Freston Tower on the Shotley Peninsula in Suffolk, is approached via a tiny, unmade track and sits peacefully nestled in the parkland of Freston Manor, overlooking the River Orwell. Surrounded by oaks, sweet chestnuts, cedar and beech trees, the gentle call of a nearby flock of sheep can be heard from its open windows….
The tower is built out of red brick and each storey is made up of one small room with a spiral staircase joining them all, and its 26 windows all take advantage of the gorgeous views. Dating back to around 1578, the reason for the construction of this quirky, six storey building remains unclear.
Freston Manor is likely to have been owned by a wealthy wool merchant called Thomas Gooding, at the time of Freston Tower’s construction. Since it was never intended to be lived in (it has no fireplaces), did he build it as a lookout for pirates or ships laden with his merchandise, or was it built simply as an extravagant folly and display of his wealth?
Local legend suggests that it was for educating Gooding’s daughter, Ellen de Freston, who might have studied a different subject on each floor: charity, tapestry, music, painting and literature with astronomy being taught at the very top. Sadly, this is just a rather sweet story, with no evidence to back it up, and so the most likely explanation remains simply that Gooding built Freston Tower because he could afford to do so.
Having changed hands over the centuries, the folly was gifted to the Landmark Trust by Claire Hunt in 1999. Mrs Hunt and her husband had used the building for holidays when they went sailing along the River Orwell and having had such happy times there, were keen for this use to continue.
After a substantial programme of restoration work, the tower now provides self-catering accommodation for up to four people.
On the top floor, with the best views, is the sitting room; below that are two bedrooms (one floor each), a bathroom comes below that, with the kitchen on the first floor.
The rooms, stacked on top of each other, are small, but perfectly formed with wonderful vistas from each window. The tightly spiralled staircase has little windows with views over the river; in one direction is the elegant Orwell Bridge with Ipswich beyond, and in the other are pretty views down river towards the rest of the Shotley Peninsula, and eventually out to sea.
The best view of all, is to be had at the very top of the tower, on the roof. The climb up there is well worthwhile and one gets a good sense of what the area has to offer. Sailing certainly, but the Shotley Peninsula is also a lovely place for walking, cycling (try Alton Water for off-road cycle paths) and birdwatching. Most of all, the tower is best suited for slowing life down for a few days.
Stay at Freston Tower.
Prices start at £433 for a four night break and can be booked via the Landmark Trust website. This property is not suitable for people with limited mobility, or for those who don’t like going up and down stairs. And there is lots of that. As one guest puts it: “We have enjoyed living vertically for a week!”