A small 18th century market town, Haverhill was originally settled in Roman times, but burned down during the 17th century and mostly rebuilt 100 years later. As a result, it’s an intriguing mish-mash of styles, most of them pleasing, but with some early elements like 11th century stonework occurring next to things a lot younger, but sometimes older. It is regarded as having a rather timeless nature as a result.
Interestingly, it can claim to have a relationship with something equally timeless Middle-earth as a result of it being the hometown of the company Delstar, who had the responsibility of constructing the stage set for the West End production of The Lord of the Rings – one of the most spectacular sets ever produced for a theatre production.
The highlight of Haverhill’s cultural year is the annual Haverhill Festival, held in the last two weeks in June. The festival, faithful to its original aspirations, is still very much a community led celebration offering free access to many events. Now recognised as one of Suffolk’s largest festivals, it brings scores of international musicians, dancers and performers to the town for a fortnight long extravaganza that even spills on to the streets.
The focus of the festival is a building that was built and gifted to the town in 1882 for the residents’ entertainment by weaving manufacturer, Daniel Gurteen, who ran one of the biggest businesses in the town. He built the ‘Town Hall’ as the place the people of Haverhill to go so that they could appreciate music performances, hear lectures, play chess and avail themselves of the books and newspapers in the reading room. In the early 1990s it was converted into Haverhill Arts Centre.
Historic features of the Gurteen clothes-making factory in Haverhill
Gurteen’s business of premium-made clothing still continues in Haverhill, and its premises are an equally interesting Victorian building. The family business was established in 1784 by Daniel Gurteen, a master weaver of Huguenot descent. He specialised in weaving a material called Drabbett, which was used for making smocks and worn by the agricultural workers of the time. The business grew rapidly, and in 1880 at the onset of the industrial revolution, Daniel Gurteen III invested in mechanisation by installing a magnificent steam engine that remains in the factory and in pristine condition to this day. It’s 120 horsepower and was called Caroline. The business expanded into the manufacture of men’s clothing, silk smocks and by 1900 the company was employing some 2,500 people in and around Haverhill. Today the business is still run by family members and the passion for men’s clothing burns as fiercely today as it did then, as does the provision of employment to generations of local people.
Its products are distributed internationally, and through its ‘Own Label’ ranges supplied to UK store customers such as John Lewis and Charles Tyrwhitt.
A small 18th century market town, Haverhill was originally settled in Roman times, but burned down during the 17th century and mostly rebuilt 100 years later. As a result, it’s an intriguing mish-mash of styles, most of them pleasing, but with some early elements like 11th century stonework occurring next to things a lot younger, but sometimes older. […]