Framlingham castle dates back to the early 7th Century, with the first fortification being erected by Raedwald of the East Angles. In its present form, the castle dates from the late 12th Century.
When the Normans conquered England, Framlingham was retained as a property of the crown. It remained in the hands of the monarch until it was granted to Roger Bigod in 1101AD. Roger's son, Hugh, most likely began construction on an early timber motte fortification around 1140AD.
Hugh fell out of favour with Henry II, and the castle was confiscated by the crown and destroyed. However, when Richard ascended the throne, Hugh was dead, and his son Roger was able to regain royal favour and ownership of Framlingham was returned to the his line.
It was Roger that undertook construction of the stone castle, with work commencing around 1177AD. The project took approximately 40 years, and upon its completion, the defences consisted of an impressive curtain wall, punctuated by thirteen towers, and surrounded by a significant earthwork. The strength of these fortifications meant that a keep was never deemed necessary. Should an attacker succeed in mounting the wall, individual sections could be isolated to prevent further incursion. The towers were hollow, bridged by planks which could be removed to prevent an invader crossing from one wall section to another.
These defences proved insufficient to the task of defending against a siege, however. In 1216AD, Roger Bigod supported the baron's revolt that ultimately resulted in the magna carta. King John moved against him, and the castle held out for two days before surrendering.
Upon John's death, the castle was again returned to the Bigods. It changed hands a number of times over the following centuries until finally coming to rest with the Howard family. It was Thomas Howard who embellished the castle with Tudor brickwork in the later part of the 15th Century.
Henry VIII confiscated the castle for the crown. Edward, his ill-fated son succeeded him and granted Framlingham to his half-sister, Mary. In 1553, Mary was in residence at Framlingham when the Earl of Norfolk came to bring her news of Edward's death and her ascension to the throne.
Mary restored the castle to the Howards, but when her half-sister Elizabeth came to the throne a few years later, she once again confiscated Framlingham for the crown and put it to use as a royal prison. Upon Elizabeth's death, the castle was returned to the Howards.
In 1635AD, Framlingham was sold to Sir Robert Hitcham. Following his death, the castle was bequeathed to Pembroke College, Cambridge, upon condition that the internal buildings were demolished and a poor house constructed within its walls. The poor house was to remain in use until 1839AD.
Subsequently, Framlingham was put to use for a variety of civic purposes, including service as county courthouse, a school and a workhouse, until finally passing into the care of the state in 1913AD.
Today, the imposing curtain wall and towers are all that remain of the original castle. Framlingham avoided involvement in the civil war, and the curtain wall is thus in excellent condition, untouched by siege canons. The visitor can walk a complete circuit, with magnificent views across the surrounding countryside.
Within the walls, the poor house remains standing in excellent condition. It incorporates part of the earlier medieval hall, and houses a visitors' centre and exhibitions.
Framlingham castle commands an excellent position overlooking the surrounding countryside, flanked on most sides by an unspoiled rural landscape. The approach to the castle winds gently up from the town - which is itself pleasant and well worth a visit.