Orford Ness in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries

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Throughout the reigns of the Stuart and Hanovarian monarchs, the peace of Orford Ness came increasingly under threat.

1600s - threats at sea

Footpads and criminals weren't the only threat along the coast. The lighthouse was attacked by French privateers in the 17th century and a naval skirmish - the Battle of Orford Ness - featured during the wars with the Dutch. Part of the larger St James Day Fight (Battle of North Foreland) fought on 25 & 26 July 1666 saw the Dutch lost 20 ships to only one English casualty, the Resolution.

18th & 19th centuries - fear of invasion

The many flat, cliffless beaches and deep estuaries of Suffolk make it an ideal invasion target. The spit provides an effective invasion defence but where it joins the main land at Aldeburgh is a potential weak spot.

The great Martello tower at Slaughden where the spit just touches the mainland is the largest and most northerly of the coastal towers built against a potential Napoleonic invasion.

You can stay in the Slaughden Martello Tower, which is now owned by the Landmark Trust. (There is no access onto Orford Ness from Slaughden or Aldeburgh.)

Sheep and cattle

Throughout these more troublesome times, the marshes continued to be used for grazing.

Mussel beds were dug in the salt-marshes in Stony Ditch and by the end of the 19th century, two marshmen's houses stood on the spit - one in King's Marsh and 'The Hazard' near Slaughden.