Five Beautiful Timber-Framed Towns to Visit after Lockdown
England is populated by a treasure-trove of historical towns that are well-worth visiting once travel restrictions have been eased.Many feature a hotchpotch of architectural styles and trends of which timber-framing is perhaps the most recognisable. This ancient practice dates back thousands of years and was used extensively during the medieval period. Thankfully, hundreds of buildings constructed in this way have been preserved for future generations to enjoy. With this in mind, here are five beautiful timber-framed towns that should be part of any short-break holiday itinerary.
Please note that many of the visitor attractions mentioned here are currently closed due to current lockdown restrictions.
Set on the confluence of the River Severn and River Avon, Tewkesbury is a town that’s steeped in history. It dates from the seventh century and was the site of a famous battle in the War of the Roses. The visitor will find a wonderful assortment of timber-framed buildings, with a fair number featuring overhanging second storeys and elaborate carvings. Some of the most impressive include the Royal Hop Pole – a medieval inn on Church Street that was mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.
On the same street is an unbroken terrace of twenty-three timber-framed houses. These are known as the Abbey Cottages and were constructed in the early fifteenth century. Just as memorable is the Bell Hotel and Ye Old Black Bear –a Grade II-listed sixteenth century watering hole that has a priest hole in its chimney – it’s thought to be Gloucestershire’s oldest inn. Tewkesbury is also known for its abbey which is dominated by an enormous 132 ft Norman tower.
Ludlow nestles in the tranquil South Shropshire countryside and evolved around its castle. Built in the late eleventh century, this massive red-sandstone keep became strategically important in both the War of the Roses and English Civil War. Although partially ruined, Ludlow Castle remains one of the finest medieval castles in all of England.
Ludlow’s eventful past is also vividly exhibited through the 500 listed buildings found throughout town. Possibly the most iconic is the magnificent Feathers Hotel – a Grade I listed inn constructed in 1619 that was bestowed with an ornately-decorated half-timbered façade. The Reader’s House and medieval Castle Lodge are also major highlights.
In addition to being an important historical location, Ludlow is a great base from which to explore Shropshire and the Welsh Marshes.
This attractive old wool town lies in a beautiful valley some seven miles south of Ludlow. As well as producing the fine-textured wool, Lemster Ore, it served as an administrative centre up until 1996. Today, Leominster is renowned for the many timber-framed town houses, antique shops and historical buildings that grace its environs.
Of particular interest is the seventeenth century market hall, Grange Court which features extravagant carvings of angels, flowers and mermaids. Just off of Broad Street, which itself comprises an impressive assortment of Georgian buildings, stands the eleventh century priory church of St Peter and Paul, with its three naves and ducking stool.
Leominster is one of many ‘black and white’ medieval villages found throughout North Herefordshire. And it’s possible to explore some of these via a self-guided, 40 mile circular trail that starts in the town. The trail, wending its way across hop-fields and orchards, takes in an assortment of attractive, ancient little villages such as Eardisley, Kington and Lyonshall. Further information is available at Leominster Tourist Information Centre.
Ledbury has changed very little over the centuries and remains as poet John Masefield described it: ‘pleasant to the sight, fair and half-timbered houses black and white’. Many such buildings are found on Church Lane and High Street such as the Barrett Browning Institute – a stone and timber-frame construction intended as a memorial to another famous poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Its Tudor Revival clock tower was designed by Brightwen Binyon to mimic another architectural masterpiece – the Grade I-listed Market House – an arcaded seventeenth century building set on pillars of chestnut. The sixteenth century Feathers Hotel and Brasserie is another gem that comprises two Tudor buildings.
Being almost equidistant to Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester, Ledbury is well-placed for exploring some of the county’s busier locations. Also within easy access are the Malvern Hills as well as local visitor attractions such as Eastnor Castle and Estate.
Lavenham is among Suffolk’s most resplendent medieval wool towns. There are more than 300 listed buildings many of which line its quaint, narrow streets. The market square is dominated by a sixteenth century cross and the Guildhall of Corpus Christi – a Grade I-listed building that previously served as a prison, workhouse and almshouse. Additional timber-framed delights include De Vere House and the Little Hall which was erected in 1390. Also of historical significance is the fifteenth century, Lavenham Wool Hall on Lady Street. Despite being threatened with demolition, the building has since been restored and now forms part of the expansive Swan Hotel.
Famous local residents include painter John Constable who was schooled in Lavenham. He’d often visit Shilling Old Grange – another protected building that was home to Jane Taylor, author of famous lullaby, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’.
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