When does a town become a village?

I’m not sure there’s a clear point where the reverse comes true, but it must happen as most towns have begun as smaller settlements that have grown or merged from historical villages.  My own birthplace of Sunderland grew from Wearmouth, Bishopwearmouth, and Monkwearmouth according to my primary school teachers, although the reliability of that particular source may be questionable.

But back to my original question.  I ask it because Orford has a distinctive feel of archetypal English village.  Country cottages abound, the community centre is hosting a photographic exhibit, local crafts are on sale, church and pub vie for attention as the centrepiece, and I’ve never seen so many hollyhocks!

Technically though, it is a town, and one which in Norman times clearly had greater significance.  The river Ore (or Alde) gave easy access to the sea, and protected by Orford Ness would have had some strategic importance in the decades that followed the conquest.  With France just across The Channel, East Anglia was not the backwater that it appears to be today.  Even before the Normans it must be remembered that the Angles who settled here gave England its name.  We were a popular destination for immigration even then.

But it was a Norman king who gave Orford greater status.  Henry II built a castle here to consolidate power, and if historical records are accurate it was quite a structure.  All that remains now are the original castle keep and the undulating earthworks that surround it.  Do these mounds conceal other elements of the castle’s defences or were they created as defences in themselves?  I’m not sure, but they maintain a space around the keep which gives the remaining edifice greater stature.

What there is is in remarkably good condition, from the basement with the inevitable well to the roof above the fourth floor.  It was this feature that I was in search of for it gave me my first views of my next objective.  The Orfordness Lighthouse. (And yes, when referring to the light, the words Orford and Ness do become one.  More shiftiness.)



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