adapted from a design by George Bain based on the Book of Kells home Programme Bookings Shop The Wuffings .
Wuffing Education

Medieval Suffolk 1349 to 1500: An Economic and Social History

The Church of St Peter & St Paul, Lavenham (Simon Knott -

with Dr Mark Bailey

at Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 22nd September, 2007

Medieval Suffolk was wealthy, densely populated, highly commercialised and urbanised. It survived the impact of three of the most tumultuous events of the last millennium, the Great Famine [1315-22], the Black Death [1349] and the Peasants' Revolt [1381], to become by 1500 one of the richest and most industrialised regions of England, based on cloth manufacture, fishing and tanning.
This study-day describes, documents and analyses these events, combining the current state of knowledge with fresh insights drawn from extensive investigations of primary sources, and reassessing the history of late medieval Suffolk.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 The Black Death.
The day school begins by surveying briefly the society and economy of Suffolk in the early fourteenth century, and then documenting the local progress and immediate impact of one of the most devastating event in recorded history, the Black Death of 1349. What was it, how it did it spread, and what implications did it have for the population of Suffolk?
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.30 Settlement and Farming, 1360 to 1500.
The changes to rural life in the wake of the Black Death were significant and profound, presenting both real difficulties and new opportunities. Settlement shifted and contracted, and much arable land was abandoned, but the structure of farms changed markedly, new crops were developed, arable land was enclosed and converted to pasture, and the emphasis in agriculture shifted towards dairying and pig rearing.
  12.30 Lunch break  
  14:00 Social Change, 1360 to 1500.
The Black Death shock society to its roots, and to contemporaries it appeared that the world had been turned upside down. Violent protest and revolt in the Uprising of 1381 reflected deep tensions within Suffolk society, and over the next century the social structure of Suffolk communities changed importantly: many became dominated by resident gentleman farmers and yeoman, whose agricultural activities became discernibly commercialised, while smallholders were able to obtain plentiful work in by-employments. The result was an improvement in material well-being, and a rising culture of consumerism, but a polarisation of wealth.
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Industrial and Economic Transformation, 1360 to 1500.
In c.1300 the Suffolk economy was moderately urbanised and industrialised: by c.1500 it lay at the forefront of industrial production in medieval England, based primarily on textile manufacture, fishing and leather working. The wealth generated by such activities is reflected in the extensive rebuilding of parish churches, and in the quality of surviving vernacular architecture, during this period. This final session documents those changes, and tries to understand how Suffolk people responded so flexibly and triumphantly to the economic changes and opportunities of the post Black Death era.
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Mark Bailey

Dr Mark Bailey went to school in Suffolk, but now runs a school in Leeds. He lectured in both medieval and local history at the University of Cambridge between 1986 and 1999, and has published five books and numerous articles on the subject. His latest book, Medieval Suffolk. An Economic and Social History, 1200-1500, provides the basis for this day school, and its publication launches the much-anticipated History of Suffolk series.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Bailey, M., Medieval Suffolk: An Economic and Social History, 1200-1500 (Woodbridge 2007)
Dymond, D.P., and Northeast, P., A History of Suffolk, (Chichester, 1995)
Dyer, C.C., Making a Living in the Middle Ages. The People of Britain 850-1520 (London, 2002)


Please phone or email to check the availability of places and then send the application form and a cheque for £38, payable to Wuffing Education to:

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT
(replace 'AT' by '@' in order to send email - we used 'AT' to avoid spam robots automatically sending us emails)

Return to list of current Study Days


We have learnt of the fame of the Wuffing folk-lords of long ago, of how those wolf-kings held the ancestral land of East Anglia....
Updated 3 December, 2009
Website by
Adroit Solutions Ltd