1841 - Corn Exchange

Since ancient times, markets and fairs have been of enormous importance to farmers. Here their livestock might be traded, seed purchased and any surplus produce sold to make a profit. Some streets took their names from the markets held there - Haymarket and Cornhill are two of the more common ones. On the large farms of the Georgian and Victorian eras, agriculture was becoming a business, rather than a livelihood. Instead of concluding their dealings in a muddy marketplace or in the smoky conviviality of a nearby inn, as their predecessors would have done, gentleman farmers would conduct their affairs in the imposing surroundings of the Corn Exchange. How does the classical style of this building express its function?

Built in 1841, the Corn Exchange at Sudbury in Suffolk is a magnificent building. Pevsner, in his Buildings of England, says it 'deserves a glance, if only to meditate on the Early Victorian sense of security, superiority and prosperity' that emanates from its stuccoed neo-classical facade. It was built at a cost of £1,620 for the Sudbury Market House Company, to the design of H E Kendall. According to White's Gazeteer and Directory for 1844, 'the builder is said to have lost several hundred pounds by the contract'. This is unsurprising, considering the lavish attention paid to architectural detail. The giant stone columns in Tuscan style are surmounted by sculpted sheaves of corn in place of the urns that are more usually associated with strict classicism. The pediment is crowned by a beautifully worked group of resting reapers, carved in Coade stone by F L Coates of Lambeth. Stepping through the impressive entrance doorway, the church-like interior comprises an aisled hall with tall, cast-iron columns supporting a clerestory roof. It must have been a splendid place in which to do business. Buyers and sellers congregated around the rows of dealers' desks that lined the nave like pews, expertly studying the samples of corn that were brought in from local farms. The names of firms who traded here suggest many kinds of agricultural work - George Bye, Corn, Cake and Seed Merchant, Lavenham; Balls and Balls, Auctioneers and Valuers, Castle Hedingham; John K King and Sons, Seed Growers by Appointment to His Majesty King George V, Coggeshall; C J N Row and Sons, Long Melford, Insurance Brokers, Merchants and Agents, Cake, Coal, Manures &c. In the 1950s the Corn Exchange was all but abandoned for its intended purpose and was threatened with demolition. Fortunately the County Council stepped in and converted the building into a branch library. The exterior of the Sudbury Corn Exchange was beautifully refurbished in 1992-3.

1825 - Cowhouse

1855 - The 'Model' Farm