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A forward-thinking town that still remembers the past


Museum of East Anglian Life
The Rec
Stowmarket's history really kicked off in the late 1700s, when the River Gripping was turned into a canal. This development brought all sorts of trade and business, which only increased when the railway arrived half a century later. Before these developments, the town's population was around 1500. Now, it's over ten times as big.
Stowmarket has changed a lot, but the constant growth hasn't completely wiped out the "small village" atmosphere. There's a relaxed feel about the place; nobody rushes around. The architecture isn't flash and modern, it's old and traditional. Lots of the buildings have listed status.

Stowmarket Town Sign.
Photo foto footprints
The most noticeable of these is St. Peter and St. Mary's Church. Originally there were two different church buildings here, opposite each other. When one was demolished, it donated its name to its next-door neighbour - which explains the unusual, double-barrelled title. The church's spire is quite unorthodox, because it has a viewing gallery halfway up. This obviously doesn't help with the structure's sturdiness, because it has fallen down more than once. Hopefully the latest reconstruction will prove to be a bit more reliable!

St Peter and St. Mary's Church.
Photo foto footprints
Lots of Stowmarket's most interesting buildings are housed within the Museum of East Anglican Life. It's an outdoor exhibition spread out over 80 acres, which is about the same size as 16,000 parked cars. Since its opening in 1967, the museum has aimed to preserve skills, artefacts and buildings from Suffolk's past. Altogether there are more than 40,000 objects in the collection. Some of the structures were taken from different areas of East Anglia and reconstructed here. There's a Victorian schoolroom, and an 18th century watermill. Places like the blacksmith's forge are kitted out with proper tools and equipment. The grocer's shop still contains all the old brands and posters. There's a working printing press, and a 19th century windpump whose sails still turn in strong winds. The museum's great appeal is its size, and the sheer variety of things to see. Everything is set up to an extremely accurate level of detail. It's not just the buildings either; traditional crafts are also kept alive and well. You can see how the folk of the 1800s brewed beer, made rope or manufactured horsehair.

The Museum of East Anglian Life.
Photo Ian's Shutter Habit
Back then, locally-made products would often be sold at market. As it happens, that's still true today. Stowmarket's farmers, fishmongers and florists all congregate in the square, every Thursday and Saturday. The constantly-changing stalls can feature anything from antique coins to homemade jams.
Another popular public space is the Recreation Ground, also known as "The Rec". There's plenty of open space, and play areas for children. This is the location for Stowmarket's two biggest annual events: a carnival, and a music festival.
The carnival is a quirky mix of many different events. There might be a crafts sale at the same time as a dog show, or karaoke at the same time as a parade. Expect plenty of good food, live music and cheerful people.
The music festival's more focused. It's called Stowfest, and it's a weekend of live acts in the nearby Chilton Fields. it's been growing year-by-year, and now boasts three different stages of bands and DJs.
Visitor Information
Stowmarket Tourist Information Centre, Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket, IP14 1DL. Tel: 01449 676 800
Museum of East Anglian Life is open daily mid-March to mid-November, 10am to 5pm. Entry costs around £8. Iliffe Way, Stowmarket, IP14 1DL. Tel: 01449 612 229

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