Once symbols of authority and fear, castles were constructed to enforce a ruler’s power over the people. Thankfully us ordinary people can now frequent England’s magnificent castles without so much as an invitation from the royal family; and when we do, we’re given a glimpse into a distant past, far different from our own. To help you make the most of this glimpse, we’ve put together some surprising facts about Suffolk’s castles that bring them to life.
More than 800 years since it was built, Framlingham Castle is still an impressive sight (c) Ian Dalgleish
THEY WERE SOMETIMES THE PRODUCT OF NERVES
King Henry II built Orford Castle between 1165 and1173, at a total cost of £1414 9s 2d (about £753,510 in today’s money). It was strategic move, rather than a frivolous one: at that time the surrounding area was inhabited by powerful lords who posed a potential threat to King Henry should there ever be a revolution. Tactically positioned by the coast, Orford Castle was also important in the protection of wool and lead exportation to Europe – it operated as a centre for controlling trade, and duties were stored in its windowless treasury.
THEY’VE HAD SOME UNUSUAL GUESTS
As an old coastal village, Orford has its fair share of myths and legends. The strangest, however, regards the Wildman of Orford. One day in the 12th century, a group of fishermen caught a strange creature in their nets. Naked and completely covered in hair, he resembled a man, yet he seemed loath to leave the water, and uttered an unknown language. They took the Wildman to the castle, then inhabited by Bartholomew de Granville. Perturbed by the Wildman’s strange language and lack of faith, De Granville chained him up and tortured him. However, the story does have a happy ending for the Wildman. One day the guards allowed him to go swimming in the estuary, enclosing him in with nets. Without a moment’s hesitation, he leapt over the nets and swam out to sea, never to be seen again…
Orford Castle is at the centre of one of Suffolk’s strangest myths
THEIR GRANDEUR STANDS THE TEST OF TIME
The imposing castle at Framlingham was built in the late 12th century, after the original Norman motte and bailey castle was destroyed during the revolution against King Henry II from 1173 to 1174. Roger Bigod, who most likely built the original motte and bailey castle, accompanied William the Conqueror in his invasion. Unlike Orford Castle, Framlingham has no keep as Roger Bigod didn’t believe they were necessary to the defences of the castle; instead, the castle was enclosed by a curtain wall punctuated by thirteen individual towers used for scouting oncoming invasions. Today the curtain wall still emanates a majestic aura – you can envision the grandeur and power that would have radiated from the castle for all to see.
THEY’VE HAD SOME SURPRISING USES
Both Framlingham and Orford Castles were important during World War II. Orford Castle was used as a storehouse for radar equipment, while the mysterious Orford Ness was being used as a testing site; and according to army plans, Framlingham Castle would have been a base from which to defend England had there been a German invasion.
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