[A Collage of Lavenham]

Lavenham Parish Council's Millennium Website

In April 1944 the 487th Bomb Group, at that time flying B-24s, arrived at a base near a small town in Suffolk called Lavenham. At first, it didn't seem like much of a place - a few hundred people, two pubs, a hotel, a church, and a railway station. For most of us, it was where we went to catch the train for London and Piccadilly Circus. But soon the Church began to take on a special importance, not for any spiritual reason, but because of its distinctive 141-foot tower.

East Anglia is an area of about 80 by 40 miles. In 1944 it was home for more than 100 airfields, most of which looked much the same from the air. When coming down out of the clouds at about 300 feet, one couldn't go stooging around the countryside trying to get orientated. You'd soon find yourself going in the wrong direction in someone else's flight pattern; you had to get squared away quickly, especially if you were low on fuel or had damage or wounded aboard. The pinkish-grey tower of the Lavenham Church, stretching up out of the green background was a perfect landmark. I'm sure it helped to save many lives. For me it remained the fondest memory of Lavenham.

In 1995, the week before the VE-Day celebration, our group held its 50th Reunion at Lavenham. The town is no longer in black and white; now it's in Technicolor. The railway station is gone, the Swan hotel has become a frequent backdrop on the TV series Lovejoy Mysteries. Lavenham has become a tourist mecca and a bedroom community for Ipswich. But the 500-year-old Church and its tower remain.

Over the years, I have learned some things about the town. In the 15th and 16th Centuries it was the centre of the wool trade and, in fact, was the 14th wealthiest town in the kingdom. One of the beneficiaries of this wealth was one Thomas Spring. He and his son and their wives are buried beneath the floor of Lavenham Church in a section known as the Spring Parclose, set apart by a beautifully carved wooden screen.

Also in recent years I have discovered that one of my ancestral lines goes back through John Spring, who came to Watertown, MA, in 1634 from Lavenham, to this same Thomas Spring, who is my 14th great-grandfather. Knowing that I am descended from Thomas Spring became especially significant for me when I learned why he is buried in the Church. It seems that he is so honoured because it was he who, more than five hundred years ago, provided the funds for building the tower on the Church.

I can only wonder what my feelings would have been fifty-five years ago had I known then of our relationship. Now I feel a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And, of course, there's the confirmation, that examining the past enriches the present.

William Colburn

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