If you’re looking to explore England’s medieval past, there are few better places than the county of Suffolk! Rich in castles and ancient buildings, this region was once an important military corridor and its architectural legacy is still apparent today. Here are five of the most well-known castles in Suffolk.
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Best Castles in Suffolk
Located near the village of Framlingham, this imposing castle has witnessed English history for centuries. In fact, Framlingham is one of only a handful English castles that can boast about never having been taken by force! The oldest parts of the castle date back to 1147; however it was mostly built during King Edward I’s time (1272-1307). The castle was built with the intention of keeping the Scots and French out of England. Unfortunately for the King, the Framlingham Castle was useless during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381; a large group of angry peasants stormed the castle and destroyed much of it. In 1648, during England’s Civil War, Parliamentary leader Oliver Cromwell used Framlingham as his military headquarters; he ordered it to be demolished. Fortunately, Cromwell’s instructions were never carried out fully. Some portions of Framlingham Castle are still standing today!
Orford Castle is located on Orford Ness – an island just off England’s coast near the town of Orford. This castle was built as a traditional motte-and-bailey castle. It dates back to 1138 and was probably built by Henry of Essex, son of Count Harold in this region. In 1216, the Castle fell into the hands of King John; he used it as a base for his troops while he fought with the French over his lost lands across the sea. The castle is well-known for its “shell keep” design; it has two large circular towers that sit either side of the main keep – which is rectangular in shape. The main keep houses the castle’s main living quarters. Orford Castle was heavily damaged during the English Civil War.
Bigod castle is located near the town of Bungay in Suffolk. This castle has an extremely unusual design and was once considered one of England’s most fascinating castles. Parts of Bigod Castle were built in 1066 – but most of it was constructed after 1100 by Roger Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, who was one of England’s most important earls during the medieval period. Unlike many other castles, which were built on flat land, Bigod Castle has a very unusual structure! Its layout is more like a maze or labyrinth than a traditional fortress. The castle is built on a sloping hillside, which makes it difficult for people to approach – and also means that the castle’s defenders had an advantage over invaders! Today, Bigod Castle is mostly ruined.
Bungay Castle is located near the town of Bungay – hence its name! This castle was originally built in 1067 by a Norman lord named Ralph de Gael. It was probably built as a motte-and-bailey structure. Later, Bungay was the site of many historic battles between English and French troops in the 13th century. During the English Civil War, Bungay Castle was held by the Parliamentary forces. However, it was eventually overrun by Oliver Cromwell’s men in 1648. The castle was stripped of its valuable contents and used as a prison until 1877. Today, the only visible remains of Bungay Castle are sections of its stone walls.
The final castle on our list today is Mettingham Castle! This fortress stands near the village of Mettingham in Norfolk. It sits on top of Mettingham Hill – hence its name! The castle is very similar to many other Norman motte-and-bailey castles that were built around this time. The castle was built in the 12th century and remained in use until the 15th century. By this time, strategic castles were considered obsolete by King Henry VIII’s government. Mettingham Castle was demolished during this period. Today, the only remaining evidence of this castle is a large mound on top of the hill.
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