Clare in Suffolk



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Morris men Clare has a long and complex history from its earliest days as a prehistoric settlement, though the time of the Norman lords who built its motte and bailey castle, its Middle Ages success as a wool town and its eventual development with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century.  Unlike many of its neighbours in West Suffolk, Clare has not suffered at the hands of many developers since the early 20th century and it now provides a fascinating demonstration of vernacular architecture covering a range of about 600 years.  Butchers signThe colour of this page has been chosen specially to represent the town. Many of its buildings, and those in the rest of Suffolk, are plastered in pink. This dates from times when plaster was coloured with a variety of substances including pigs' blood!

Ancient houseClare Ancient House, built in 1473, became the town museum in 1976. The Grade I listed building is notable for its superb plasterwork, an example of the local craft of pargeting, which is still practised today.  It is also a Landmark Trust property and available to rent for holidays. The Trust handbook says the house stands at the south west corner of St Peter and St Paul's churchyard and is a medieval timber-framed structure. Part of the pargeting includes the date 1473 but it is unlikely that the wing that bears the date is actually that old because the building has undergone several changes in its history. pargetingFor example, it is probable that it once faced the street, rather than the church yard.  The handbook cites Alec Clifton-Taylor's The Pattern of English Building and says that pargeters once worked on the building using a mixture of lime, sand, horsehair and horse fat.  The building was bought by local farmer Charles Byford in the 1930s when it was threatened with removal to the USA. It was subsequently donated to the parish council, who passed it on to the Landmark Trust.

Bell HotelClare has a number of other attractions including several old and decent public houses. It even has its own brewery and the local Nethergate ales are sold in all Clare pubs. One hotel to be found on the town square is the Bell, which also plays host to teams of Morris dancers on high days and holidays. (See top)
Clare stationThe railway once passed through the town but its local station is now abandoned and part of a country park, which also houses the ruins of the town's old castle. The 13th Century castle stands on a 70ft high motte overlooking the town. The inner and outer baileys can still be identified and the inner bailey also encloses the railway station and goods yard, with the goods shed still intact.  Close by is the River Stour and a circular walk round the town takes in its banks as well as several other sights, including a large antiques centre in Malting Lane, which used to be a mill.

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