Framlingham Castle and Red House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Castle Street, Framlingham, Suffolk, IP13 9BP


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Statutory Address:
Castle Street, Framlingham, Suffolk, IP13 9BP

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 28666 63768


Framlingham Castle built by the Bigod family in the C12, the present masonry curtain walls and towers replacing an earlier castle on the site thought to have been built c.1100. The Red House was built in the C17.

Reasons for Designation

The standing remains of Framlingham Castle and the Red House are listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: as an exceptionally well-preserved medieval stronghold, its origins in the early C12 adding to phases of occupation dating from at least the Anglo-Saxon period. Documentary evidence expresses its continuous involvement in the nation's political and military history from the C12 to the early C17 which includes its role as the residence of Mary Tudor prior to her coronation in 1553. Additionally, it represents an important stage in the evolution of conservation legislation in England in being one of the earliest sites to be protected under the pioneering Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act of 1913;

* Architectural interest: the substantial standing remains of the Castle provide clear evidence of the form and layout of an extensive medieval fortress site with well-preserved detailing, which, when read together with the abundant surviving archaeological evidence of the site and associated landscape features, form a resource of outstanding architectural interest;

* Rarity: the exceptionally well-preserved standing and buried remains embody a rare survival of a medieval castle. The buildings represent a very specific period in medieval history when a clearly engrained social hierarchy expressed power both through architectural display and strategic effect;

* Group value: the castle remains have a strong visual and functional relationship with the listed Poor House located within the Castle courtyard, and with extensive earthworks and other archaeological remains which together form part of the Castle landscape designated as a scheduled monument (National Heritage List for England 1002965).


Between the C11 and C16 society was deeply hierarchical. Between the later C11 and the C14 castles were primarily highly-defensible, and generally strategically-sited, strongholds incorporating high-quality residential accommodation. From the C14 their military capabilities declined (not least as gunpowder technology developed) although long thereafter new castle buildings incorporated physical features expressive of the idea of defence such as arrow-loops or gun-ports, drawbridges, portcullises, crenellations and moats, generally more for visual effect than practical use. It would appear that most castles at all periods involved an element of architectural display; were often sited for dramatic as well as strategic effect; and were often part of a wider landscape of power and display alongside religious establishments, buildings for administration and designed landscapes including deer parks.

Framlingham Castle was built by the Bigod family in the C12, the present masonry curtain walls and towers replacing an earlier castle on the site thought to have been built c.1100. The present structure and the extensive earthworks which surround the castle represent the ongoing development of the site by a succession of noble families, including the Brothertons, the Mowbrays and the Howards until 1635, when the site was sold to the philanthropist lawyer Sir Robert Hitcham.

The manor of Framlingham was granted to Roger Bigod by Henry I in 1101. Roger’s son Hugh was created Earl of Norfolk by King Stephen. Framlingham was one of several castles held by Hugh Bigod which were surrendered to Henry II at his accession, and the site was occupied by a royal garrison. Framlingham was returned to Bigod in 1165 after payment of a heavy fine, but following his involvement in a further rebellion led by Henry II’s eldest son in 1173, the Castle was demolished under the direction of Henry’s engineer Alnodus.

The Castle at this stage is thought to have consisted of a motte and bailey, the motte thought to have been located on the site of the later Poor House. The Bigod lands were eventually returned to Hugh’s son Roger II in the 1180’s. Roger rebuilt the Castle in stone, incorporating the remains of the earlier hall and chapel whilst constructing the massive curtain walls and towers seen today. The Bigod estates returned to royal control in 1306, and Framlingham was administered by the monarch’s relatives until 1397 when Thomas Mowbray was made Duke of Norfolk. The title passed to the Howard family by marriage and John Howard is thought to have carried out extensive repairs and much refurbishment around the Castle site prior to his death in 1485 at Bosworth Field. Although having fought with his father at Bosworth on the losing side, John’s son Thomas gradually restored the family’s fortunes and estates. He served as Henry VIII’s Earl Marshall and led the King’s forces at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, after which the title of Duke of Norfolk was restored to the family. Thomas is thought to have undertaken much of the Tudor refurbishment of the Castle, including the remodelling of the gatehouse and the addition of the brick chimneys and other now demolished brick structures within the curtain walls. He died a national hero at Framlingham Castle in 1524.

Howard’ successor, also Thomas (d 1554), retained Framlingham, but lived at newly-built Kenningham Hall in Norfolk. His son, Henry Howard was executed by Henry VIII in 1547, and the Howard title and lands were surrendered to the Crown. Edward VI held his first court at Framlingham, and in 1552, his sister Mary Tudor inherited Framlingham, having been granted the Howard estates in East Anglia. Framlingham was the stronghold to which she withdrew when threatened by the Duke of Cumberland who sought to ensure the succession of Lady Jane Grey. When Northumberland’s campaign floundered and ended with his surrender, Mary travelled from Framlingham to London to be crowned on the 1st October 1553. She restored the elder Thomas Howard’s titles and Framlingham once again became a Howard property. His grandson Thomas Howard inherited the title on his grandfather’s death, but was executed in 1572 for his part in a plot against Queen Elizabeth. Framlingham, by this time in a much decayed state, passed once again into royal control, and remained so until 1603 when James I restored the Howard title.

In 1635, Framlingham, its manors and estates was sold for £14,000 to a wealthy lawyer and politician Sir Robert Hitcham who in 1616 had become the King’s senior sergeant-at-law. A year later at his death, Framlingham and its estates were left to Pembroke College Cambridge where Hitcham had studied. The bequest was conditional upon the requirement that Framlingham and its estates be put into trust for the benefit of three Suffolk towns, Framlingham, Debenham and Coggeshall, requiring that ‘all the castle, save the stone building be pulled down’ and a Poor House established on the site. However, it was not until 1654 that the first new building was erected at the Castle site. This was the Red House; however, its intended use as a house quickly ceased, and it became the parish poor house. That said, it was clearly inapable of housing many of the needy poor and in 1664, after much delay and the need for additional funds from the parish, a new and much larger poor house was built within the castle walls. This operated successfully until 1839 when the inmates were transferred to the new union workhouse at Wickham Market.

After the closure of the Poor House, the Castle was used for general parish purposes, and the Poor House became the parish hall. The Castle had remained central to Framlingham life throughout the C19, but in 1913, it was given to the Ministry of Works and passed to English Heritage in 1984. The Castle has remained the focus of research, and has undergone numerous phases of repair and consolidation. More recently, the former Poor House has been refurbished as a display and interpretation area for the Castle and the associated surrounding historic landscape.


The Castle is located at the centre of a scheduled monument. The standing remains of the Castle, and later buildings erected in or adjacent to it include the castle curtain walls, the dwelling known as the Red House, the Poor House, and a fragment of an earlier building, formerly the medieval hall’s north range, now surviving as a wing of the Poor House, are all designated. The Poor House is listed separately.

MATERIALS The Castle walls are built of flint and rubble septaria, a calcareous sandstone with lighter sandstone used for dressings. Later red brick additions appear at wall head level, and include decorative carved brickwork to spiral chimneys.

PLAN The Castle curtain wall forms an irregular oval-shaped enclosure within which are located the Red House, the Poor House and its north wing, all sited against the wall on the west side of the enclosure. The castle is approached by means of a masonry bridge spanning the castle ditch to the south of the gatehouse. Extending from the west side of the curtain wall is a projecting tower originally linked to the castle by a passage from the postern gateway in the curtain wall. On the eastern side of the castle, beyond the wall are the surviving masonry piers of the bridge to the former bailey garden.

EXTERIOR The curtain wall is c.10m high at its highest points and c.2.3m thick. Incorporated into the walls and projecting from them are thirteen towers with crenellations which rise a further c.3.7m in height. The towers are open-backed and linked by a wall walk protected by crenellations. In the C15, many of the towers were converted into chambers, the remains of some of which can be seen in the inner face of the curtain wall. For ease of description the tower numbers are taken from the English Heritage guide book to Framlingham Castle (reprinted 2013). The gatehouse (tower T1) is a Tudor remodelling of the original gatehouse, believed to have been undertaken by Thomas Howard. Its wide moulded surround and pointed-arched head is surmounted by a plaque bearing the arms of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk. The gatehouse was approached by means of a bridge spanning the castle ditch, thought to have been built between 1524 and 1547. The lower section of the bridge is built of rubble stonework, including its deep segmental arch, with later C18 brick parapets to the upper section. Crenellated masonry walls of uneven length flank the approach to the gatehouse. To the east of the gatehouse are a further two towers (T2, T3) and a faceted tower (T4) to the south-east corner of the enclosure. The wall then extends northwards with a square tower (T5) and a wider tower (T6) which is thought to stand adjacent to the site of the medieval castle chapel. At mid-height within this tower is a semi-circular headed window with an ashlar surround, thought to have been the chapel east window. Recesses in the walling below are the indentations of the chapel buttresses. Immediately to the north, extending to the next tower (T7) is an area of walling with numerous recesses and openings, thought to be the remains of the medieval Castle’s mid-C12 chamber block. Erected prior to the construction of the Castle, the chamber block was retained when the curtain wall was built, and the impression of some of its component elements remain, together with the circular stone chimneys which were later extended in Tudor brick. Chambers were later built into the tower (T7) and a window opening was enlarged to form a semi-circular headed doorway which led to the bridge giving access to the bailey garden. The curtain wall then curves westwards, then southwards at the northern end of the enclosure, with three more towers (T8,T9,T10). The wall then passes behind, and forms the rear wall of the Poor House and its north range, and the Red House (described separately). Visible in the outer face of this section of the wall are three tall lancet windows which lit the great hall of the Castle, and a wide transomed window inserted to light the Poor House interior. A further tower (T11) stands behind the southern end of the Poor House, and a section of wall with a semi-circular headed doorway at its base leads onto the western tower (T12, also referred to as the Prison Tower) which projects from the curtain wall. The tower protected the passage which led from the postern gate and the sally port, the doorway to which can be seen from the castle ditch. It was later adapted to provide a viewing gallery overlooking the gardens of the lower court area. The wall then extends to a further tower (T13) before returning south-eastwards to the gatehouse.

The curtain wall retains evidence of both its defensive capability and the more decorative elements introduced in the early C16 by the Howards. Crenellations to both the towers and the curtain wall were supplemented by arrow loops visible at low and high levels. The large openings in the walling to the east of the gatehouse housed double arrow loops, whilst at wall walk level, individual arrow loops are visible in the crenellations. The later brick embellishments include extensions to the two cylindrical stone chimneys which are believed to be the earliest examples of their kind, and the addition of carved brick chimneys, each of a different pattern, including spiral and zig-zag forms, to a number of the towers as decorative, rather than functional features.

THE RED HOUSE The Red House, built in the mid-C17 and thought to have originally been intended to house the town’s schoolmaster, became the first poor house before the construction of its larger replacement in 1729. The building is thought to have replaced the service wing of the medieval hall.

MATERIALS The Red House is built of red brick, rising from a shallow brick plinth and with moulded brick detailing and a plain tile roof covering.

PLAN The building is of lobby entrance form, the main doorway giving access directly onto a stair, with the main ground floor rooms located either side of a small entrance lobby. The building is built against the castle curtain wall at its western end.

EXTERIOR The front (south) elevation is of two storeys with attics, and of four bays with a central doorway. There are two tall gables in the southern roof slope between which is located a tall brick chimney stack with a moulded brick base. There are two, three-light mullioned windows to the left of the doorway and one four-light window to the right, all with moulded wooden chamfer mullions. The windows and doorway are set below a moulded string course. At first-floor level there are three, three-light windows with transoms, and a small three-light mullioned window above the doorway. The roof gables each have a single two-light mullioned window. All of the windows have leaded lights and are set beneath moulded brick hood moulds. The east gable has a three-light mullioned window within the gable apex. Immediately below it is a rectangular stone plaque, then a moulded brick band course. Below, at first-floor level is a four-light mullioned window set within a shallow oriel-like projection. Below is a four-light ground-floor mullioned window. All of the gable window openings are set beneath hood moulds. The north elevation is interrupted on its right-hand side by the front wall of the front wall of the attached Poor House. There are two three-light windows to the left-hand bay, a small three-light window to the first floor of the central bay and single-light window below it.

INTERIOR The building is of single room depth, with the principal ground-floor rooms flanking the entrance lobby. The room to the west of the entrance has a C20 hearth surround and a single chamfered spine beam. Further west is an irregularly shaped room which abuts the curtain wall, and which has an arched doorway opening in the wall thickness, now used as a storage area. The entrance lobby gives access to a winder stair which extends into the attic level. The east ground-floor room has a single chamfered spine beam and a wide hearth, with a shallow basket arched head in red brick, supported on re-set or modified sections of moulded and chamfered jambs of an earlier hearth. Within the hearth recess is a curved wall which may have been an oven, now sealed. The attic level of the building now forms part of the open-plan attic level of the attached Poor House.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Stacey, N, Framlingham Castle. English Heritage Guidebooks, (2009)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 25 Jun 2001
Reference: IOE01/04710/10
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Derek Routen. Source Historic England Archive
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