6 of Suffolk’s most beautiful buildings

Ickworth House

Ickworth House - Credit: National Trust

Over the centuries, Suffolk has seen a number of stunning architectural wonders crop up. From preserved colourful Tudor cottages to Italian-influenced countryside homes, these are just some of the county’s most striking and eye-catching buildings.  

The Crooked House in Lavenham

The Crooked House in Lavenham - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The Crooked House, Lavenham 

One of the most vibrant buildings on this list, Lavenham’s The Crooked house has a colourful history – and a vibrant future.  

Dating back to 1395, this structure was originally built as part of a medieval hall house – and has stood the test of time, as can be seen today.  

Between the 14th and 16th centuries, Lavenham was known the world over for its prosperous wool trade, making it one of England’s richest settlements – and allowing it to have such grandiose buildings. Its oak beams and pastel orange façade are so iconic – and little has been done to the house over the years, meaning it has been able to retain its unique historic and fairytale-like charm.  

Recently, the home was bought by couple Alex and Oli Khalil-Martin, who purchased the listed home in lockdown and have since turned it into an events venue and antique shop/showroom.

“We’ve covered the Elizabethan chamber with tapestries and filled it with furniture as well as old and modern art. It’s a very special place and definitely has a theatrical feel to it,” explains Alex. 

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“There’s so many exciting things we can do with the house, and we’re buzzing to be here. We’re looking at lots of different ways to share the house. It will evolve over the years with us, and there’s some things we’ll do we haven’t even imagined yet. We’ve just ordered some Tudor costumes – we're going to be the eccentrics of the village, but in a great way.” 

Snape Maltings

Snape Maltings - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Snape Maltings, Snape 

Have you ever made your way over to banks of the River Alde and visited Snape Maltings? An absolute magnificent architectural wonder, this former malt house was built in the 19th century by Victorian entrepreneur Newson Garrett. But when malt production stopped in the mid-20th century, it seemed such a shame to tear the building down.  

Local farmer and businessman George Gooderham saw potential in the building, and in 1967 it became the site of the Aldeburgh Festival – where it still takes place nearly six decades later.  

The structure is a favourite of local architect Tom Stebbing, of John Stebbing Architects, who says: “It’s a difficult thing to choose the most beautiful building in Suffolk; we are blessed with so many wonderful historic places and some incredible modern architecture sensitively inserted in amongst it all. There is however a building, or rather a building complex, where we think this has been achieved brilliantly and where the spirit of Suffolk is so perfectly embodied - Snape Maltings.  

“The original maltings complex and its setting on the banks of the Alde is magnificent, but Arup Associates’ conversion of the great malthouse to create Benjamin Britten’s concert hall began a series of thoughtful and brilliant architectural interventions, continued by Penroyre and Prasad and Haworth Tompkins, and that continue to this day with recent work by Hoare Ridge & Morris. Old and new architecture converge to create a magical place.” 

Today, Snape Maltings is home to not just its iconic concert hall but also shops, galleries, eateries, and even accommodation. A real gem just a stone’s throw away from the Suffolk coast.  

The Willis Building

The Willis Building - Credit: Getty Images

Willis Building, Ipswich 

The newest building on this list, Ipswich’s Willis Building is a prominent landmark in the Suffolk town, and it’s not hard to see why. 

A façade comprised of black, shiny windows, this building was constructed between 1970 and 1975 by Norman Foster and Wendy Cheesman – and since its construction has been revered by architects the world over.  

Achieving Grade I-listed status in 1991, the building’s glass appears black and reflective during the day – and by night, dramatically dissolves to reveal what’s going in within. 

Tom McKechnie, designer and managing director of Suffolk architect firm Gorniak & McKechnie, praises the building for its use of space. He says: “I love how it fits the site and allows the public to view inside but also reflects the surrounding buildings, particularly the Unitarian meeting house, in the black glass walls. There’s a lawn on the roof and a swimming pool in the basement, and the use of bold yellow and green textured rubber flooring inside... the styling is timeless.” 

Architect Paul Weston adds: “There are not many shining examples of contemporary architecture in Suffolk but, for me, the Willis Building in Ipswich was ahead of its time and is still stunning. It shows that new and old can live together quite happily and contribute to a stimulating environment.” 

Eye Parish Church

Eye Parish Church - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eye Parish Church, Eye 

Suffolk is home to hundreds of churches dotted around the county, with many tracing their roots back to the medieval period. While it’s hard to pick just one church for a spot on this list of beautiful buildings, local architect Craig Beech, of Beech Architects, holds a special place in his heart for one on the Suffolk-Norfolk border.  

"Eye Parish Church, which is quite rightly listed Grade I by Historic England,” he says.  

“It’s comprised of a grand flint encrusted tower, of perfect stepped proportions, with polygon buttresses and a grand wood roof with painted decorative details and bosses within. It’s got incredibly high levels of craftsmanship and is set within a perfect set of preserved Eye town buildings. It’s well worth a visit!” 

According to its website, its south doorway is around 750 years old – while its arcades and the tomb recess in the north aisle date back to the 1300s. Its tower, porch, most of its windows are from the 15th century while two of its tombs go back to the 1500s.  

There are also a number of memorials scattered throughout the church, including two 16th century altar tombs, and a wall plaque in the sanctuary commemorating Reverend John Whyte (Eye’s vicar for half a century). The church’s website deems its most moving memorial that which is dedicated to Reverend John Polycarp Oakey. The former reverend, who passed away in 1927, has been memorialised in the east window, which depicts him kneeling at the feet of S. Polycarp in the southern light. 

The rotunda at Ickworth House

The rotunda at Ickworth House - Credit: Archant

Ickworth House, Ickworth

You’d be easily forgiven for thinking this gorgeous country house is in Italy or France – when in fact it’s actually right here in Suffolk.  

This stunning Georgian Italianate palace is set in the heart of the East Anglian countryside, near Bury St Edmunds, and dates back to the 18th century. It was commissioned by the 4th Earl of Bristol, in order to showcase the treasures he accumulated while travelling across Europe. Designed to impress, Ickworth House certainly does that.  

Italian architect Antonio Asprucci was tasked with designing a classic villa – and that’s exactly what he did.  And the result is a beautiful stately home, complete with a 105ft high rotunda that features a domed and balustraded roof. Ickworth House’s façade is brick covered in stucco, with slate and lead roofs.  

Detail of neo-classical building with olympic frieze at Ickworth House

Detail of neo-classical building with olympic frieze at Ickworth House - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Distinctive and iconic, Ickworth House was designed so the East Wing was the family home, while the central Rotunda was the star of the show; entertaining and impressing guests upon entry. Its West Wing however was merely built for symmetry and remained mostly empty until 2003.  

Today, Ickworth House is open to the public under the care of the National Trust. It houses an impressive art collection, featuring a number of paintings by artists such as Gainsborough, Hogarth, Velázquez, Kauffmann and Vigée Le Brun. Visitors can find an extensive silver collection, alongside a wide variety of objets de virtu; fans collected by Geraldine Hervey, Marchioness of Bristol; books; and furniture. A true example of beauty both on the inside as well as the outside.  

The House in the Clouds

The House in the Clouds - Credit: Archant

The House in the Clouds, Thorpeness

A personal favourite of mine, Thorpeness’ House in the Clouds is a building that is the stuff of fairytale dreams – and you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else like it for miles. 

This 70-foot water tower was built in 1923, and constructed by Glencairne Stuart Ogilvie, F. Forbes Glennie and H. G Keep to disguise an unsightly water tower that wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the town’s mock-Tudor and Jacobean architecture. 

But the water tank was removed in 1979, and currently this house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a drawing room, a dining room, and a ‘room at the top’ if you fancy gazing out at the expansive Suffolk countryside and coast.  

Is there building that didn’t make the list that you think deserves a mention? Get in touch with danielle.lett@archant.co.uk to share your favourites.