The first Royal Charter was granted to Orford by Richard 1st and confirmed, together with increase in rights and privileges by subsequent monarchs. Many original Charters have been preserved and are deposited at the County Records Office at Ipswich. Also preserved at the Records Office are a series of maps of the village and Orford Ness drawn by the famous cartographer, John Norden in 1601, these show that the medieval street pattern is still retained.
In 1570 Queen Elizabeth 1st bestowed upon Orford the honour of a Royal Borough. This consisted of a Mayor, 8 Portmen and twelve Capital Burgesses.
The affairs of the town did not always run smoothly, from 1693 to 1701 there are two mayors recorded as being in office. A note states that, "During these years there was a chism in the Corporation, the illegal party broke into the Town Hall repeatedly, stole the Charters and Minute books, held unlawful assemblies and elected mayors for nine years. The legal party had to commence new minute books and elect their mayors contemporaneously. It terminated in proceedings in Chancery 1697".
Another note for the years 1683 to 1694 states, "During these twelve years the Town Clerk, Richard Porter, failed to enter the minutes for which he was afterwards dismissed, they appear to have been afterwards entered by someone else, four years are missing".
Two members of Parliament were returned until 1835 when Orford was deprived of its MPs.
In 1883 the Borough was dissolved by the Municipal Corporations Act and in 1889 the Orford Town Trust came into being for the "application of the property of the late Corporation of The Mayor and Commonalty of the Borough of Orford".
The regalia of the borough is still preserved and the valuable items are stored in a bank. The silver gilt mace bears the Royal Arms of the Borough and was presented to the Borough in 1700 by Sir Edward Turnour at that time owner of Orford Ness Lighthouse and one time MP for Orford. There are two small silver maces, two silver oars, the insignia of the Water Bailiff, three oyster legends, two silver punch bowls and ladles and a leather covered case for the punch bowls. This case is said to be very rare and valuable.
In addition there are a set of heavy brass dry measures from one bushel downwards, a brass yard measure and a set of brass bell weights which were used by the Weights and Measures Inspector, the original quills used by the Chamberlain, the Mayors robe, two blue cloth Sergeants coats and the Town Criers Bell which was used until the 1930s. The last Town Crier being Sam Smy.
In the Town Hall there are three pictures painted by a Frenchman, A C F Decaen, in 1870/1 for Sir Richard and Lady Wallace of a shooting party on the Sudbourne Hall Estate, many important personages were invited to these shooting parties, including the then Prince of Wales on 17th November 1879.
The last Mayor of Orford was William Toller and he carried on as a Town Trustee until his death in 1928. He must have been a truly remarkable man, at the meeting of the Town Trust on March 31st 1928 the chairman, Mr W Ross-Taylor had this to say. "We are met today in the shadow of a great loss. It is a loss which affects the whole community, but it affects us, the members of the Orford Town Trust to a very special degree. Mr William Toller, whose death we mourn, was associated with the Trust from its inception, and in joining it, was carrying on public work which he had undertaken many years before as a Portman and finally as Mayor of the Town.
He always brought to bear upon that work, as indeed he did upon all to which he set his hand, that energy, knowledge and tenacity of purpose which he possessed in such large measure.
Even at an age when most men would have sought well earned repose, he continued his public work in many directions, and in the case of this Trust, he literally died in harness, for as you all know, though he was seeking to be relieved of his duties as Chamberlain, he was willing, even though he felt the burden increasingly heavy, to carry on until a successor was found.
There are very few of the Trustees who have been associated with Mr Toller for more than a fraction of the time during which he worked for the benefit of the community but there is not one among us who does not realise the value of the work which he has done. It has been my privilege in recent months to work with him in Trust matters to a considerable extent, and I feel we have lost a tower of strength. To all our business he always gave freely of his wise counsel, his wide experience and his ripe judgement, and they were given with a complete absence of self seeking, and without any thought of reward.
Today the accumulated wisdom of many years is lost to us. Peacefully, painlessly, as we are all glad to know, and, despite his wonderful age , with all his faculties practically unimpaired, he has been taken from us, and we are left the poorer.
He leaves us, however, the memory of an honourable life well and usefully spent, and an example of devoted service to the place in which he lived so long and which he loved so well.
I know it will be your wish that we should record in the minutes of the Trust our sense of the great loss which we have sustained, and that we should convey to his relatives an expression of our sincere sympathy.
I feel also that you will agree with me in thinking that it would not be fitting for us to proceed with the ordinary business of the Trust today, and I therefore propose that we should adjourn this meeting for a fortnight." The Town Trust attended the funeral as a corporate body.
Thus did one of the great men of Orford pass into history.