Orford Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Orford Castle

Suffolk, England, United Kingdom

Orford Castle was a 12th century fortified castle built during the reign of King Henry II.

Lily Johnson

18 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Orford Castle

Orford Castle in Suffolk is a striking medieval castle once used to assert royal authority in the area. With its keep still largely intact, it provides an intriguing look into the world of medieval Britain.

Orford Castle history

Orford Castle was originally built in 1165 under the orders of King Henry II, and was an impressive fortified stone structure surrounded by a curtain wall and several defensive mounds.

As a vast royal stronghold, it was intended to curtail the powers of the East Anglian barons, particularly Hugh Bigod of the nearby Framlingham Castle. It was also symbolically built on land previously owned by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket before he was exiled by the king, and could have been used to guard a possible entry point should the archbishop attempt to return to England from France with an army.

In 1189 the castle passed to Henry II’s son Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart, and when he was captured upon his return from the crusades, his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine assembled a fleet at Orford to deliver the ransom for his release.

The castle was garrisoned under his brother King John during the First Barons’ War, and was even captured by the French Prince Louis when he landed in East Anglia with the barons’ support. It was later handed to Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk who was a supporter of Henry III, and the kings son Edward would later inherit it.

Orford Castle today

Whilst much of Orford Castle has since been destroyed or eroded, the polygonal five-storey tower is extremely well-preserved and offers visitors a great insight into the history of this vital stronghold.

Exploring Orford Castle is a fascinating experience, with its labyrinth of halls and rooms virtually intact from the medieval period. This includes the upper hall, chapel, and the well featured in the basement.

Orford Castle’s museum also displays a series of local and historical artefacts dating back as far as Roman Britain, and encompassing everything from medieval coins to maps and photographs up to the present day.

Getting to Orford Castle

Orford Castle is located on the B1084 in Orford, Suffolk and can be accessed by leaving the A12 along the A1152. The nearest train station is Wickham Market, 8 miles away, while the PF Travel bus service 71 stops at Market Hill in Orford, a 2-minute walk away.

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