The castle keep is not the only must-see historic building in Orford. Wander into St Bartholomew’s church just off the market place to be amazed by its treasures and visit the spectacular chancel ruins to the east, among the finest examples of Norman architecture in Suffolk
- The beautiful setting in Orford with its ancient castle keep and impossibly pretty Georgian cottages set back from the green sward leading down to the quay.
- The sturdy church tower rising dramatically above the village and the fact that you can wander among the spectacular Norman ruins of the former chancel at the east end.
How old is it?
The building of the castle by Henry II turned Orford from a small fishing village into a thriving port needing a substantial church and, by the 14th century, the thriving town needed a new nave to house the swelling congregation.
The church’s treasures fell prey to the Puritan William Dowsing in 1643 whose rampage included the lifting of 11 ‘Popish inscriptions in brasses’ but thankfully you can still see some of East Anglia’s best brass figures here and just look at those costumes!
The excellent brief guide available in the church will give you more fascinating detail about what you can discover.
Benjamin Britten (understandably) loved the church. The premiere of his acclaimed ‘Noyes Fludde’ – all about Noah and the Flood – in 1958 went down in history as a major musical event in the church and is depicted in the dramatic sculpture at the west end by Liliane Yauner given to Saint Bartholomew’s by the Britten-Pears Foundation to mark the 50th anniversary of the Aldeburgh Festival.
Thousands of visitors call in as part of their stay in this gorgeous little coastal town, yet you can still find space to sit quietly and reflect on the greater things in life. Sitting in the Chapel of Our Lady in the Wall you might contemplate the Norman arch that once led through to the north transept of the cross-shaped or ‘cruciform’ church and the great pillar that once supported the Norman tower that rose from the centre.
There are musical concerts galore due to the great acoustics of this broad and lofty church.
Since you’ve come through some of the best countryside in East Anglia to reach Orford at the end of a road that leads to nowhere but the marshes and the coast, you would be wise to make the most of it.
There’s plenty of free information available at the little bookstall in the church and you can read it all in comfort at the little café just off the market square or in the quayside tea house with only the sound of gulls and of halyards clanging against the masts on a breezy day.
You’ll soon fill the day, perhaps heading first to the castle keep with its magnificent views across the River Ore, the famous sand spit cutting the town off from the sea and protecting the RSPB’s Havergate Island reserve ‘Suffolk’s only island’.
And some of the best walks in Suffolk.
The lovely riverside town of Woodbridge is at the heart of some of the most beautiful areas of Suffolk. You are not far from the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its wildlife wetlands and ancient heaths, or Rendlesham Forest with walking and cycle trails and a challenging play area for the kids to let off steam.
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