Suffolk 1 - Framlingham Castle /a trip to Chocolate box Constable country/Norfolk versus Suffolk

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July 15th 2017
Published: July 15th 2017
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Suffolk /Norfolk. Norfolk versus Suffolk. Which county is the best? Before we travelled we were told that some folks prefer Suffolk. Having never been we could not really say. Today though we were after our water boarding treatment going to try Suffolk and make a decision. Would we be able to make a decision though on just this one visit to Framlingham Castle. Probably not. It is a little like trying something once and saying you don't like it. You have to give it a fair trial and one day wouldnt be enough to make that decision.. So today was going to be just a tester. Perhaps we would come back at some later date.

We set off saying goodbye to our lovely Norwich site and hit the road to the next county. We thought it wouldn't be that much different. So many of our English and Welsh counties look the same. The same villages and towns. The same fields, boundaries of stone or hedges, similar cottages and houses. Each are the same but yet slightly different and I was sure that Suffolk would be both similar but different to its neighbour.

We headed south and approached the county boundary with its sign proclaiming we were in Constable county. A county of Flatford Mill and an artist famous for his chocolate box picture perfect landscapes which grace the tops of biscuit tins, boxes of chocolate and Christmas Cards. Not to my taste they are too sugar sweet. The countryside looked nothing like the pictures and they create an impression of a false landscape. However, as we approached the pretty little town of Framlingham at lunchtime it looked interesting. It was busy and bustling and had its fair share of interesting shops. Grand dads and grand mothers were taking their grandchildren for picnics on the castle lawns. Couples were sitting on the grass or on the tables in a nearby cafe. Mums sat together whilst their children ran expending energy. Are the children on holiday I wondered? Perhaps - not where we come from but perhaps they have finished for the summer in this part of the world.

Parking was easy . The car park was large and we parked Suzy in a huge field amongst other motorhomes and cars. It was a short walk to the castle where we picked up our wrist bands for our free entry courtesy of being members of CADW. The sun shone on us as we walked over the bridge and entered the castle. From the outside it looked impressive. A curtain wall all the way round with a deep moat . It was every inch the picture perfect castle.

As always the first castle on the site was a motte and bailey. This was built in 1148 but was destroyed by Henry II after the revolt of 1173 -1174. The castle was sieged at the time of King John in 1216. By the 13th century the castle had become a luxurious home surrounded by grounds and parkland used for hunting. The castle was given to Pembroke College in the year 1636. It was at this time that all the interior buildings were demolished to make way for a poorhouse.

Once inside the castle was just a huge space with no rooms nor any sign of anything that had once been. Did this disappoint us ? Well if I am honest yes it did. There were no kitchens nor dungeons, no rooms with fireplaces and windows . We were able to walk around the battlements though and this did make up for the lack of much else inside.

We read that the castle was used as a poorhouse or workhouse right up to 1839. The workhouse building was pretty and did not look like the usual poorhouses. It was not immense but looked friendly. Friendly is a strange word for a building particularly a poor house but it felt that way. It could almost have been a grand town house of some noble . Hard to imagine the poor living in the building and working for their keep. Perhaps though it was a pleasant place to live and looking at it we felt it hard to imagine what it must have been like to live there.

The castle poorhouse was closed in 1839 and used as a drillhall and county court. By 1913 the college placed the castle into the hands of the Commissioner of Works. Framlingham Castle was used by the British military as part of the regional defences against a potential German invasion during the war years. So like many castles it has a chequered history.

So there is not a lot left of the castle but it did play a pivotal part in English history . It was the setting for a crucial moment in English history: the crowning of Mary Tudor as the first Queen of England in July 1553. Her story had included much drama, subterfuge risk and chase. She was the first daughter of Henry VIII and his wife Katherine of Aragon . Born before the Kings Great Matter - his divorce and subsequent marriage to Ann Boleyn she was pushed from pillar to post as Henry called her illigitimate and as a woman not worthy to inherit the throne of the land. arly in 1553, there was a question as to who would become the next monarch of England.

Some of Edward’s old courtiers – including the ambitious Dudley family – tried to position a young girl, Lady Jane Grey, to be the Queen of England. Lady Jane had a vague claim to the throne – but was favoured by some nobles due to her Protestant religion. Mary Tudor despite what Henry did , had a much stronger claim to become Queen. However, Lady Jane was forced onto the throne immediately after Edward’s death before Mary could reach London to stake her authority. Search parties were sent out to capture Mary and imprison her so she fled Ipswich and ended up in Framlingham Castle which the Tudors owned. She stayed there for some time strengthening her position and gathering troops around her. Whilst there she gained support. This castle certainly played a pivotal part in English history. If only those walls could talk . In the end Mary was proclaimed Queen of England inside the castle on July 19th 1553.

As there was not much to see we headed back to Suzy and hit the road again heading back for Norfolk and our last stately home Oxborough Hall and our last campsite at the Queens other home Sandringham. What did we think of Suffolk ? Well I think we need to come back and spend longer here. Perhaps another holiday.


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