Orford Castle lies at the western edge of the village of Orford, the scheduled monument encompassing an area known as Castle Green (TM 44 NW 17). Orford is the earliest castle in England for which documentary evidence of its building survives. The Pipe Rolls, record its construction by King Henry II between 1165 and 1173 to a total cost of £1414 9s 2d. Orford Castle was a symbol of the King's power, strategically placed both to uphold royal authority in a region thickly planted with castles of powerful lords and to guard the coast against invasion. The castle has a number of special claims of interest which include the unique design of the polygonal keep and the fact that it was one of the earliest castles in the country to use mural or flanking towers along the curtain wall. The keep, is the only standing structure to survive. This remains in good condition standing some 30 metres high and constructed from at least 4 different kinds of stone. Most of the walls are made of roughly-cut blocks of local septaria, a sandy coloured mudstone, together with a more robust oolithic limestone from Northamptonshire. Internally a second local stone, corraline crag was also employed as well as Caen stone from Normandy for the finer detail. At the top of the south eastern turret of the keep a reinforced concrete roof was constructed during the Second World War. This was originally intended to hold an anti-aircraft gun but instead housed a radar observation post. (PastScape)
Heslop's important 1991 paper showed the sophistication of the design of the great tower. The roof of the upper hall was probably conical, with a domed interior celling, a reference to Byzantine splendour. Perhaps, one day, English Heritage will brave enough to replace the current modern roof with one that reproduces the original design.
Often described as being built to exercise some degree of royal control over the Bigod earls of nearby Framlingham