966.

The onto Pound Street was the location of the Manor’s pound until 1880 when its name was changed to London Road. Numbers 1 & 2 London Road were built in the 15th Century as 2 houses then in 1540 they were joined by a cross frontage and then became the home of the Bedingfield Family. The porch was added in approx. 1640 and it was this house that in 1816 became Harvey’s Academy for boys before being split into 2 houses again in 1889

The Hemp lands

The nearby fields were known as the hemp lands. The hemp from here was used in the production of sails and ropes in the Royal Navy.

The trail then goes towards Steeple End, crossing over to the Church then on to the site which is believed to be the 1st police station. If you look you can see the grating at path level which could possibly have been a cell.

St Mary the Virgin Church

The church – St Mary the Virgin Church – is of late Saxon origin with a font and tower which dates back to the 15th century. There is a commemorative engraved tablet near to the south door to celebrate the connection with the first two directors of Kew Gardens. Halesworth is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 recording Ulf the priest to be in charge of the parish. The church was enlarged twice – in the 14th & 15th centuries, the aisles and restoration taking place in the late 19th century. Tall railings once surrounded the churchyard which provided protection from sheep and cattle being driven passed on Market Day – this was known as Monkey Walk however the railings were taken down during World War II to be melted down to provide metal for the war effort.

Alms-houses

Opposite the church are the Alms-houses which were built with the money from the will of William Cary and were still in use in the 1960’s providing separate accommodation for up to 12 poor single women and men. The upper floor of the Alms-houses is now an art gallery which has forever changing exhibitions of paintings ceramics, textiles and sculptures.

If you walk between the church and the cottages you come to the market place. At one end stands the former Three Tuns Inn, a substantial 16th century building and looking back towards the thoroughfare you can see a carved wooden archway. The carvings include a Masonic symbol and form part of Masonic House. The building is mostly 17th century however parts of the building are believed to date back to earlier times and was once a Benedictine Hospital.

Ghosts & Hangings

Next on to Chediston Street, which in the first half of the 19th century, was where Hemp Manufacturer James Aldred became the biggest employer in the town. The street was sometimes known as ‘Cherry Bow’ and originally the site of many pubs, beer houses and small breweries. The ghost of Squire Baker is reputed to haunt this street. He is renowned for throwing the vicar down the stairs, breaking his legs. There is also a heavy-footed ghost that walks into a house and clumps noisily through to the other side.

It was along here that Victorian policeman PC Ebenezer Tye was brutally murdered in 1862. John Ducker, a resident of Chediston Street, was accused of his murder and was the last person to be publicly hanged in Suffolk, in 1863.

Duck Lance and the Crinkle Crankle wall

Then onto Rectory Lane which is often referred to as ‘Duck Lane’ by locals past the crinkle crankle wall which was built without buttresses as the curve provides lateral stability as well as shelter for more delicate climbing plants.  The bridge crosses over the Town River and is a favourite place to feed the ducks. Over the wall on the left is the Old Rectory and by the bridge is a bricked-up doorway which was once used as the Rector’s short cut to the Parish Church.

Tho Old Rectory

The Old Rectory is a timber framed brick nogged building with plaster walls. The oldest part is 16th Century, with 18th and 19th additions. One of the incumbents was Richard Whately, (Rector 1822 – 1831). He became Archbishop of Dublin in 1831.One of his descendants is the actor, Kevin Whately.

At the end of the lane, turn right into Rectory Street where on the corner is number 9, Half Moon House, named after the Half Moon Pub which stood next to it, until it burned down. Then turn left into Bridge Street past the library, then on past the old Hawk Inn. In about 1908 the landlord, John Tirrell, would line up pints of beer in time for the lunch break hooter at the Suffolk Carriage works opposite. In 1868 the works employed 100 staff to meet London market demands, later building motor cars to customers’ specifications

Hooker House

Formerly known as Brewery House, Hooker House a 19th century house was once about twice its present size with spacious gardens stretching down to the river. This magnificent garden is now lost. Sir William Hooker, botanist and maltster, lived here and his son Joseph was born in the house. They were consecutive directors of the famous Kew Gardens in London, with Sir William being the very first Director. Joseph Hooker travelled and worked as a surgeon and botanist on a voyage from Antarctica to the Himalayas. He sent home the first Rhododendron. Sarcococca Hookeriana (common name Sweet Christmas Box) was named after Joseph Hooker.

Joseph Hooker was a great friend of Charles Darwin and his work on the distribution of plants seems to be in support of Darwin’s theories. He encouraged and supported Darwin when he wrote ‘The Origin of Species’.

New Cut

From Hooker House cross the road towards the Chapel and from here you can either turn to your right and walk along to Station Road, or you can turn to your left, follow the road around and walk up the hill to New Cut. The CUT is a multipurpose centre for Arts in the community and was opened by the late Sir Alan Bates CBE in October 2003.

You can then continue past New Cut to the end and turn left into Station Road – but there is no pavement, alternatively, re-trace your steps back to the Chapel and follow the road along to Station Road. This was originally Bungay Road and ran from Quay Street past the hospital, out towards Bungay.

Halesworth Station and the moveable Platform

Halesworth station was built in 1859 and the platform needed to be extended to accommodate the longer trains so a moveable platform was installed in 1888 to enable traffic to continue to use the main Bungay Road, except when a train was in the station. This unique piece of engineering was renovated in 1999 and is believed to be the only one remaining in the country.

Sir David Frost

Continue down Quay Street and then follow the footpath that leads along the river, and through the park.  Use the underpass under the main road and cross the car park, keeping to the right, and under the brick archway into Thoroughfare. Under the archway is the shop sign for Frost & Son, Grandfather to Sir David Frost.

Angela Lansbury

Number 1, the Thoroughfare is thought to have been the childhood home of George Lansbury – leader of the Labour party 1931-1935 and one of its founding fathers. His granddaughter is the well-known actress, Angela Lansbury. From here you will see the Angel Hotel which brings you back to the start of the town trail.

For Information on other Suffolk towns click here

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