It seems like there is history everywhere you turn in England. When I went to a small town about two hours northeast of London called Framlingham, I expected to see a beautiful old castle, but I was surprised to learn that a significant historical event took place there back in the 16th century. Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England at Framlingham Castle in July of 1553, making it one of the most historic castles in Suffolk.
The History of Bloody Mary
Mary Tudor was the oldest daughter of Henry VIII. Since male heirs are first in line for the throne, when her father died, her younger brother, Edward, became king. Mary was the next in line. However, since Mary was Catholic, Edward wanted to change the line of succession and have the throne to go to Lady Jane Grey next. When Edward was dying, Mary was summoned to London. She knew if she went to London she would be captured, so she fled to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk instead. While at the castle, she rallied her supporters and was proclaimed Queen of England. She was officially crowned at Westminster Abbey in London later that year.
Mary is remembered for bringing back Catholicism to England after the short-lived Protestant reign of her half-brother. During her five-year reign, she had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake earning her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Bloody Mary was real, not just a drink!
Visiting Framlingham Castle
Even without the historical significance, Framlingham castle is impressive. It was built in the 12th century on the top of a hill overlooking the town. The walls are still in excellent condition, although most buildings inside the castle are no longer standing. There is a dry moat that surrounds the castle. There are also a few trails around the castle that you can explore before heading inside.
As you enter the castle you will see the plaque marking the historical significance of the site and then a little further in there is a well. You should head to the visitor center and pay the entrance fee (£7.60 for adults). The visitor center is inside the poorhouse which is the only remaining building standing inside the castle walls. A poorhouse was a government-run building to provide support and housing for the needy. There is also a gift shop inside the visitor center.
Framlingham Castle Wall Walk
The highlight of my visit was the Castle Wall walk. Glancing up, it looked a little intimidating, especially since the castle walls are so old. After climbing up an old spiral staircase, you arrive at the top, where there is a walkway around the whole castle. The view both of the inside of the castle and the countryside and town outside the castle is impressive. Then as we were walking around the top, it started raining. No big deal, I had my umbrella (or brolly as they call it). Well then it got windy. After my umbrella was blown inside out a few times I was ready to go back down. On the way back down you can stop in the small museum. It houses artifacts from the last 100 years or so collected by a local resident – Harold Lanman.
If the weather had been nicer, I would have loved to have a picnic inside the castle walls. There are several picnic tables and the grass looked so nice and green. There is plenty of space for kids to run around in or even have an adult game of frisbee.
Fun Fact About Framlingham Castle
The castle that Ed Sheeran sings about in “Castle on a Hill” is Framlingham Castle. He grew up in Framlingham, Suffolk and now owns four properties in the area!
Logistics for Visiting Framlingham Castle
Framlingham Castle opening hours are 10 am to 4 pm, but the days it is open varies throughout the year, so be sure to check before you plan your visit. English Heritage members get in free. Admission for adults is £8.90 and children are £5.30. If you are going as a family, you can save some money by buying the family ticket which includes 2 adults and 3 children for £23.10. You can easily see the castle in 1-2 hours, not including picnicking time.
Unfortunately, Framlingham Castle is not easy to get to. The best way is to drive. Trains don’t get you very close, but if you are going from London to Framlingham, you could take the train to Ipswich. Then, the 118 bus will take you from Ipswich to Framlingham.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Framlingham Castle. Seeing the historical plaque made me read more about Mary I and it is a pretty interesting story. I really love those plaques! I would love to hear about other places where these plaques have helped you learn more about history.
Expert Tips for Visiting Framlingham Castle
- Pack a picnic to enjoy inside the castle if the weather is nice.
- You can explore the outside of the castle without paying admission.
- Framlingham Castle is run by English Heritage, which also manages over 400 historic sites in England. You may want to consider a membership if you plan on visiting several English Heritage sites.