I’ve shifted to the east coast and Orford Ness, which is a spit of land mainly made up of shingle. As well as hosting a lighthouse, there’s a castle. The castle has a distinct design – three rectangular towers triangulating a circular keep – and was built by Henry II in 1173.
The castle is unusual in not only being intact, but there are still records of its construction. The limestone came from Normandy, the timber from Scarborough. Clearly distance was no hindrance for a kingly project, which cost a whopping £1414 9s 2d… sorry that’s old money, but I’m sure somebody will know how to convert it!
With its draught proof doors and windows, high quality stone work in the interior, Orford had the royal stamp of approval.
However, under King John, it was captured by Prince Louis of France who invaded in England in 1216…. whoa, I hear you say. Wasn’t William the Conquer the last French invader? Well, it seems that John was so unpopular with the barons, they invited the French prince over to stir up trouble. The future king of France went on to capture a large part of the south-east England, paraded into London and was proclaimed King, although never crowned.
The barons then switched sides the moment King John started to ail and since John’s heir, Henry III, was only nine years old, it seemed appropriate to line up behind the boy king. Probably because being only a child, they could have more influence over him than the French invader.
Louis suffered a few defeats and was eventually paid off and told not to think he could ever be king of England again.
As for Orford Castle, although the keep remains relatively intact, the surrounding curtain wall and towers have long vanished. During WWII it was used as a radar emplacement and now belongs to English Heritage.
Local legend tells of a Wild Man of Orford, who in 1167 was captured in the nets of fishermen, sent to the castle he had a miserable time being tortured and exhibited only feral behaviour. Eventually he escaped having said nothing. The story spawned carvings of the ‘wild man’s on local baptismal fonts. Rumours also suggested mermaids…
With another tug on his net, Peter dragged the tangled ropes into his small boat. The fish writhed and wriggled, as did fingers of a hand, which poked out between the shells and fins of the catch. Peter started and dropped the net.
“Oswald, we’ve got another one!” he shouted to the boatswain. “It’s a hairy one. What shall we do? Throw it back?”
Oswald scratched his nose. “Does it have legs? ‘Cos I’m not dragging it along the beach if it can’t walk.”
Peter crept towards the net and poked around the seaweed. He pulled a face. “Legs. Covered in weeds, but they’re legs all right. A man’s going by the thickness.”
His friend huffed. “We’ll have to hand him in. Take him up to the castle.”
“Do you think we’ll ever get one?” Peter started to unravel the netting and the man curled up into a ball, his matted hair covering his face.
“One of them pretty ones?” Oswald snorted. “Bah, not likely. Bloody North Sea is freezing, why would anyone want to live in it?”
Peter stared out over the choppy waters. “Just would make fishing a little more fun, I suppose.”