The Ancient House

Clare, Suffolk


A medieval timber-framed building sitting on the church green at Clare, an unspoilt Suffolk market town. This welcoming and comfortable house exudes history.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Mobile signalMobile signal
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Logs availableLogs available
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath

Beds 1 Double

4 nights
£1212 equivalent to £151.50 per person, per night

A local Landmark

Standing at the south-west corner of St Peter and St Paul’s churchyard, the Ancient House is a picturesque medieval timber-framed building in this remarkably unspoilt market town. Its elaborate pargeting (raised plaster decoration), is a distinctive form of vernacular decoration in East Anglia and bears the date 1473. This is one of the most celebrated examples of the art in the country. There is a handsome moulded timber ceiling in the ground floor chamber, and elaborately carved oriel windows there and in the first floor bedroom. Staying here you will have an enviable close-up view of the great wool church and keep time by the chimes of its clock.

Tudor Suffolk

Close by is Clare Priory, founded for the Austin Friars in 1248, the earliest house of the order in England, and The Cliftons, a building whose exuberant 16th-century brick chimneys are richly decorated with circular shafts, Tudor patterns and star tops. Beyond there is a wealth of little-changed Suffolk villages to discover, with some of the country’s finest Tudor brickwork.

Floor Plan


5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Independent feedback based on 50 verified reviews.

Filter reviews
Map & local info

On the south-west corner of St Peter and St Paul’s churchyard, the Ancient House stands in picturesque Clare, a historic market town in the rolling Suffolk countryside.

One of the joys of holidays can be sampling local food and drink. Champion of local suppliers, Big Barn, spotlights farm shops, butchers, breweries, markets and more across the UK in their interactive map. To source produce from the local area, visit their website,

Somerleyton Hall and Framlingham Castle are both in driving distance from Clare if you are looking for a historical day out during your stay. Somerleyton Hall is considered to be an archetypal Tudor-Jacobean manors. Framlington Castle is a magnificent 12th-century fortress and one-time refuge of Mary Tudor. 

The nearby medieval village of Lavenham is worth a visit. Look out for their art and literary festivals, as well as enjoying their shops and cafes. 

The historic market town Bury St. Edmunds is only a half hour drive from Clare. Ickworth House, with its impressive Rotunda, is worth a visit, as is Moyse's Hall Museum, which has looked out over Bury St. Edmunds for almost 900 years. 

Discover local walks for dogs with our friends at, the dog walks community. For more ideas for things to do during your stay at the Ancient House, have a look at our Pinterest Map.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Clear directions
Essential info
What you need to know about this building
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • Directly from the main road.
  • Sudbury – 9 miles
  • No, but there is unrestricted parking in the surrounding streets.
  • There are electric night storage heaters and also wood-burning stove.
  • Logs may be purchased and delivered under a private arrangement. Further details will be provided with your booking confirmation.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
    * Links to other sites are provided for information purposes only.  We do not endorse any such websites and we are not responsible for the information, material, products or services contained on or accessible through those websites.  Your access and use of such websites remains solely at your own risk.  For further information, visit our website terms of use.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker.
  • There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • The stairs in the property are steep and narrow. Due to the age of the property the floors do slope considerably.
  • Yes, some of the doorways have low headroom.
  • Yes, the clock on the church opposite The Ancient House has a quarter chime through the night.
  • There is an enclosed garden. Please note that although the garden is enclosed we cannot guarantee that it is secure for dogs.  
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

Plaster decoration covers its north facade

The Ancient House is one of the best known houses in Suffolk, situated on the High Street in Clare opposite the main entrance to the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. Its chief glory lies in the rich, boldly moulded pargeting - the plaster decoration that covers its north facade. Supporting the chamber window is a finely carved oak bracket containing the arms of the Hamelden family, supported by two leaf-clad woodwoses (wild men of the woods). 

The Hameldens probably built the house and they may have installed a chantry priest or perhaps lived here themselves.  It has been known as the Ancient House since about 1810 when an engraving with that title appeared in the Antiquarian and Topographical Cabinet.

No one can be sure about the original form of the Ancient House. It seems likely that a 14th century house, possibly incorporating a shop, lay along the High Street.  At the north end of this there was a cross wing (now the front room of the Museum).  At the end of the 15th century an architectural show piece was added behind the cross wing and the orientation of the house changed so that it faced the church rather than the street.  The newer part comprised the massive front door and hall, the parlour with its very fine ceiling and a chamber above, each with a room behind.  The carved leaf stops on the ends of the floor joists are similar to ones in Clare Priory and the Bell Hotel, and may have all been carved by the same family. Access to the first floor chamber was probably by a steep staircase winding down from the archway immediately to the south of the present bedroom door.

The older part along the High Street was probably replaced in the 17th century with a two-storey wing incorporating the chimney. Later on, certainly before 1810 and possibly about 1767, the original staircase serving the chamber was removed; a new door was made into the chamber, the front door was blocked up, and a new staircase serving the first floors of both parts of the house was inserted.

There are two types of pargeting - raised and incised work and the Ancient House has both. The craft was particularly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and it was often used to cover timber-framed buildings in Suffolk. Alec Clifton-Taylor, in The Pattern of English Building, mentions watching two elderly pargeters working on repairs there with a compound of lime and sand, horsehair and horse fat. The nature of lime plaster means that eventually it has to be renewed and as a result the designs and date on the Ancient House have changed over time. On the west gable there is the date 1473, but it had read 1672 at the beginning of this century. The shield of three chevrons is that of the de Clare family.

In the 1920s an American offered to buy the Ancient House with the intention of shipping to the USA, but Charles Byford pre-empted this offer and subsequently presented the house to Clare Parish Council.  In 1978 the ground floor of the Ancient House opened as a local history museum, with the curator's flat above. 

For a short history of The Ancient House please click here.

To read the full history album for The Ancient House please click here.


Finding a new use

By 1992 the building needed major repairs to enable the Museum use to continue. Clare Parish Council approached the Landmark Trust to see if it could help in any way.  It became clear that if the Trust took over part of the building for holidays, the Museum could stay in the other half.  A successful application was then submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund and in 1999 work began re-ordering the Ancient House to provide a Landmark in the eastern half, with the Museum on the High Street side. 

The most significant change to the appearance of the front of the house has been the re-instatement of the front door.  When the present staircase was put in, the front door was blocked up and another opening made to the side of the parlour window. We blocked this later door, thereby improving that room, and made a new oak front door. A brick floor was discovered at the entrance and this was extended into the hall.  The door from the hall to the parlour had been lowered, but we found the original doorhead and, with difficulty, fitted a new door. The internal restoration has been done with a light touch by working with Philip Orchard of the Whitworth Co-Partnership as our architect and F. A. Valiant & Son as our builder.

The parlour with its large fireplace has been made into the sitting room.  Later window sills were removed in here (and the bedroom) to reveal the knurled and knobbly originals.  The asphalt floor was taken out and re-laid with reclaimed pamments.  The fireplace bressummer was badly damaged, but has now been carefully repaired by splicing in a new piece of seasoned oak into the gap.  A kitchen has been made in the room behind the parlour, which had been a Museum storeroom.

Upstairs, the chamber with its view of the church is now the bedroom. We removed a ceiling that had been put in earlier this century at a lower level than the original, and replaced it with a new one of three coats of lime and haired plaster on riven chestnut laths following the profile of the original. There are new doors to the landing and bathroom and a new floor in the little closet - the original staircase opening. There had been two doors on either side of the fireplace, leading to the caretaker’s kitchen on the left, and a bathroom on the right. We took out this later partition and thereby restored the room to its original medieval form. The door to the left we blocked off and made the airing cupboard.

In the bathroom, overlooking the garden, we discovered the original window with its diamond mullions, which we repaired and gave new elm wooden shutters just as it would originally have had.  This meant that the later windows were not only unnecessary but also out of place and so we blocked them all up by reinserting studs, green hazel wattles and daub.  We discovered the original, steeply sloping floor under years of later flooring and this we have renovated.  This whole room is a testament to the concept that timber-framed buildings move and breathe. The whole house was limewashed inside and out, and the gutters removed to improve the appearance.  Clare Ancient House Museum is still housed on the ground floor.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.