Clare is a historic market town. It came into prominence in the medieval period as the wool trade expanded, initially as wool was exported to the continent and then as wool was woven into broadcloth and its value rose. It became the greatest export from England to the continent.
Today four places retain their medieval centres, streets lined with timber-frame buildings, elegant churches filled with light: Hadleigh, Lavenham, Long Melford and Clare itself. These are the classic Suffolk Wool Towns. Across Suffolk & Essex, there are many wool-weaving locations, from the greater towns such as Sudbury or Hadleigh to small villages such as Kersey, Cavendish or Coggeshall. Yet it is in the four key wool towns that the medieval heart still beats most strongly.