Audio Walk

The walk takes you around the town centre where there are about a hundred shops, the vast majority being independent traders which combined with free parking, makes Harleston so busy.

There are close to two hundred very old buildings and it is often said that if stripped of their later facades, Harleston would resemble Lavenham. The centre of Harleston was once a vast open market and the stalls in the middle gradually became permanent shops and houses, creating the shape of a box-iron, known now as 'the heater.' The audio tour explores the history of the town and features some wonderful characters who all love Harleston with a passion, including Sid Taylor who has planted over three thousand trees in the town.

There is a map which shows the route of tour, and may help with your directions.

01 - Bullock Fair Close

01 - Bullock Fair Close

01 - Bullock Fair Close

Play Audio. A good place to start your 'walk' is before you get ou tof the car. Meaning you listen as you have parked your car, to get into the mood. Well, Harleston is a good place for this because car parking is free and plentiful! In the introduction, we learn that Harleston is an extremely vibrant and friendly place with a great many independent shops, as well as some fascinating historical enigmas.

Leave the car park heading away from the supermarket and walk down Bullock Fair Close until you reach The Thoroughfare. Turn right and continue until you reach The Swan hotel, cross the road into a small pedestrian street, Union Street.

02 - Union Street

02 - Union Street

02 - Union Street

Play Audio. The walk starts in Union Street. It becomes apparent that we are standing in an island of houses in the middle of a larger space, itself surrounded by buildings. It turns out that the outer buildings are older than the ones surrounding us, and with the help of Gordon Lascelles and Mark Kenyon, we begin to appreciate that quite why Harleston is where it is, or indeed why it is, is a bit of mystery! We also learn that the Georgian facades are just that, facades, and that beneath them is a wonderful heritage of timber frame buildings from a much earlier era. We hear some personal stories of how Broad Street has changed over the years.

Leave Union Street from the opposite side to where you entered, onto Broad Street. Cross the road to the house to the right of the Church, Old Bank House and Merchant's House.

03 - Merchant's House

03 - Merchant's House

03 - Merchant's House

Play Audio. We learn where the ducking stool used to be in Harleston although the town was once fined for not having one! Mark Kenyon then explains how the Merchant's House before you is not Georgian but contains within it a medieval building that could conceivably have been the Harleston guildhall. We also learn that inside on one of the bressemer beams is a plethora of superstitious carvings designed to stop evil coming down the chimney!

Continue along Old Market Street until you reach a small alleyway, Shipps Close.

04 - Shipps Close

04 - Shipps Close

04 - Shipps Close

Play Audio. We take a look at the oldest building in Harleston but appearances are deceptive. Mark Kenyon reveals all. We can see evidence for the old timbers looking back from Shipp's close and Gordon Lascelles is our lively and enthusiastic guide.

05 - Old Market Place

05 - Old Market Place

05 - Old Market Place

Play Audio. We now look at Old Market Place and hear some lovely personal tales. The dominant Victorian building was once Gurney's bank and we hear about the intrepid Mr Stebbings who had to cycle to Eye when they ran out of gold sovereigns! We meet the occupants of Old House, who tell us what has been discovered about their beams. Incredibly, they know almost to the month when parts of the building were erected, just by looking at the timber. We then head up Mendham Lane where we see the Old Manse.

06 - Love Lane

06 - Love Lane

06 - Love Lane

Play Audio. Because the nitty gritty of Harleston is based around the Thoroughfare and Broad Street, we were afraid that the thunder of the traffic might be a bit off-putting if continuous. So we have built in some little diversions up quiet roads and footpaths. Love Lane is one such. We hear about the population of Harleston over the years and the importance of the air ship station in nearby Pulham, where the R-33 famously became detached from its moorings and blown over the North Sea. Don't worry, they got back safely and Kay Nelson saw it with her own eyes.

07 - London Road

07 - London Road

07 - London Road

Play Audio. We emerge on London Road and Norman Hart recalls his daily journey to school here. Then follows a lovely pair of reminiscences from two ninety year olds, who recall when the fire engine was drawn by horses.

08 - Market Place

08 - Market Place

08 - Market Place

Play Audio. We reach the site of the present market. We hear some delightful stories about under-age drinking in the Magpie Hotel, now known as J D Youngs, and discover what the Corn Exchange was used for. Gordon Lascelles points out the weigh-bridge which people often park on without realising what it is. We also consider the iconic clock-tower.

09 - The Recreation Ground

09 - The Recreation Ground

09 - The Recreation Ground

Play Audio. We now take a diversion up to the Recreation Ground where we meet Sid Taylor. Sid was one of the driving forces behind the leisure centre and he tells about his arguments with Buckingham Palace over who should open it. Sid won! We then hear about the legacy for which he is most proud. Sid has planted over 3000 trees in Harleston, including many here and for him, that is his legacy!

10 - Swan Lane

10 - Swan Lane

10 - Swan Lane

Play Audio. We re-emerge back on the Thoroughfare having come down Swan Lane. We hear about the Swan Hotel and the questionable circumstances behind its purchase. Opposite is the site of a tobbaconists owned by the parents of one of our speakers, Norman Hart. Norman tells how the previous owner was kept in the business to give him some sense of purpose in his life and also the day when a motorbike and sidecar came crashing through the window

11 - Bullock Fair Close

11 - Bullock Fair Close

11 - Bullock Fair Close

Play Audio. Our next stop is the Coop's carpark, which is notable not for its asphalt today but its function in the past, as the venue for the livestock market. Sid Taylor and Norman Hart have amusing memories. We also consider the role of supermarkets in market towns.

12 - Chameleon House

12 - Chameleon House

12 - Chameleon House

Play Audio. We walk up the Thoroughfare which becomes Redenhall Road, to Chameleon House. Gordon Lascelles takes us through archway to prove once again that things are never what they seem with buildings in Harleston. We return to this building in two stops time, this time from the other side of the road.

13 - Railway Station

13 - Railway Station

13 - Railway Station

Play Audio. We carry on from Chameleon House up Station Road. At the bottom was the former police station and Sid Taylor tells a story of shooting pheasants behind it with the policemen inside oblivious. Up the road is grand station building, sadly no longer in use. Gordon Lascelles meditates on the role of the railway in Harleston's fortunes

14 - Candlers Lane

14 - Candlers Lane

14 - Candlers Lane

Play Audio. We start by looking at Chameleon House from the other side of the road, and see how the parapet was constructed as an optical illusion, to make the roof look Georgian. Gordon Lascelles tells us a salutary tale about a failed rebellion in Harleston and we see the one authentic Georgian building in the town. Our walk then carries on up Candler's Lane where we learn about the importance of elm.

15 - Straight Lane

15 - Straight Lane

15 - Straight Lane

Play Audio. Our walk returns us to Broad Street via Straight Lane. It is gives us a peaceful chance to enjoy an entertaining little story from Sid Taylor about meeting a fox on a cold and snowy day. All of our walks feature some monologues from locals, giving you a feel for the local accent and dialect.

16 - Indian Restaurant

16 - Indian Restaurant

16 - Indian Restaurant

Play Audio. We emerge in Broad Street and turn right, walking as far as the Indian Restaurant. Mark Kenyon tells us about his encounter with a lady in one of the nearby houses while crawling around the roof space. Then Gordon Lascelles shows us one of the enduring enigmas of Harleston, the 'writing on the wall' of the Indian Restaurant.

17 - St John's Church

17 - St John's Church

17 - St John's Church

Play Audio. We finish our walk at St John's Church which is Victorian. Gordon Lascelles fills us in on the historical background before we enter the church to be greeted by Clive Hudson who tells a little about the church and the congregation. We leave it to Clive to provide a fitting summary for this walk, as he extols Harleston's virtues.

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