Orford Castle is built to a totally unique design; it was one of the later Castles built by Henry II between 1165 and 1173 and features a circular keep with three square bastions. The only two other similar English Castles are Conisbrough in Yorkshire and Chilham in Kent (with some vague similarities to Odiham in Hampshire). The Castle was once surrounded by a curtain wall, but this has vanished aside from some earthworks.
The Castle was built to contain the ambitious and troublesome Hugh Bigod whose Castle at Framlingham is further up the River Alne, the estuary of which Orford stands at. When Orford Castle was built Orford was a thriving port, although it has since been almost enclosed by Orford Ness. In order to finance the construction of Orford Henry confiscated Bigod's Castles at Framlingham and Bungay and then sold them back to the Earl!
Once the Bigods had ceased to be a problem Orford became another coastal defence Castle, but it never seems to have seen any action and Edward III eventually sold it to the Earl of Suffolk and the Castle's history from this point is uneventful.
Orford Castle is owned by English Heritage and is open throughout the year - a visit should be combined with a visit to Framlingham.
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