Freston Tower

Near Ipswich, Suffolk - Sleeps 4

About this Landmark

Freston Tower is a six-storey Tudor folly that looks out over the River Orwell, perhaps built to coincide with Elizabeth I's visit to Ipswich in August 1579. There is a single room on each floor with the sitting room at the top to take advantage of the unrivalled views.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • Bath with ShowerBath with Shower
  • Washing MachineWashing Machine

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

  • Sleeps 4
  • 4 nights from £433
  • equivalent to £27.06 per person, per night

26 windows through which to enjoy the view

Freston Tower was always intended to be an eye-catcher and it certainly is a striking Landmark. Set in old and undulating parkland of oaks, sweet chestnuts, cedar and beech trees, Freston Tower was built in 1578/9 overlooking the broad expanse of the River Orwell estuary. We have yet to discover why or who built it, but its most likely builder was a wealthy Ipswich merchant called Thomas Gooding who bought Freston Manor in 1553. Freston Tower was built both to admire from the outside and to look out from on the inside – there are no fewer than 26 windows dotted over its six storeys, arranged in careful hierarchy. Its crisp brickwork with distinctive blue diapering suggests that it was always intended to perform as an eyecatcher in the landscape. It may also have acted as a lookout tower for Gooding’s returning ships, or simply as an extravagant folly (and if so, one of the earliest in the country). It may even have been built to coincide with Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ipswich in 1579.

Kindly given to the Landmark Trust

Freston Tower was given to Landmark through the great generosity of its owner, who wished it to have a secure future and be enjoyed by many. Just as with the building of this carefully designed tower, the restoration demanded the highest standards of craftsmanship. Using early photographs as sources we re-rendered the brick mullions and window surrounds in imitation of stone, a building material so lacking in East Anglia. We chose to put the sitting-room on the top floor, to take advantage of unrivalled views of the River Orwell and its handsome modern bridge. Did Sir Thomas Gooding go one stage further, as our visitors may and sit on the roof amid the pinnacles? We cannot be sure of this either, but it would certainly be in keeping with the bravura of this fine tower.

Floor Plan

‘A looker on the outside and in.’

The Sunday Times

Map & local info

Freston Tower is set in undulating parkland of oaks, sweet chestnuts, cedar and beech trees. It enjoys an outstanding view over the broad expanse of the estuary of the River Orwell. It is also near to the large, historic market town of Ipswich, where you can stroll along the waterfront to soak up the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy events such as the annual Maritime Festival

Christchurch Mansion, a beautiful Tudor mansion in the centre of Ipswich, has a variety of period rooms and galleries for you to explore, including the Wolsey Art Gallery, home to an impressive collection of works by Suffolk artists, most notably Gainsborough and Constable.

Browse the stalls of delicious, local Suffolk produce in The Suffolk Food Hall, a vast market in nearby Wherstead with lots of activities for all to enjoy, too. 

The Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty is only a 45 minute drive from Ipswich and is a wonderful place for walks and cycle rides along the quiet lanes and forest tracks.

Don't miss one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time at Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon royal burial site.

For more information on things to do during your stay at Freston Tower, please see our Pinterest page. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Freston Tower
Near Ipswich, Suffolk - Sleeps 4
Clear directions

‘On arrival we were all like excited children being given the run of a sweet shop.’

‘We have enjoyed living vertically for a week – sad to be coming back down to earth.’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes. However, as there are sheep often grazing in the vicinity, we ask that they are kept on leads.
  • How is the property accessed?

    Via a track from the main road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Ipswich – 4.5 miles
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    There are two parking spaces adjacent to the property.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are Rointe heaters.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a shower over the bath. There is also an additional wc.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, narrow and spiral. There are no doors between the staircases and the bedrooms.
  • Can I access the roof?

    Yes,  but we would ask that care is taken in inclement weather and that children and dogs are supervised when on the roof.
  • Is this a property for hardier visitors?

    Yes, this property is hard to heat in winter.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is a small enclosed garden.

    Booking and Payment

  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact [email protected]
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

One of the most intriguing towers

Freston Tower, on the south bank of the River Orwell, is one of the most intriguing towers in England. Its purpose and date were always a question of debate, but dendrochronology of selected timbers in the Tower has finally dated its construction to 1578/9. We know that the Tower was built while the manor of Freston was in the ownership of Thomas Gooding, a wealthy Ipswich merchant and mercer (or purveyor of fine cloths).

Gooding, who had bought the manor from Christopher Latimer in 1553, played an active part in the affairs of 16th century Ipswich, a typical Elizabethan ‘new man’ wanting to leave his mark both in architecture and dynasty. He succeeded in both as Freston Manor, with its Tower, was inherited in turn by his son Robert and grandson Thomas. Gooding was also granted the right to bear arms in 1576, which may have provided the excuse to build this fine tower. The plaques on the south elevation probably originally displayed his arms, which showed six red lion heads separated by a horizontal red bar on a yellow ground.

Other than this we do not know why Freston Tower was built. It may have been a lookout tower against pirates or returning cargo ships, or an extravagant folly (and if so one of the earliest ones in the country), or part of a pleasure garden. The house that stands near the Tower may well have been Gooding’s manor house, although it has not yet been fully studied. A well-known but entirely fictional tale is that the Tower was built for the education of the beautiful Ellen de Freston who lived in the late 15th century. Each weekday she was supposed to have studied a different subject on each floor - Charity, Tapestry, Music, Painting and Literature, culminating in Astronomy on the top floor. Slightly more plausible is the theory that it was built to coincide with Elizabeth I’s visit to Ipswich in August 1579, but the most likely explanation is that it was simply a celebration of wealth.

Freston Tower was originally built to be looked at and out of rather than lived in - it has no fireplaces. Every opportunity is taken to allow the occupants to enjoy the views outside it - even the three-sided staircase has a window in each face, on every storey and the roof was perhaps conceived as a viewing platform from where the visitor can see up-river to Ipswich and down the Orwell towards the sea. The fact that the first three storeys on the south side of the Tower are windowless suggests that the Tower may have originally been joined to another building long gone. Old photographs of the Tower show a shadow in the brickwork of such a building in this area. However, all the known illustrations and prints show it freestanding, as it is today and our archaeological and geophysical investigations revealed no evidence of an attached building. Early photos do show that a simple porch was added later, possibly in the late 17th century and the remaining stump has been left.

Freston is finely built of red brick with blue diapers (overburnt bricks arranged in a pattern) on the north and west sides, which were most visible from the river. The staircase turret against the north wall rises six storeys and opens onto the roof, which has an arcaded parapet, also of brick. There are polygonal buttresses at the four corners which rise to finials and no fewer than 26 windows (33 if you count the blind ones). There is one room on each floor and a clear hierarchy to the windows and their dressings, which become more elaborate as the Tower rises. The windows on the top floor are grandest, with six lights separated by transoms. The triangular pediments to the windows on the top three floors were still quite an unusual feature in the countryside by this date, a tentative foray into Classicism.

Both the hierarchy of the windows and the remains of a primary door on the staircase on the third storey suggest that the Tower may originally have been divided between service or utilitarian use on the lower three floors and more polite usage as banqueting house or folly on the top three. These upper floors were probably hung with rich hangings in Gooding’s day but no original internal features remain today, other than an apparent hearth on the first floor that turned out to be a blocked doorway to the missing building.

The Tower changed hands and fell into disuse in the 17th century and by the time John Ogilby drew his map of the area in 1675, it was marked as ‘decayed/ruin’, although the then owner, another merchant called John Wright, seems to have carried out work to the Tower and house nearby. In 1765 Freston Tower House was advertised as a treatment centre for smallpox (patients had to provide their own tea and sugar and were charged between three and six guineas a week – a lot of money for the time). In 1771, the house had become an inoculation centre against the disease, ‘with opportunities for fishing, fowling etc. … boats and nets provided.’ In 1795, Charles Berners bought the estate and his family were to live at Woolverstone Hall, the main seat, until 1937, when the estate was bought by the Nuffield Trust of Oxford University. Finally, the Tower was bought in 1962 by Claire Hunt and her husband, who used it as a holiday home for sailing on the Orwell. In 1999 Mrs Hunt very generously gave Freston Tower to the Landmark Trust so that, in her words, ‘lots of people can enjoy a building where I have been very happy.'

Using old photos for evidence

The Tower had been well cared for by Mrs Hunt over the years but still needed a considerable amount of work to make it into a Landmark. The entire Tower was scaffolded for almost a year to repair the exterior. The brickwork required light repointing in many areas, using lime rather than cement based mortar. Originally the brick mullions and surrounds of the windows were rendered to resemble stone - a building material that is so lacking in East Anglia - and this decorative finish was reinstated, using old photos for evidence.

The Landmark Trust’s approach to the restoration of historic buildings is conservative, treating all surviving fabric with respect and retaining it wherever feasible. Although the use of new materials and techniques is not ruled out under appropriate circumstances, unavoidable repairs or replacement are mostly done on a like-for-like basis using traditional methods and practices. 

The original window frames were lost long ago and we have installed new leaded lights in bronze casements to recapture the glitter the Tower would have had in Elizabethan times. The two plaques on either side of the fourth floor window on the south side may once have held Thomas Gooding’s coat of arms. The lead roof was still in good condition but structural repairs were needed to the pinnacles, the top of the staircase turret and to the arcaded parapet. We have replaced the crenellations to the stair turret, basing the work on early photographs.

Inside, the arrangement of the accommodation is as follows: the top floor, which has the grandest windows and best views, is the sitting room. Below that is a double bedroom then a twin bedroom, then a bathroom and separate loo, then the kitchen, and finally the hallway on the ground floor. The kitchen, bathroom and all services have been renewed. The timber floors have been repaired, and the missing ceilings renewed with traditional lime plaster. Freston Tower has been returned to its original splendour from the outside and is probably more comfortable than it has ever been on the inside. More than four centuries after it was built it will continue to stand sentinel over the Orwell estuary as proudly as ever.


Supporters of Freston Tower

We are hugely grateful to those who have already supported Freston Tower, including:

Patrons:
Miss H Jackson, The Rt Hon Lord Francis Phillimore, Mr G Spooner, Lady Emma Tennant, Mr S Thomas, Mr D Warder

Legacies:
Miss S Newman, Mr A Wright

Gifts in memory:
Mr G Evans, Mr R Quinn

Charitable Trusts and Statutory Grants:
Ian Askew Charitable Trust, Carpenter Charitable Trust, Mary Carter Charitable Trust, Alan Evans Memorial Trust, The Stuart Heath Charitable Settlement, Idlewild Trust, Veneziana Fund, Hazel Wood Charitable Trust

    

 

We would also like to thank everybody who supported the appeal and Dr and Mrs R Jurd for donating books for the library.

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.