Suffolk Preservation Society: protecting the county since 1929

Early 1900’s: Local protests against the loss of Suffolk’s historic buildings grow

The 15th century Wool Hall in Lavenham was dismantled circa1912. After public protest it was reinstated and now forms part of the Swan Inn.

1929: The Society was founded by Muriel Schofield to ‘protect Suffolk – its old buildings and rural countryside’.

She saw the need for a society which would strive to halt the loss of Suffolk’s fine buildings, which were becoming increasingly dilapidated and being dismantled and sold to landowners as far away as America. Communities were prepared to fight to retain their heritage such as the Wool House in Lavenham.

1930s: by the mid 1930s Suffolk had only 62 mills standing

SPS carried out a photographic record and condition survey, campaigning for the rescue and repair of the best examples. In the 1950s SPS successfully campaigned for the preservation of at least one mill of each type.


SPS played a leading part in saving Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury and campaigned to save Market Hill.


SPS President, the Duke of Grafton, led the battle to defeat plans for a new shopping centre at the Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds. 

1970’s: building preservation

SPS created the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust.The first acquisition was a fine pair of C17th houses at Rickinghall which was proposed for demolition.

SPS bought Pakenham Water Mill to save it from residential conversion.This is now open to the public and is run by the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust.

SPS also set up a Trust to save Garretts’ old works site in Leiston which was restored and now houses The Long Shop Museum. 

1970’s: campaigning for countryside protection

SPS had long campaigned to also protect Suffolk’s special landscapes including the Dedham Vale and the Suffolk Coast, now designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

1970s: campaigning for churches

SPS published Churches of Suffolk: Redundancy and a Policy for Conservation highlighting the disuse and decay of Suffolk’s 500 medieval churches.

This led to the foundation of The Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, funded by a donation from SPS.

Campaigning for good design:

SPS has campaigned for good design in new development for some time.

In 1973 having been gifted a site in Wetherden, SPS commissioned architects to prepare a design brief for homes that fitted into a village setting.

In 1992 SPS published its own design guide for Suffolk.

In 2007 SPS held a competition to design a sustainable, contemporary, affordable housing scheme. The result was Clay Fields in Elmswell.

Campaigning through the planning system:

SPS employed its first professional Director in 1970s due to the kind support of the Williams family at Haughley Park. Since this time, the Society has been able to campaign successfully through the planning system to protect the special heritage and landscape qualities of Suffolk.