Eye Castle, Suffolk…

Eye Castle is a motte and bailey castle located in the Suffolk market town of Eye. Constructed on the orders of William Malet and finished by his son, Robert, the castle was constructed between 1066 – 1071 and was the caput (administrative centre) for the estate known as the Honour of Eye. The first castle was constructed out of wood.

In 1102, Robert Malet’s estates were confiscated by Henry I (1100 – 1135) this was due to Robert Malet’s support for Robert Curthouse’s claim to the English throne. Henry I granted the castle to Stephen de Blois who would go on to be crowned King Stephen (1135 – 1154).

The castle was next granted to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry II (1154 -1189) in 1156. It is most likely that it was Thomas Becket that was responsible for construction of the stone castle. After Beckets murder in 1170, the castle returned to the control of the crown.

In 1173, the the castle was sacked by the forces Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, who had revolted against the rule of Henry II in cahoots Henry’s son, also called Henry (or Henry the Young King).

The crown would retain ownership of the castle for the rest of the 12th Century, with repairs and improvements being made during this time. Henry III (1216 – 1272) would go on to grant the castle to his younger brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. Edmund, Richards son, would go on to inherit the castle.

During the Second Barons War (1264 – 1267), the castle was sacked for a second time. The castle would go on to be granted to the de Uffords, Earls of Suffolk in 1337 and the de la Poles in 1381. By this time the castle was said to have been ‘worthless’.

By the 16th Century, very little of the castle was still standing apart from some walls and a tower. In 1592, a windmill was erected on the top of the motte. A mill was in existence on the motte until 1844.

In 1844, a folly was built on top of the motte known as Kerrison’s Folly. This building resembled a ‘mock keep’. This was damaged in 1965 and 1979 and today is in a state of ruin.

In recent years, a viewing platform has been added to the top of the motte and work has been carried out to renew and revamp the site of the castle.

Today, the castle is open during reasonable daylight hours between Easter and the end of October. During winter the castle is only open at weekends during reasonable daylight hours.

Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle Motte
Eye Castle
Eye Castle

Orford Castle, Suffolk…

Orford Castle in Suffolk is a royal castle that was began on the orders of Henry II in 1165 in order to ensure his control of the region. The castle was completed in 1173.

The design of the castle at the time was unique, with its central circular tower and three attached towers that project out from the circular tower’s main body. The keep’s central tower rises 27 metres and is 15 metres across.

The design of the keep is based on the one root of two ratio that is often found in English churches of the period. The castle is constructed of Caen stone, Northamptonshire limestone, coralline stone. Much of the stonework internally is ashlar, finely cut, dressed masonry.

Internally, the castle was designed so that the most important rooms caught the sun first thing in the morning, internals doors and carefully placed windows were added for draught proofing. The roof above the upper hall would have oringinally been domed, with a steeple. Orford Castle’s design has attracted much attention, as it combines features of earlier fortresses with those of later fortifications, though this theory has been discounted by some historians, instead with them suggesting the design was more a case of political symbolism.

The castle would have had originally a curtain wall with flanking towers and probably a fortified gatehouse. The construction of the castle is recorded as having cost £1,413, which equates roughly to 10% of royal revenue at the time. It is believed that construction was conducted by master mason Alnoth, though this cannot be corroborated.

Orford Castle seems to have declined in importance after the collapse of the rebellion of 1173-1174 and the death of Henry II. During the First Barons War (1215-1217) the castle was captured by the forces of Prince Louis of France in 1216. The castle was later returned to the control of the crown under the Treaty of Lambeth.

Henry III and Edward I appointed several different governors of the castle over the course of their reigns. In 1336, the castle was granted to Robert de Ufford, 1st Earl of Suffolk. At this point the castle effectively ceased to be a a royal castle.

The castle would pass between several different notable families over the coming centuries. The importance of Orford as a harbour declined as the harbour silted up, making access for trade more difficult. This resulted in the importance of Orford Castle as a centre of local government declining.

By the 18th Century, Orford Castle was in poor condition. Only part of the bailey wall survived and much of the upper floors of the keep had decayed. In 1754, the Seymour-Conway family purchased the castle. In 1834, Francis Seymour-Conway undertook some conservation work on the castle. As part of these works, a new roof and upper floors were installed. These new upper floors were furnished so that they could be used as an apartment for guests.

By the mid 19th Century, all of the bailey wall had vanished. Most of the stone had been taken to use in local buildings, which is very common with many castles.

Sir Arthur Churchman purchased Orford Castle in 1930 and gifted it to the Orford Town Trust in 1930. Between 1930 and 1962 when Orford Castle came into the ownership of the Ministry of Works, the castle was used as a radar station during the Second World War.

Today, only the keep remains and extensive earthworks from where the curtain walls were robbed out. The castle is now managed by English Heritage and open to the public.

Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep
Orford Castle Keep

Freckenham Castle, Suffolk…

Freckenham Castle is a Norman motte and bailey castle located in the Suffolk village of Freckenham, which lies very close to the border with Cambridgeshire. The manor of Freckeham was heavily associated with the Bishops of Rochester throughout the medieval period and it has been suggested that the bishops built the castle at Freckeham in order to control the manor of Freckenham as it is a long way from the see of Rochester.

The manor of Freckenham is believed to have been originally granted to the Bishops of Rochester in either 895 or 896 AD by Alfred the Great. Between 895/896 and 1066, there were brief periods when the manor wasn’t held by the Bishops of Rochester. One of the most notable of these periods was when Vikings invaded the East of England, seizing the manor. The Vikings would later sell the manor back to the Bishops of Rochester.

Prior to the Norman invasion in 1066, the manor at Freckenham had passed into the control of Harold Godwinson (later to be King Harold) after he drove out the Danes who had seized the manor from the bishops.

After the invasion of 1066, the manor was granted to to Odo of Bayeux, William the Conqueror’s half brother. However, it was soon restored to the control of the Bishops of Rochester when Odo fell from favour. The manor at Freckenham continued in the bishops ownership until about 1536/1537 when it was sold to Sir Ralph Warren.

The castle would originally of consisted of a motte of roughly 12 metres in height by 12 metres in 12metres in breadth. It originally had two baileys, with the motte standing in the north-east corner of the inner bailey, with the outer bailey lying to the north. The outer bailey at Freckenham has been likened to the bailey at Framlingham Castle or the constabulary at Eye Castle. A large ditch divided the baileys. Ditches would have no doubt formed part of the outer defences of the castle, though it may have utilised two rivers nearby as an additional line of defence.

It is thought the initial construction of the castle would have been of wood, with the castle later being rebuilt in stone. It is thought the castle had fallen out of use by 14th Century.

Today, the most noticeable remnant of the castle is the still large motte which can be seen from the road. Other earthworks remain but are on private land though are viewable from footpaths.

Freckenham Castle Motte
Freckenham Castle Motte
Freckenham Castle Motte
Freckenham Castle Motte

Mettingham Castle, Suffolk…

Mettingham Castle is a fortified manor house in Suffolk. In 1342 Sir John de Norwich was granted a licence to crenellate his existing property. When Sir John received the licence to crenellate he made significant alterations to the castle, these included adding a court with moat and gateway to the north of the of the existing property. A court to the south with a moat would later be added. A large stone wall with gatehouse were erected to protect the castle. The building work at the castle was completed by Sir John’s wife, Dame Margaret.

The castle remained the property of the de Norwich family until 1394 when it was given to a college of secular cannons. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1542, the castle passed between several different private owners. In 1562 the castle is described as having servant accommodation, a bakehoue, brewery, storehouses, a kitchen and an aisled hall.

Much of the castle at Mettingham was demolished in the 18th Century to allow for the construction of a farm house. This farm house would go on to be pulled down in about 1880 and replaced by a new farm house that reused stonework of the original castle.

Remnants of the curtain wall and the gatehouse, plus other stone walls and earthworks of the castle still remain.

The castle is now a private residence.

Mettingham Castle Gatehouse
Mettingham Castle Gatehouse

Bungay Castle, Suffolk….

Bungay Castle in Suffolk is located just off the main high street in Bungay. The Norman castle dates from about 1165 and is the second to be built on the site, having replaced an earlier fortification built around 1100. The castle was owned by the Bigod family who were granted lands in East Anglia at Bungay and Framlingham as a reward for their support by William the Conqueror.

The castle was built on a site that took advantage of a curve in the River Waveney for protection. Although the castle is not the largest in relative terms, it was constructed with walls that were at least 5-7m thick and which probably stood 33m in height.

During the 12th Century, the Bigod family were involved in several rebellions against the crown, including the Anarchy, with their properties at Bungay and Framlingham being confiscated on several occasions and then being returned to them. The castle at Bungay stayed in the ownership of the Bigod family until 1297, when upon Roger Bigod’s death it reverted to the crown.

After this, the state of the castle at Bungay deteriorated, in 1483 the castle passed into the ownership of the Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk. It remained in their ownership until 1987 when the Duke of Norfolk gave the castle to the people of Bungay. The castle is now owned by the Bungay Castle Trust. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

There is a café and visitor centre on site and will be able to see ruins of the gatehouse, curtain wall and parts of the keep.

Gatehouse, Bungay Castle
Gatehouse, Bungay Castle
Curtain Wall, Bungay Castle
Curtain Wall, Bungay Castle

Clare Castle, Suffolk….

Clare Castle in Suffolk is located in the small county town of Clare. Originally a wooden motte and bailey castle built by Richard de Gilbert (de Clare) soon after the Norman conquest, it was later rebuilt in stone. Whereas most Norman castles have one bailey, Clare Castle was different in having two. The motte is 850ft wide and 100ft tall.

The two baileys were protected by large fortifications, including ditches and palisades. They stretched to the north and east of the motte and were likely to have been linked by a drawbridge.

The castle itself is built on the site of a former Anglo-Saxon hall, as is common amongst Norman castles, and is surrounded by three parks.

Remains of Clare Castle Keep
The Remains of Clare Castle Keep.
Clare Castle Motte
Clare Castle Motte

The castle continued to be in the possession of the de Clare family until the 15th Century  when in 1405 the castle passed to the Mortimers of Wigmore on Elizabeth de Clare’s death. After this transfer of ownership, the castle later became property of the crown and steadily deteriorated over the centuries.

All that remains of the castle now is a wall of the keep, the motte on which it stands, some of the castle’s inner bailey stone wall and some earthworks. The castle is located in Clare Castle Country Park.

The Inner Bailey Wall, Clare Castle
The Inner Bailey Wall, Clare Castle