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A short history of Laxfield

In common with most villages in this region of 'High Suffolk', Laxfield was established as a farming settlement in pre-Norman Conquest times on land cut back from wild forest. For most of its history since that time, it has been a village of free 'yeoman' farmers.
Although there are now very few of these small freehold farms left, it may be that some of this spirit of independence and self-sufficiency still survives in the village.

Well into the twentieth century Laxfield was an agricultural community - within living memory there were well over a hundred men living here who worked on farms. Working the local heavy soil required a lot of effort from men and horses, but the soil produced good crops.

There were sheep and cattle too in the fields around Laxfield and in the village itself there were smiths, harness makers, wheelwrights, shoemakers and other trades to provide for local needs.

In the middle of the nineteenth century the population was well over 1000 and there were shops, butchers, bakers, pubs and schools for the boys and girls. Two windmills ground the corn from the local farms. In some ways Laxfield was more like a small town in those days. From 1907 to 1952, Laxfield was even the terminus of a railway - The Mid Suffolk Light Railway.

In the last fifty or sixty years, mechanisation of agriculture and the general changes in working and living patterns have brought great changes in the village. Most fields are now huge and arable and can be farmed by very few workers and their machines.

Most people who live here now have no links to agriculture and the land. Many commute to jobs many miles away from Laxfield. Others come from other parts of the country to buy houses and settle here for their retirement. In the historic Guildhall, the 'Laxfield Museum' can give visitors a taste of what life was like for people when the village was a self-sufficient agricultural community.

Many people in nearby towns and villages know Laxfield because of its famous old pub - the King's Head or 'Low House' - where beer is still drawn from barrels in the tap room. The most interesting historic building, as in most Suffolk villages, is the medieval church with its huge flint faced tower and seven- sacrament font.

There would be much more to see here if it weren't for the infamous iconoclast William 'Smasher' Dowsing, who probably came from a Laxfield family - there's still a Dowsing's Farm in the village. On the front of the thriving Baptist Chapel there is a plaque commemorating Laxfield's most famous former resident, John Noyes. Noyes was a local shoemaker who was burnt at the stake here in the reign of Mary Tudor for refusing to accept the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Stuart Gagg


Click here to go to Laxfield Museum website