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The parish church of St John the Baptist stands on the Eastern side of the town. Little of the original Saxon/Norman church mentioned in the Domesday Book remains following extensive restoration in the 19th century. The Western tower includes a clock and is home to a peal of six bells. The church has many fine stained glass windows. One unusual feature of the graveyard is a tombstone which has a working sundial carved into it.


Saxmundham originally had two Manors - Swanns and Hurts. The Parish Church includes the Swann Chapel which was endowed by Robert Swann in I369 as a chantry.


Hurts Hall, the seat of the Long family until the 1950’s, was originally built around 1650 and Charles Long, the first of the family to settle here, was Member of Parliament for Dunwich in 1716. The Hall was replaced early in the 19th century and in 1893 was rebuilt after a disastrous fire.


The present Bell Hotel was built in 1842 on a site which had been occupied by an inn for centuries. The inn once had stabling for 40 horses, six acres of pasture and a bowling green. Perhaps the Bell’s most prestigious visitor was King George II who came to Saxmundham in January 1737. Having landed at Lowestoft at noon he arrived at The


Bell at 7pm in the evening where the party halted to change horses. It took another four hours to reach Ipswich!


A Corn Exchange, now known as the Market Hall, was built at the same time as the hotel and continues to host events and activities both during the daytime and in the evening.


On the main route between London and Yarmouth, until the coming of the railway in 1859 Saxmundham was an important stop on the turnpike, with several coaching inns servicing the stage and mail coach journeys through the town. The coming of the railway in 1859 caused the decline of the coaching trade.


Saxmundham was bypassed in 1987 when the route of the A12 was moved over to the west of the town. Most of the buildings in the High Street and Market Place are a great deal older than their present shop fronts portray, many of the buildings are timber framed with brick facades.


One of the oldest buildings, now in a sad state of repair, is Wingfield House which backs onto the Old Bank House.


Another old building is Monks Cottages, South Entrance, dating back to 1580 and was the subject of a BBC House Detective programme.


Kevin Gale 15


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