January 1 – New Years Day

A visit to Framlingham Castle

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

We had great plans for New Years Day to visit two castles, at Orford and at Framlingham. Both are English Heritage properties and in the winter are traditionally only open on the weekends. However, after researching I found that both would be open on New Years Day.

We set off in good time to Orford stopping at Campsey Ash church to have a look. As we got out of the car Mike realised that his camera was completely out of power. We had no choice but to go back home to plug in the camera to recharge it. We had a game of Ticket to Ride while we were waiting.

As we were now making a later start we went straight to Orford Castle only to find that it was not open after all. So we set off again in the direction we had come in towards Framlingham Castle. On the way, we stopped at St Michael’s church in Rendham which despite our great plans was to be our only geocache find for the day. The church was not open but we did find some ‘Button’ headstones. I wonder if they could possibly be relatives? There was a nice village sign in Rendham.

At St Mary the Virgin church in Sweffling we collected the numbers we needed for the multi without too many problems however they send us through a gate into a small field. This did not seem at all right and it wasn’t. A guy came over and told us in no uncertain terms that this was private property. We apologised and beat a hasty retreat. We did not feel at all comfortable going back to the track for a second look as we knew we were being watched. A lady walking her dog asked if we would like to see inside the church and very obligingly went off to collect the key. The church had a Queen Anne Royal Coat of Arms. Below it was a wooden decalogue. Beside the altar was a ‘Crown of Thorns’ sculpture in wood by Simon Clements. His work is very realistic and hard to tell that it is made of wood as it looks like fabric. There is also a lovely modern stained glass window. The Sweffling village sign has a windmill and some swallows and is very beautiful.

St Michael the Archangel church at Framlingham is a wonderful church. It is full of many special things. There is a Charles II Royal Coat of Arms dated 1661. It has some 14th-century wall painting and a 15th-century octagonal font decorated with four lions and four woodwoses. A woodwose or wild man of the woods is a mythical figure that appears in artwork and literature of medieval Europe. The church also had a variety of wall monuments and a hatchment to the 390 Bombardment Group of the US Air Force which was stationed in Parham during WWII.

The really amazing things were the lovely tombs. The sides of the tomb of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and his wife Francis de Vere was beautifully painted and gilded and displays the arms of Howard and de Vere. Henry who died in 1547 was the first cousin of Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard, two wives of Henry VIII. The tomb of Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII is also there. FitzRoy was the only illegitimate child of Henry VIII to be acknowledged. Another tomb was to Mary FitzAlan and Margaret Audley who both held the title of Duchess of Norfolk and we both wives of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. The tomb of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his duchess Anne of York, daughter of King Edward IV has wonderful stone carvings around it. The tomb of Sir Robert Hitcham who purchased Framlingham estates in 1634 has an angel in each corner holding the black marble cover stone. His will stated that the castle, save for the outer walls, be demolished and the stone used to build a poorhouse. The inner buildings were duly demolished and a poorhouse was built in its place.

Framlingham Castle was open and despite the shower of rain, we headed inside to see it. It is a motte and bailey Norman Castle built before 1148. It had a curtain wall with thirteen towers which still stand today. By the end of the 13th-century, it had become a luxurious home, surrounded by extensive parkland used for hunting and in 1476 the castle was passed to John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. After the death of Edward VI and subsequent deposition of Lady Jane Grey, Mary 1 was proclaimed queen while she was at Framlingham where she had been assembling a military force.

We walked all around the walls of Framlingham Castle with great views in all directions including a lovely sunset and a view of Framlingham College. The chimneys at Framlingham castle are rather lovely. The carved brick chimneys dating from the Tudor period can be seen around the Inner Court, each with a unique design and all but three of these was purely ornamental.  The poorhouse forms three wings, the 17th century Red House to the south, the 18th-century middle wing, and the northern end which incorporates part of the original 12th-century Great Hall; all of the building was subject to 19th-century renovation work. Five carved, medieval stone heads are set into the poorhouse, taken from the older medieval castle buildings.

New Years Day 2018 was a lovely day despite its false start, maybe our days are better unplanned, unfolding as they may.