Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Orford Castle as it was

Ever since I was a very small boy one aspect of my fascination with historical matters has been that I am always attracted by reconstructions, be they drawings, paintings or models, of buildings as they were in the past. This applies to ruins where it is not too difficult to mentally reroof a building and to those sites which are now no more than foundations. Similarly I am intrigued by what the church or castle or whatever looked like inside when it was not a bare ruin.

Orford castle

Orford Castle

Image: Archant/ East Anglian Daily Times

Today I came across on the Internet a series of reconstructions of Orford Castle on the coast of Suffolk. All that now remains is the keep, built by King Henry II between 1165 and 1173, and designed to assert his authority in East Anglia. Nowadays it is very well known from virtually every book on the history and development of English castles.

A watercolour of Orford Castle in 1600, before the outer curtilege was destroyed, by John Norden

Image: Wikipedia 

The outer circuit of walls disappeared in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the keep mercifully escaped a similar fate in the early nineteenth century.

The online digital reconstructions by Bob Marshall, commissioned by English Heritage, can be seen here

There is also a painting by Alan Sorrell, who did so many reconstruction pictures for the Ministry of Works long before it evolved into newer organisations, and which shows a noble feast in the hall of the great tower at Orford. This can be seen at Image: Orford Castle, Suffolk

The history of the castle can be read on the English Heritage website at History of Orford Castle and this uses some of the Marshall images. There is further information, including a discussion of the source for the design of the impressive keep, at Orford Castle

Orford is a castle I have not yet managed to visit, but preparing this post makes me want to all the more.

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