A trip to Suffolk, England, or viewing house-hunters on “Escape to the Country,” will invoke reminders of the pink cottages of the town in East Anglian County, seated on the eastern coast of England. Why are the pink exteriors considered landmarks?

Suffolk villagers are extremely proud of their pink cottage heritage. In the 14th Century, the pink hue may have originated with adding plants such as elderberries, sloe (a relative of the plum), and a resulting darker red from Blackthorn added to the lime wash painted onto the houses. Later, pig and ox blood mixed with buttermilk was also used. It has been thought that crushed brick might have been added for a more reddish hue.

Just as there are color restrictions for homes in our own HOAs, not everyone can paint their Suffolk house pink. If it is listed in a legal document or in a conservation (historic building, monument, project, etc), it may not be permitted. There are several tints of the pink but some areas permit only a select number of the color.

Artist Thomas Gainsborough, a founding member of the Royal Academy, depicted St. Mary’s Church in Hadleigh and its surrounding pink cottages in a 1748 painting.

Residents in the largely agricultural county where there were no block works or quarries, have always been known to collect stones from the fields and beaches, and timber, clay, and grasses from the marshlands, to create their homes.

Not only the cottages benefitted from local color. The mixing of beautiful dyes is woven into the fabric of Suffolk’s heritage since much of its wealth was built on the cloth trade, notably wool.

There were about 30 weaving businesses in Melford, plus associated craftsmen such as dyers, who made pigments from the plants that grew in the surrounding countryside.

Many Suffolk towns, like Lavenham, were built with money from the cloth trade. In 1873, author Robert Louis Stevenson visited the town and claimed it looked like “what ought to be in a novel.” The town’s beautiful timber-frame Guildhall of the Wool Guild of Corpus Christi still stands in the market place. It is under the care of the National Trust, with a museum and exhibitions on the medieval cloth industry.

The Suffolk Pink family cottages, halls, and stately mansions all share one thing in common – pink. Shell-pink, rose-pink, geranium, and even raspberry.

Whether the pink is from animal blood, brick, or berries, or is local legend or historical fact, the pink exteriors have put Suffolk on the tourist map.

“Learning history can put our ancestors in a time and place.”

Becky McCreary is a member of Southern Arizona Genealogy Society and teaches “Storytellers: Writing family stories.” Genealogy Today articles are archived at www.azsags.org. The column may not be reprinted without the written consent of the author. rebeccamccreary764@gmail.com

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