Framlingham Castle

239 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2017

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Travelled with

Adult family

Reasons for trip

As we approached the signs warned “Bloody Mary Returns.” Despite other indications, for example in the English Heritage handbook, there was no additional charge for this event. Jousting or hawking would have been different.

In the great court we could see a small group of parents, grandparents and of course many children clustered before a woman in black Tudor costume. She was proclaiming herself Queen of England, it seemed. Her audience was certainly enthralled. Nearby was a pavilion with more colourfully dressed Tudors preparing to play contemporary music.

Once the proclamation was over, received with enthusiastic applause, attention turned to the musicians. Their attraction, like the “queen’s,” was sufficient to distract young and – as we noticed later – old from the chute descending from battlements across the courtyard. They even managed to persuade children, parents and again grandparents to join in Tudor dancing. If English Heritage had aimed to enthuse its visitors there was no doubt it would succeed. A few medieval weapons and paraphernalia had already been purchased from the shop – fortunately not the executioner’s axe, we noticed.

Our visit took us around the battlements: there doesn’t seem to be an easy access, which is perhaps a good thing in terms of congestion or risk. It is a good viewpoint for events, however, with a close view of some features of the castle.

Beyond the remains of curtain walls there is a splendid view of the Mere, for some time regarded as the remains of a moat it is now seen as a mirror for the grandeur of the castle as well as an impressive detour-route for visitors. It must have been a very long detour when the Mere was five times larger than today. Much closer in there are banks and sunken ways that could have become a moat if needed. There is also an impressive view of the countryside around, including the college founded in memory of Prince Albert and replacing Sir Robert Hitcham’s Jacobean foundation. In the town there is still a primary school named after Hitcham, however.

After watching fathers and grandfathers follow children into the spiral tunnel we went by more conventional stairs to the small museum on an upper floor of the former workhouse that now serves as cafe, shop and information centre as well. There are local artifacts and presentations in the museum, mainly from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The information centre displays are extremely good: interactive and not at all pedantic. There are hands-on items too.

Outside “Bloody Mary’s” executioner was warming up his audience with the several kinds of death available in Tudor times. No doubt of the enthusiasm on display as they shouted “Burn him!” “Hang him!” or “Off with his head!” in turn. Perhaps “The full Monty” was a bit anachronistic but the description was humorously grim. We stayed just for “Off with her head” – being Mary Queen of Scots with a graphic narrative of the executioner’s nervous failure to complete his task at once and not being able to hold up the severed head because Mary’s wig came off in his hand. The children seemed delighted with it all though perhaps some adults felt a little queasy.

This time we did not visit the church, although that is one of the finest in a county of remarkably fine churches. We will again, as we will return to the castle as well as the delightful little town of Framlingham. We may even travel the mile or so northwards to Shawsgate Vineyard, where we have sampled and bought wine before.


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