Orford Museum, Suffolk

Painting of a barge at the quay by Emmeline Rope 1886

Orford  Museum
Orford Museum

A brief history of the Orford area – the Borough

Brass rubbing of James Coe, the first Mayor in 1579

item1The Borough
Orford was a borough from at least 1256, when King Henry III granted two charters, until 1886 when the corporation was dissolved and succeeded by the Orford Town Trust. The earliest surviving charter was granted by King Henry V in 1421.

During the Middle Ages trade increased, merchant guilds were formed and an Augustinian Friary was established on the corner of Broad Street and Quay Street. The holding of markets and fairs and representation in Parliament were amongst the hallmarks of borough status. Orford’s market was held on Mondays and an annual fair held on 24 June, the feast of St John the Baptist. It is recorded that Orford first sent two MPs to Parliament in 1306.

Orford's most important charter was that granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1579. The town became incorporated as a free borough with a common seal and with power to acquire property and to hold a court.

The corporation was responsible for the quay and for regulating the fisheries and oyster beds in the river. Great efforts were made to keep outsiders away, leading in several instances to acrimonious court cases.

Many boats were engaged in the coastal trade exporting wool and dairy produce and importing coal. Exhibits include a rare early fourteenth century ‘Orford’ seal matrix for stamping bales of wool. The barge trade continued into the early twentieth century.

In the eighteenth century the Marquis of Hertford built a Town Hall in the Market Place, which appears to have been little used. In 1902 it was succeeded by the current building.

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Market Square c1910

Market Hill, Orford c1900

Charter detail Elizabeth I

(Above) 1st page of the charter of 1579 with image of Queen Elizabeth I

Norden map of Orford

The Norden Survey sheet XXVIII - the centre of Orford c1601

Wool seal
barge at quay
James Coe
Oyster legend

Standard oyster 'Legend' for checking the size of oysters

'Orford' wool seal matrix early C14

Market Hill, Orford c1900