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Orford Castle, Suffolk

See also St Bartholomew Church, Orford

Castle exterior by Barbara Ballard The first thing you notice about Orford castle, designed as a fortified home, is its unusual 18 sided tower keep (98.5 feet high) looming over the town of Orford. It was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II to serve as a deterrent to invasion by helping to control the coast. The castle has three square turrets and a forebuilding. It cost £1413 to build. It was captured by the French in 1217. It is almost intact, but the curtain walls are gone.

The castle was constructed of three different kinds of stone: local limestone, sandy oolite, and limestone from Normandy. In front of the castle two 6 pounder muzzle loading cannon, dating from 1800, stand guard. They were the kind designed to use on a frigate.

Entry staircase by Keith Evans courtesy Geograph The triangular arch above the entry dates from Norman times. Just inside the door is an entrance area to the keep. Below this area are a cell and a latrine passage. The castle has carved capitals at its main entrance from the lobby area and once had doors that could be secured. A spiral staircase leads to all the floors.

Chapel in the castle by Barbara Ballard The lower hall is circular and has a stone bench and fireplace. It was used for eating and meeting. A side passage leads to a kitchen with a stone sink and two fireplaces. Another passage leads to a latrine. A set of stairs leads up to a private room below which is another private room. Each had their own fireplace. Other steps lead to a triangular chapel, located above the entrance lobby. It has capitals carved with Norman designs. Near the chapel was the chaplainís room. Another set of stairs leads from the lower hall down to the basement with a well and storage rooms.

Main staircase in the castle by Simon Leatherdale courtesy Geograph geograph Going up another set of spiral stairs from the lower hall leads to an upper hall. There are doorways high on the walls that lead to turret chambers. They were reached by a catwalk above the original conical roof and walls. A kitchen was on this floor with a fireplace as well as a private room. Another set of stairs leads still upwards to a cistern that was filled with rainwater.

View from the castle by Barbara Ballard Climb again to the roof to take in the far reaching views over the town, the river Alde and over to Orford Ness and its lighthouse. The turrets were used but are not open for visitors. They served as watchtowers as well as fighting areas. One had an oven for baking.

There is a display on the history of the town in the castle.

Visitor Information

Orford Castle
Orford, Suffolk
Tel. 0 1394 450 472
Open: April-end Sep, daily, 10am-6pm; Oct-end March, Thu-Mon, 10am-4pm
Car park

Photos © by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
main staircase by Simon Leathedale; entry staircase by Keith Evans

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Some of our Suffolk Articles
St Mary Magdalene
Melford Hall
St Michaels Church Framlingham
Framlingham Castle
Museum of East Anglian Life
St Bartholomew Church, Orford
Orford Castle
Church of St Peter and St Paul, Lavenham
Ickworth House
Other England Articles

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