Suitably refreshed after our delicious lunch, we headed back up the High Street, stopping at the 16th C butchers shop for some Suffolk apple juice, cheese, eggs and cream for our strawberries.  Reading the booklet, it appears that so many of the village houses were once inns and the butchers was no exception – it had a previous life, appropriately enough, as the Shoulder of Mutton alehouse!

15-17 High Street was the premises of Deaves & Son, builders and undertakers.  The old coffin shop can be seen above the entrance gates.

Virtually every house has historical significance, including the early 16th C Old Guildhall (contrary to the plaque which proclaims it built in 1472!).  It incredibly managed to survive the Reformation in 1547 when guilds were forcibly abolished.




The White Hart Inn next door was built as a hostelry in the 15th C and apparently contains “crude 18th C wall paintings, reputedly by Thomas Gainsborough’s less talented brother Jack”.  Poor Jack – but at least someone thought they were worth conserving.

A few steps up the High Street is The Queen’s Head, used as a coaching inn for centuries but built in the late 14th/early 15 C as an open hall house.

It returned to private use in the middle of last century.



Opposite the Queen’s Head lies Fen Street which once had a 17th C corn mill. Fen Street these days looks idyllic, with the mill stream running down in front of cottages on the left, each of which has its own little bridge.

Apparently, however, it was once the 19th C industrial centre of Nayland, the site of silk works, a tannery, gas factory and cement works. It’s a job to picture that now. Most of the houses originate from the 15th or 16th centuries.



The delightfully named Socket Alley links Fen Street with the Stoke Road, where can be seen the early 17th C Longwood House which was once lived in by John Constable’s aunt – presumably the same relative who commissioned him to do the painting for St James’ Church.

Turning left we walked along until we got to Birch Street, containing yet more medieval gems.  This sign was particularly appropriate when we saw no.17!





Birch Street is seemingly one of the most important medieval streets in Britain with every building on the northern side of the road measuring approximately 25 feet or one and a half perches, demonstrating an early form of town planning.

To read more about this remarkable village please read on…