About Us

Chris & Hayley would like to offer you a warm Suffolk welcome at The Bildeston Crown, the perfect place to unwind, indulge and relax.

The Bildeston Crown is a 15th century, former coaching inn set in the Suffolk village of Bildeston, one of the historic “wool towns” and just six miles from Lavenham. Known for its stylish yet relaxed accommodation, the inn has 12 en suite doubles, each with its own individual character, a 120 seater restaurant, a private meeting room, bar area with beams and open fire and a courtyard and terrace for al fresco dining. Food is an integral part of The Bildeston Crown experience and Chef Chris Lee, who owns the business with his wife Hayley, has an excellent reputation for his signature, innovative style. Quality produce, sourced primarily locally, is used when in season and diners can choose from a range of menus: Classics which features regular favourites, Select which changes with the seasons, a midweek Set lunch offering great value for money and perhaps the ultimate dining experience – Chris Lee’s Tasting Menu.

Perfectly situated for exploring Suffolk, especially the west of the county, Constable Country, Gainsborough’s Sudbury, historic Lavenham and the grandeur of Bury St Edmunds, are all quite literally, on the doorstep. Chris, Hayley and their team would be happy to suggest places to visit and things to do while you are staying with us.


The Bildeston Crown was originally a merchant’s house which dates from 1495 and it has been an inn since at least the 17th century. The team feel very privileged to be continuing the tradition of over 400 years of providing hospitality and a warm welcome.

During the 15th and 16th centuries Bildeston became prosperous through the woollen cloth industry. In the late 1460s Suffolk’s leading clothier lived in Bildeston and over a 4 year period was responsible for approximately 10% of the county’s total output of cloth. Bildeston was part of the small cluster of towns and villages known as the Suffolk Wool Towns which became famous throughout Europe. The abundance of wonderful timber framed buildings in the area reflect the wealth of the merchants during this period and provide visitors with a fascinating glimpse of our mediaeval history.

The Bildeston Crown Today

The big break in Chris and Hayley’s professional lives came when Suffolk farmer and businessman, James Buckle, decided to buy The Bildeston Crown in November 2003. James’ initial thoughts were to restore this wonderful Grade 2* listed former coaching inn and re-establish its purpose as a place for good food, drink and local employment. However, at the back of his mind was the vision to do so much more. In The Bildeston Crown he had the opportunity to develop his own outlet from which to sell his very own produce. Although not self-sufficient by any means, James was very happy to see beef from his own Red Poll herd and his lambs, as a regular on the menu. Meeting James and being offered the opportunity to build The Bildeston Crown to become the place to eat in Suffolk, quite literally marked Chris Lee as a chef to watch.

Chris Lee quickly attained AA two rosette status but by 2007, this had increased to AA 3 Rosettes. In the same month the restaurant entered the pages of The Good Food Guide, for the first year, with great style. The 2008 edition of the independent restaurant bible not only listed The Bildeston Crown as one of only 22 highlighted food venues to visit in Suffolk but also named Chris Lee as joint winner of the Up-and-coming chefs award for the whole country. Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor, The Good Food Guide, was quoted as saying:

“Chris Lee is an ambitious, self-taught chef. His ‘intricate cuisine gastronomique’ is definitely showy, but backed up by sound technique. Subtle flavours, complementary textures and dish combinations are analytically thought out.”

This was amongst the first of Chris’ plaudits. Only a year later, Times reviewer Giles Coren was equally positive with praise, calling the Bildeston Crown “the best little progressive kitchen in Suffolk”

In February 2009, Chris found himself in front of the cameras when he took on The Hairy Bikers …and won! The Hairy Bikers’ Tour of Britain is a television series in which Simon King and Dave Myers get on their bikes to find the best of each county’s larder and meet the local producers who are keeping traditional recipes alive. For Suffolk, the Bikers went up against Chris in a cook-off in which Restaurant diners decided who had created the dish that best defined Suffolk. Chris emerged as the winner with eight out of the nine votes. Perhaps not surprising for a chef whose aim is to put Suffolk on the map as a foodie destination!

Recognition has continued with The Bildeston Crown going through the finals of the NATIONAL ENJOY ENGLAND AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE, commonly known as the Tourism BAFTAs, two years running. In 2009 The Bildeston Crown was selected as one of only three finalists in the Hotel category for the whole of the UK but was awarded Silver, losing out to Gidleigh Park in Devon.

In 2010 Chris and Hayley were once again at the national awards, this time as finalists in the Taste of England category – and this time they brought home Gold to Suffolk. Later that year, in September, the couple were equally delighted to be awarded “Best Restaurant” at the Suffolk Food & Drink Awards.

In October 2011 The Bildeston Crown was ranked 107 in The Sunday Times “The Food List”, Britain’s Top 200 Restaurants, compiled in association with Harden’s. In addition The Bildeston Crown came third in the country’s Top Gastropubs in the same guide. In the same year, The Sunday Times writers were asked to name their favourite restaurants in the British Isles with a room attached … and The Bildeston Crown was in the top 20 – the only representative for Suffolk and indeed the east of England.

Our 3 AA Rosettes

Chris was first awarded 3 rosettes back in 2007. The rosettes were then suspended when in 2013 Chris and his wife Hayley joined Philip Turner to start up The Chestnut Group. However, within a year, Chris had been awarded 3 AA Rosettes for Chestnut’s first hostelry near Newmarket. Then in September 2015 Chris and Hayley returned to The Bildeston Crown to run the business as their own and started all over again.

We celebrated regaining our 3 AA Rosettes in September 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel with the team from The Bildeston Crown.


Disabled Access – we have a lift installed for access to the first floor

We would suggest the twin bedded Room 2, which has easy access from the lift, for those who need a little more assistance and space for manoeuvre. There is also a designated ‘drop off ‘ point in the car park with access to the hotel avoiding steps.

The Bildeston Crown is a listed building and as such has different levels, steps and stairs characteristic of its age and history.

If you would like further details about access to the hotel our staff would be happy to answer your questions.

Children  – Children are welcome at The Bildeston Crown.  Although we do not have a special menu designed for smaller appetites we are happy to discuss how we can modify dishes to suit a child’s needs and tastes. Bedrooms can accommodate up to an additional two Z-beds or cots for smaller children and the single Room 7 could be ideal for a teenager.

24 hour room service

Free WiFi throughout the hotel.

Please note that mobile phone reception in Bildeston is variable and can be very poor.

Ample free car parking is available on site