Places to Visit in Sudbury
1. The Town Hall
A dignified and elegant expression of local civic pride dating from 1826, the Town Hall faces across to St Peter's Church. In front there is a modern i-plus point with free e-mail facility. At the side, down Gaol Lane, you'll find the Town Council Advice Centre (01787 372331) and further down, through the entrance to what was once the old Town Gaol, is the Tourist Information Centre (01787 881320). A Town Heritage Centre is planned here.
2. St Peter's Church
St Peter's Church dominates the eastern end of the market place, a building of splendid proportions and lovingly cared for by The Friends of St Peter's. Although now redundant it is a lively venue for concerts, exhibitions, craft fairs and other local events. Usually open on Market Days; you can get the key at other times (see notice at the door). Inside there is a feeling of spaciousness and height with fine timber roofs to admire and much else of interest. Outside, the statue of Thomas Gainsborough, palette in hand, gazes down Market Hill towards his birthplace. On the north side of the church is the famous drinking trough where, in the book '101 Dalmatians', Pongo and Perdita took a drink at midnight.
3. Sudbury Market
On Thursdays and Saturdays the Market Hill is all is noise and bustle as the stall holders arrive and Market Hill begins to fill with shoppers. Many local markets are a shadow of their former selves; Sudbury's retains a rich vitality and vibrancy. Market Hill has been a market place since the C14th.
Off the market place, down Burkitts Lane, is the Auction Room. Until quite recently local livestock was still being brought for sale here; what survives today are the regular auctions of household goods and personal effects, held on alternate Thursdays. The sales starts at 11am, with viewing from 9am and also on Wednesday from 2 - 5pm. Auctioneers 01787 880305.
5. Sudbury Library
This fine building dominates the western end of Market Hill, embodying what Nicolas Pevsner called 'the early Victorian sense of security, superiority and prosperity'. For over 100 years it was the Corn Exchange; look up high on the facade for the group of reclining reapers resting with their tools against a stook of sheaves. It was saved from demolition and skilfully converted into a Library in 1969. In addition to the normal lending services there are local and family history research facilities and free access to the Internet. 01787 296000
6. Gainsborough's House
Thomas Gainsborough, one of England's most celebrated artists was born here in 1727 and indeed much of his early work depicted local scenes and people.The house is now a national museum dedicated to the artist. Here you will find more of the artist's paintings, drawings and prints on display than anywhere else in the world. The House also offers visitors a lively programme of contemporary art exhibitions, a gift shop (and soon a coffee shop). Next door is The Gainsborough's House Print Workshop where you can often find printmakers working their presses. The tranquil walled garden with its ancient mulberry tree often has displays of modern sculpture. 01787 372958
7. St Gregory's Church
Christians have worshipped on this site for well over 1000 years; Bishop Aelfhun visited Sudbury in 797 AD. (He died here and you can see his statue just outside the churchyard wall on The Croft.) The grisly relic of the head of Simon of Sudbury is kept locked in the vestry. Simon founded a College for priests here and became Archbishop of Canterbury and then Chancellor of England. His introduction of the poll tax contributed to The Peasants Revolt in 1381 and his beheading at the hands of a London mob. Inside the church note the fine carved misericords, chancel stalls and 15th Century font cover (the tallest in Suffolk).
8. The Croft & Mill Acre
The Croft is a large, triangular green sloping down to the mill cut where children love to feed the many ducks and swans. It has been an open space for centuries. Fairs were held here until 1862 when the council decided that 'they had deteriorated into mere pleasure fairs to the hindrance of the trade of the town'. The fine oak trees may look ancient but were actually planted in 1902 to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII. Over the footbridge is Mill Acre, where there is a boating pond, picnic place and, beyond, the wide expanse of Great Fullingpit Meadow beckoning the walker.
9. Belle Vue Park
The park has attractive formal and informal gardens with large areas for relaxing, picnicking or casual ball games. A wide range of leisure and play facilities are provided including toddler and children's playgrounds, a skateboard park, trim trail, tennis and basketball courts and a putting green. All ages can enjoy The Pet Area. Toilets on site; park open all the year round until dusk. The town park is in the grounds of Belle Vue House which now houses the Citizens Advice Bureau and over-55 Drop in Centre.
10. The Kingfisher Leisure Centre
This is one of the Eastern Region's premier indoor water-based leisure facilities. This impressive building overlooks Friars Meadow and the start of the Valley Walk.The pool has a shallow beach area, a wave machine and flumes. Other attractions include a sauna and spa bath, sunbeds, Harper's fitness gym and a refreshment area offering both hot and cold food. There is also a creche where Centre users may leave young children for up to 2 hours. Ample free parking. 01787 375656
11. The Quay Theatre
Sudbury's own theatre and home of Sudbury Dramatic Society which puts on regular performances. The SDS is a talented amateur group that recently won 'Best Play' in The National Drama Festival Awards. You can enjoy evening entertainment here with a stimulating programme of drama and music, by local performers, touring companies and individual artists. The theatre has a bar upstairs, open lunchtimes and evenings, with views over the river. The bar and foyer provide a venue for constantly changing art exhibitions. The Theatre occupies a restored Georgian warehouse standing on a backwater of the Stour. 01787 374745
12. The Granary
Standing just across from the Theatre is another restored warehouse - the headquarters of The River Stour Trust. The Trust's electric launch, Rosette, carries visitors down the river to Cornard Lock or on to the 'Henny Swan' (a riverside pub, 3 miles down stream). Light lunches and home-made cakes are available on the veranda, overlooking the river cut and the building also houses the Sudbury Riverside Exhibition and Museum. Open, Easter to September - Sundays & Bank Holidays, with occasional special events. 01787 372602
13. All Saints Church
The fine 15th Century tower of All Saints dominates the western approaches to the town. The church itself is set hard up against a sharp corner in Church Street with the old Vicarage on the north side. In the tree-lined churchyard is the Gainsborough family tomb. It is certainly worth getting the key to the church. Inside there is a beautifully proportioned nave, each arch decorated with shields, floral devices and crowns. There is also a rare pre-Reformation pulpit and a finely carved set of screens.
14. Ballingdon Bridge
The design of this stunning new bridge, opened in 2003, was chosen from five entries in a RIBA competition. Viewed from the water meadows, its quiet and gentle profile seems to hover over the water. Excavations in preparation for building of the new bridge revealed a succession of bridges on this site, back as far as a stone bridge, first mentioned in 1180, providing bridge tolls for Amicia, Countess of Clare, who founded a hospital on the north bank. A succession of bridges followed, some of wood, others of stone or brick. Because the River Stour was the boundary in Saxon times between the South Folk (Suffolk) and the East Saxons (Essex) there were constant disputes about who was responsible for the bridge's upkeep and it was in a continual state of disrepair for centuries. Ballingdon, the attractive community beyond the bridge, only became part of Suffolk in the mid 19th Century.
15. The Valley Walk
Today the Gainsborough Line links the town with the main line to Liverpool Street. Before Dr. Beeching the railway continued to Cambridge along the line of The Valley Walk. This now provides the walker or cyclist with superb views of the town and river; beyond Ballingdon Railway bridge you can continue on towards Rodbridge Picnic Site or descend onto the footpaths of the Common Lands - the jewel in Sudbury's crown.
16. The Common Lands
Sudbury's Freemen have grazed their cattle in summer on these ancient pastures for over 900 years, removing them each autumn to drier fields. However names like Fulling Pit Meadow indicate that many other activities once took place on these lands (in this case the fulling of woollen cloth). Today the commonlands are still primarily managed to provide grazing but a variety of other habitats have been developed for wild birds, animals and flowers. There is an excellent network of paths criss-crossing the commonlands for visitors to enjoy.