Orford Museum, Suffolk
Orford  Museum
Orford Museum

A brief history of the Orford area – Churches

Chancel ruins Church of St Bartholomew

St John the Baptist Church, Butley showing Coralline Crag in the west wall of the nave and adjoining buttress.

The Church of St Bartholomew, Orford
A church was built in Orford at approximately the same time as the castle c1165-1173.

The Norman church was a large cruciform building with a central tower. Two of the massive pillars which once supported the central tower survive inside the church. The most impressive Norman remains are those of the chancel which now stand as ruins to the east of the present church.

The central tower and the entire nave of the Norman church were demolished around 1320-1340 and replaced with a new nave, and a tower at the west end.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Norman chancel was abandoned and walled off. In 1830 part of the tower collapsed. It remained in this state until its restoration in two phases in the early 1960s and 1970s. A previous major restoration programme had taken place from 1895 to 1901.

For Orford Museum publication The Wallace Connection on the church restoration go to Publications page.

There are fine medieval churches in each of the villages in the area – St John’s, Butley; St Peter’s, Chillesford; St Botolph’s, Iken and All Saints, Sudbourne (all open daily).

At Butley, a large Augustinian priory was founded in 1171. A later 14th century gatehouse survives. Some of the medieval tiles from the priory are on display in the museum.

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Chancel ruins c1900

Chancel ruins Church of St Bartholomew

A stone from an Anglo Saxon cross shaft found in Iken Church.
(Drawings reproduced with the permission of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History)

Watercolour painting by an unknown artist of Sudbourne Church before the extensive restoration of 1879. Courtesy of the Churchwardens and PCC; photo by Geoffrey Smeed.