Framlingham’s Lanman Museum
From its twisted Tudor chimneys to its magical views across the mere to Fram’ (you-can-call-me-Hogwarts) College, Framlingham Castle is full of surprises all year round. Visit in spring and the earthwork banks are dotted with yellow primroses and tiny violets. In summer it’s the prime viewing platform for the town’s historic Gala. Come autumn, the owls are on the wing and in winter, its regular opening times and warm welcome inside make it the ideal spot for a local outing. At Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill, you’re always sure to get more than you bargained for, but a ticket to visit doesn’t include just one attraction.
Fortunately, there was no question of the castle giving the town’s Lanman Museum its marching orders during the site’s recent major refurb. Now warmer, brighter, more en route visit-wise, and - thanks to the new lift – more accessible than ever, this blast of the past seems to be charming greater audiences by the day.
“When English Heritage came into being in 1984, it gave the museum a home here,“shares John Bridges, the eminent local historian, author and chair of the museum trustees. “Mr Lanman and the much-forgotten Mr Stannard were the prime movers behind the collection in the 1950s, and it has had several homes in its time.” He explains how interest grew out of a 1953 exhibition in the old assembly rooms where proud locals provided hundreds of exhibits from a Roman coin to an historic motorcar. After its first official spot on Market Hill in 1957, the museum moved on to Double Street and the Old Courthouse, but it seems that infiltrating the great local fortress had always been an intention. “I actually found an early letter from Mr Stannard to the Ministry of
Works effectively asking, can we have a museum in your castle? I don’t think he ever got a reply.”
“Mum, what are these?” Having grazed her way round fossils and Victorian trinkets beneath tall clocks, shop signs, swords, surveyors’ wheels and a push-bike all carefully attached to walls, joists and rafters, a small girl in a big coat comes to a stop in front of a rather dour case of ration books, her eye caught by colourful ribbons. Her mother bobs down, shares the wow factor of the wartime medals along with their story outlined on an adjacent card, then lifts her up to point out chessmen in the cabinet above. It’s a touching moment as the young pony enthusiast truly admires the horses’ heads, carved out of boxwood with penknives by ‘Fram’ lads in the trenches of France.
At the other end of the room a noisier discovery soon proves too much of a distraction. By H H Lanman’s shop-window filled with shoes, dad and little brother have found not just an ancient typewriter, but an historic Apple computer both with clattering ‘keyboards’. Somehow the old Mac is as relevant and at home here as the dip-pens, inkwell and writing slates. The 1950s Regal Cinema memorabilia may remind John of his first outing to see The Titfield Thunderbolt, the blacksmith’s bits and bobs may take him back to being “an ‘ickle’ lad, seeing Ernie Leverett shoeing Suffolk horses at the forge.” Who knows? Perhaps, one day, Ed Sheeran’s guitar will sit alongside the town band’s trombone.
‘Somehow the old Mac is as relevant as the dip-pens’
ABOVE:The Lanman Museum at Framlingham Castle
BELOW:John Bridges, chair of the museum trustees
BELOW RIGHT:One of the iconic chimneys at Framlingham Castle
RIGHT:At Framlingham Castle,The Lanman Museum records the rich history of Framlingham and its people.
BELOW LEFT:John Bridges, with some town memorabilia