The Round Tower Churches Society is a registered charity with over 500 members, It  works for the preservation of these churches, explores their origins and history. In the last 50 years, it has made grants to churches of almost £400,000.

It was founded in 1973 by W J (Bill) Goode, who devoted his retirement to a study of all the known round tower churches and published a key book ‘Round Tower Churches of South East England’. He donated the proceeds from the book to the Society’s grant fund and left his  collection of photographs which have been uploaded onto the Facebook group of Round Tower Churches of South East England.

Many of his photographs are on the “churches” pages – search location or the website’s map. The Times and EDP (Eastern Daily Press) published obituaries of Bill. To view these go to obituaries

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To download a joining form go to Join RTCS
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50th annual meeting

The 50th annual general meeting was held at Belton Church on Saturday, May 11 2024 at 2.15pm

1 The chairman, Mr Stuart Bowell, welcomed the 39 people present. The Belton Church Warden, Ms Anneka Gearie, kindly gave an opening Prayer. The chairman then asked Mrs Stilgoe to give the very welcome news that H.M. The King has kindly consented to continue to be Patron of the Society, as he has been since 2005 as H.R.H. The Prince of Wales. This good news was well received.

2 Apologies are recorded in the Minute Book.

3 Minutes of the 49th AGM on 13.5.2023 were agreed, proposed Mr B Rowlands, seconded Ms J Chamberlin, and signed.

4 Chairman’s review: Mr Bowell reported on our successful Jubilee 50th year with the highlights of a members’ lunch party at Gunton AGM a year ago, the Lord Lieutenant’s Reception at Keswick in May and a Festal Evensong at Norwich Cathedral last February. He outlined major grants given during the year, including Beachamwell, Forncett St Peter, Rickinghall Inferior, Haveringland, Great Ryburgh and South Ockendon, and thanked all the hardworking committee. He thanked members for their continuing support and generous donations and expressed his best wishes for the next 50 years of the Society! The report was agreed, proposed by Mr I Grimsley, seconded by Mr K Scales.

5 The treasurer Mr Nik Chapman said that we now have £3,390.30 excess of income over expenditure. He would prefer for us to reduce our capital and to have given more money in grants, as that is the purpose of the Society, but there are many promises of future grants in the pipeline. He explained the apparent reduction in the subscription giving, due to the new way of listing donations separately from subscription monies. Gift Aid provided £2405. The current capital held is £110,015.45, with approximately half pledged for grants. A request that a list of promised grants should be available for members, would be considered. The accounts were accepted, proposed Mr M Pollitt, seconded Mr R Barham.

6 Grants officer Mr Nick Wiggin commented that with ever-rising costs it is taking longer for churches to raise the necessary funds. The grants paid in the year amounted to £19,000 and promised grants total £54,000 (to be paid when work starts). Our largest ever grant, £7,500, was paid in October 2023 to South Ockendon, where the tower is in a serious condition. Ms S Greenfield asked how the size of the grants was decided. Mr Wiggin explained that there was no set formula, the committee decided on the amount required, having considered the church’s own finances, how much more was needed, the size of other grants obtained, the urgency of the situation. Threxton, having got scaffolding in place, found more urgent work was needed, and a grant was paid instantly enabling them to keep the scaffolding there so work could continue, reducing the potential costs. This report was agreed following a proposal by Mr Chapman, seconded by Mr Pollitt.

7 Membership Secretary Mr Wiggin reported that we still have over 500 members, many giving additional generous donations for which he is very grateful, with 38 new members added during the year, Ms Bickmore seconded and it was agreed.

8 Constitution and policy review: Mr Chapman explained the advice from the Charity Commission on compliance and changes in guidance and legislation, which have to be reviewed every 5 years. Our constitution was substantially revised in accordance with their guidance in 2019, and some additional policies have been undertaken, including risk management and awareness of social media procedures, ie Zoom meetings. Ms Greenfield raised a question about the risk management policy, which is an internal committee matter, but can be viewed by members. Mr Chapman proposed the adoption of the minor changes advised by the Charity Commission, seconded by Mr Pollitt, and agreed.

9 Election of officers and committee: Mr Pollitt took the chair for votes for the chairman. Mr Stuart Bowell was re-elected unanimously (Mrs Stilgoe, Mr K Scales). Other posts – Vice-chairman: Mr Pollitt (Mr Halliday, Mr Rowland), also editor, The Round Tower and website. Secretary: Mrs Stilgoe (Mrs J Gray, Mrs Roy), Treasurer: Mr Chapman, (Ms Davey, Mr Butcher), Grants’ officer and membership secretary: Mr Wiggin (Ms Chamberlin, Mrs J Gray), Membership secretary: Mr Wiggin (Mrs J Gray, Mr Chapman), Committee members: Ms K Davey (Mr Pollitt, Ms Bickmore), Dr H Lunnon (Ms H. Willett, Ms J Chamberlin). More committee members would be welcome!

10 Independent examiner: Mr Chapman explained that sadly our previous examiner had died, but proposed Mr Will Winter, who had examined the present accounts and was willing to take on the position, (free of charge). Mr Pollitt seconded and all agreed.

11 Any other business: Ms J Robinson announced that the programme “Repair Shop” next Wednesday would include the 1726 fire engine kept in Worlingworth Church. Mr Pollitt gave notices that Haveringland (started work in April) were having a “hard-hat” day on July 31, Beachamwell plans a “topping out” ceremony on May 24 (hoping to complete the restoration early 2025), and South Ockendon were inviting us to visit on a Wednesday in July to see work in progress on the tower. Mr Kevin Scales had kindly given a wooden bird box/wodewose carving to be auctioned, which raised £30 for the Society. A question about the lack of expenses for committee members in the accounts was explained because current trustees and committee members had waived that right. For the teas after the meeting, provided by Belton Church and committee members, Mrs Pauline Barham had kindly made a special cake, with the royal cipher CIIIR on the icing, to celebrate the renewal of the Royal Patronage, which was cut by Mrs Jean Sheehan from Rickinghall Inferior.

49th annual meeting

The 49th annual general meeting, in our golden jubilee year, was held at Gunton Church Hall on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 2.15pm

.The chairman, Mr Stuart Bowell, welcomed 30 people to the meeting. He introduced the committee members, with special thanks to Mr Chapman and Ms Davey for making the arrangements for the buffet lunch just enjoyed by all. Mr Brian Rowlands kindly gave the opening prayer. Apologies had been received as recorded in the Minute Book.

1 The Minutes of the 48th AGM on 7.5.2022 were agreed, proposed Mr Rowlands, seconded Mrs J Gray, and signed.

2 The chairman’s report: Mr Bowell said that it was fitting in our golden jubilee year for the AGM to be held at Gunton where our founder, Mr Bill Goode, worshipped and where the ashes of him and his wife Ada rest. Mr Bowell reported that a record amount in grants has been given to help the churches. Small sums also help, as when we give £100 to each church visited, as well as individual members making donations to them. The generosity of our members continues with many gifts, donations and legacies. The new Golden Jubilee Guide is selling well and is a tribute to the late Mr Stephen Hart’s incomparable knowledge of these special buildings. Mr Bowell gave particular thanks to the editor and all those who help with the magazine, which keeps everyone informed. He ended with a special thank-you to all those attending to-day and to all our members who continue to be the bedrock of the Society. The membership number has now passed 500, significant in our 50th year! The report was approved by a proposal from Ms Hanson, seconded by Mrs Rowe, and agreed.

3 The treasurer, Mr Nicholas Chapman, presented the accounts to March 31, which show that our reserves are now £106,625.15, with expenditure greater than income by £21,673.9, due to the record number of grants given totalling £36,500. Our running costs remain impressively low, at £6,668.26. In recent years church work projects have not been started due to the effects of the pandemic, (grants in 2022 totalled £2,500), and our reserves have increased. This could cause the Charity Commission to be critical that the reserves were too great for a small charity, so it is good to be able to reduce this amount. The accounts were accepted, proposed Ms Davey, seconded Mr R Barham, and agreed.

4 The grants officer, Mr Nick Wiggin, announced the record grants given of £36,500, with further new promises of £12,000. Broomfield’s work on the spire looks to be on course. When work started it was found that the damage was more extensive than anticipated and extra funding was needed. The report was accepted, proposed Ms Davey, seconded Mr Harrild.

5 The membership secretary, Mr Wiggin was very grateful that so many renewed their subscriptions with additional donations. Subscriptions for the year to March totalled £7,678, with donations adding another £3,754, as well as other separate donations. There are now 505 members, with 38 new ones in the year to March, and 4 in April. The report was accepted, proposed Mr K Scales, seconded Mr Chapman.

6 Publicity: Mr Pollitt said the magazine continues to be well received and the new guide book was selling well. The June issue will be late to allow for the inclusion of the 50th anniversary events.

7 Election of officers and committee: Mr Pollitt took the chair for votes for the chairman, when Mr Bowell was re-elected unanimously (Mrs Stilgoe, Mrs Robinson). Other elections: vice chairman: Mr Pollitt (Mr Harbord, Mrs Roy), secretary: Mrs Stilgoe (Mrs Rowe, Mrs Gray), treasurer: Mr Chapman, (Mr Barham, Mr Pollitt), grants officer: Mr Wiggin (Ms Davey, Mrs Stilgoe), membership secretary: Mr Wiggin (Mrs Gray, Mr Chapman), committee member: Ms Davey (Mr Rowland, Ms Hanson). It was mentioned that Dr Helen Lunnon has expressed interest in joining the committee. More volunteers are needed!

8 Independent examiner: Mr Chapman said that Mr Jason McArdle had kindly examined the Accounts without making a charge, and is happy to do so again. His appointment was proposed Mr Pollitt, seconded Mr Wiggin, and agreed.

9 Any other business: Mr Harbord enquired about the position of Patron, following King Charles III’s Accession to the Throne. Mrs Stilgoe explained that she had a letter from Buckingham Palace this week stating that Patronages would be reviewed by the Deputy Private Secretary in due course and that we could continue to use “H.R.H. The former Prince of Wales” for the time being. Ms Hanson gave thanks to all the committee, and particularly for the website. Mr Barham had brought a splendid cake to celebrate 50 years of the Society, which was cut by Mrs Stilgoe.

48th annual meeting

The 48th Annual General Meeting was held at Seething & Mundham village hall on Saturday, 7th May 2022 at 2.15pm. The chairman, Mr Stuart Bowell, welcomed the 32 present, many old friends and also some new faces, to the meeting. He introduced the members of the committee. The Rev’d Philip Gray kindly gave an opening prayer.

Apologies had been received as recorded in the Minute Book. [Ms K Davey, Mr G Hughes, Mr A Harrowven, Ms J Hanson, Mr & Mrs R Batty,  Mr J Scales, Mr & Mrs D Jackson, Mr M Coates].The Minutes of the 47th AGM on 25.9.2021 were agreed, following a proposal by the Rev’d P Gray, seconded Mrs Butcher, and signed.

The chairman thanked Mrs Stilgoe, who had retired from being an RTCS Trustee (for the Charity Commission) after 30 years in post, although she will continue as secretary and tour organiser. There are now two additional new trustees, Ms Davey and Mr Pollitt, to continue the work, with Mr Wiggin and Mr Chapman as well as himself. He commented on the changes in the world due to Covid restrictions over the three years since the last May AGM, but thought maybe the Society could help to give stability with an unchanging, worthwhile project. He gave sincere thanks to everyone for their continued loyal support and generosity.

The treasurer, Mr Nik Chapman, presented the accounts, showing the Society was in a healthy financial position: income had increased to £21,758, expenditure was £6,292, overall funds £128,298. Without the church tours there were no donations to churches after visits, and although many repair programmes were in the pipeline, the start had been delayed in several cases, hence fewer grants given. Inevitably the magazine and postage costs have risen, and will continue to do so. The accounts were accepted following a proposal by Mr Barham, seconded by Mrs Rowe, and agreed.

The grants officer, Mr Nick Wiggin, reported that few grants had been given, due to problems with fund raising and restrictions on building work due to Covid. In 2021 only £2,500 was given, but by the end of March the Society had promised grants totalling £47,000 to be paid once work has started. He was particularly glad to report that work had now started on Mutford’s tower, in serious danger of collapse, (a grant of £7,000 to cover the cost of the scaffolding). His report was accepted, following a proposal from the Rev’d P Gray, seconded Mr K Scales. Mr Pollitt gave an update on Beachamwell Church, burnt down in March this year, which will probably be rebuilt. As membership secretary, Mr Wiggin was very grateful that so many renewed their subscriptions with additional donations. There are now 487 members, with 41 new ones in the year to March, though sadly some long term members are no longer with us. The report was agreed following a proposal from Mr Harrild, seconded Mr Randall.

Publicity: Mr Pollitt said the colour Magazine continues to be well received. There is a new publicity leaflet, highlighting that next year the Society will have existed for 50 years. Members can now join on line. Mr Bowell expressed very grateful thanks to the team producing the magazine, leaflets and website.

Election of Officers and Committee: Mr Pollitt took the chair for votes for the chairman, and Mr Bowell was re-elected (Mr Barham, Mr Rowlands). Other elections: vice chairman: Mr Pollitt (the Rev’d P Gray, Mr K Scales), secretary: Mrs Stilgoe (Mrs Holden, Mr Randall), treasurer: Mr Chapman, (Mr Pollitt, Mr Barham), grants officer: Mr Wiggin (Mr Pollitt, Mrs Roy), membership secretary: Mr Wiggin (Mr Chapman, Mr Pollitt), committee member: Ms Davey (Mrs Stilgoe, Mr Chapman)

Independent Examiner: Mr Chapman explained that Mr McArdle had kindly examined the accounts for free, and he hoped Mr McArdle would continue, though in the future the Society may have to pay for an accountant to audit the accounts.

Any Other Business: there will be a study day on Saturday 22nd October 2022 at Rickinghall Village Hall, 10am-4pm, with two of three speakers lined up: Mrs Ruth Blackman (Architect) and Mr Neil Wiffen (Essex Local Historian). Mrs Bickmore gave notice of events raising money for Geldeston Church 22nd May and 27th June, details on website. The Church Tours planned for 2020 will take place this summer.

After the meeting, Seething P.C.C. kindly provided refreshments.

47th annual meeting

This was scheduled to be held on May 2, 2020 but was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, acting on official advice. A full report of the Society’s activities for the year ending March 31, 2020 will be published in the September edition of The Society’s quarterly journal, The Round Tower. A summary was published in September on this website.

46th annual meeting

Weybread Hall Barn, on Saturday, 11 May 2019 at 2.15pm

The Chairman, Mr Stuart Bowell, welcomed the 32 people present and expressed grateful thanks to Mr & Mrs Gordon Tibbenham for the providing the venue for the AGM and for all their help. The Rev’d Philip Gray kindly led the opening prayers.

Apologies had been received as recorded in the Minute Book.

Minutes of the 45th AGM on 12.5.2018 were agreed, following a proposal by Mrs Linda Roy, seconded by Mr Brian Rowlands, and signed.

Revision of the Constitution: the Treasurer, Mr Nik Chapman gave a detailed explanation of why the Constitution had to be revised and what had actually been changed. He had followed the advice from the Charity Commission as to what essentials were required to conform with the new rules and regulations. The purpose and objectives of the Society had not been changed, although a Risk Register had been added. Mr Bowell thanked Mr Chapman sincerely for all his time and trouble over the past year getting this all sorted out. Following a proposal from Mr Alan Gray, seconded by Mr Michael Coates, the amendments and the new Constitution were agreed.

Chairman’s Review of the Year: Mr Bowell thanked all the Members for their continued support. Forty-nine people had attended the Study Day which was successful in spite of a few hitches (one speaker was ill!). Five Members attended a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to celebrate our Patron’s 70th Birthday. Two more have been invited to go there this year. Our Magazine Editors have stood down after 29 editions of the Magazine, and he thanked them for that long haul. Mr Pollitt has kindly taken on the temporary post of Editor and Web-site Manager.

Mr Pollitt then gave a brief explanation of the modest changes he is hoping to make to the Magazine. He would like to give it a more up-to-date approach, with news items and maybe articles of wider church interest. He said that Mr Tony Walsh had kindly offered to supply relevant photos. The web-site has had slight changes, with five new stories already added. Mr Pat Prekopp is managing the technical side.

The Chairman then reported that our Facebook page continues to be active and, like the web-site, makes the Society and its work known to a wider audience. He felt that recruitment of new Members should be the priority for the coming year. News of generous donations to the Society will be detailed later. These are exciting times for the Society!

Treasurer’s Report: Mr Chapman gave his thanks to Mr Coates for acting as Independent Examiner of the Accounts, copies of which were given to all present. The balance at 31st March 2019 was £123,294.06, the increase being due largely to the legacy from Mr Stan Barnes, amounting to £78,238. This will not be kept in a separate account, but a running total will be kept of the grants from this amount given to the churches. He explained minor changes to the CCLA accounts and to Gift Aid. The accounts were agreed following a proposal from Mr Richard Barham, seconded by Mr Alan Gray.

Mr Pollitt suggested that the amount given to each of the Churches visited on Tours should be raised from £50 to £100. His proposal was seconded by Mr Kevin Scales, and agreed.

Grants Report: Mr Nick Wiggin reported on the 8 grants given during the year, amounting to £14,500. A further £16,000 has been promised to churches where work has not yet started. Mr K Scales asked if anyone knew who was responsible for maintaining of St Benedict’s Church round tower in the middle of Norwich. Mr Wiggin will make enquiries. The acceptance of the Grants Report was proposed by Mr John Butcher, seconded by Mrs June Holden, and agreed.

Membership Secretary’s Report: Mrs Teresa Wiggin thanked all who paid their subscriptions promptly. She emphasised that cheques must be made out to “Round Tower Churches Society”. Thirty new members have joined during the year, but sadly we have lost several members of long standing. As at 31st March 2019 the Membership was 449, down 32 from last year’s total of 481. The Report was accepted, following a proposal from Mr Alan Gray, seconded by Mr Coates.

Elections of Officers and Committee: Mr Bowell stated that all the present Committee Members were happy to continue, so Mr Pollitt took the Chair to appoint Mr Bowell as the Chairman, following a proposal by Ms Hanson, seconded by the Rev’d Philip Gray, which was agreed. The Chairman returned for the following elections:- Vice Chairman Mr Pollitt (Rev’d P Gray, Mr Barham); Secretary Mrs Stilgoe (Mr Pollitt, Mrs Chapman); Treasurer Mr Chapman (Mr Barham, Mr Rowlands); Grants Officer Mr Wiggin (Mrs J Gray, Mrs Roy); Membership Secretary Mrs Wiggin (Mr Barham, Mrs Chapman); Committee Members Mrs Caroline Chapman (Mr Coates, Mrs Wiggin), Ms Jullia Hanson (Mrs J. Gray, Rev’d P Gray), Miss Kate Davey (previously co-opted, Mr Pollitt, Mrs Stilgoe), which were all agreed. Mr Pollitt was appointed Editor (Mrs Stilgoe, Mr Bowell) and Web-site Editor (Mrs Stilgoe, Mr Chapman). The Web-site technical side will be handled by Mr Pat Prekopp.

Independent Examiner: Mr Coates indicated that he would be happy to continue for one more year. He was proposed by Mr Bowell, seconded by Mr Alan Gray, and appointed.

Any Other Business: The Rev’d Philip Gray expressed the Members’ sincere thanks for all the background work done to arrange the Church Tours. Mr Pollitt reported that the restoration work on West Lexham tower, (to which we contributed a grant), has been nominated for the prestigious Sir John Betjeman Award for excellence in conservation. The finals are on 13th July 2019. Mr Pollitt also requested that those who had signed up for electronic copies of the Magazine, would please re-apply. The list of 72 names had not been passed on to him with the Web-site details.

Stephen Hart

Stephen Hart died in 2014. For an obituary and  information about Stephen Stephen Hart 1924-2014

Jack Sterry, the author of books of tours of round tower churches died in February 2014. A sad loss for the lovers of Round Tower churches. Jack’s books of tours can be purchased from the Society – go to items for sale.

Jack Sterry book 1  Jack Sterry Book 2  Jack Sterry Book 3  Jack Sterry Book 4  Jack Sterry autobiography

Jack explained his love of Norfolk and Norfolk churches in his autobiography: Almost a Norfolk Lad.

Shreeve bookDorothy Shreeve– known to Round Tower  Church fans for her wonderful illustrations of ‘The Round Tower Churches of Norfolk’ has died. Dot generously allowed the RTCS to use her illustrations. The book is now out of print, but copies are sometimes available at City Bookshop in Norwich or via Abe books.

Eddie Spelman, a long time committee member and supporter of the Society died in 2010. A piece about Eddie was published in EDP – see  Eddie Spelman.

RTCS has been given electronic copies of Messent’s drawings of Round Tower Churches. These wonderful drawings date from the 1950s are used alongside photos of the churches. The drawing are available on the Facebook Group: Round Tower Churches of South East England.

Runhall Onehouse Gresham

Most of the photos on this website were taken by members of the Committee. Other photographs are acknowledged.

Gifts and funding raising. Thanks to

  • Geoff  Swain who has raised over £700 from the sale of stamps sent to him by RTCS members in 2014-5. Please save your stamps and pass them on to Richard Barham who will send them to Geoff;
  • a local Norwich company who has allowed us to use their franking machine to send at a reduced rate many of the most recent magazines, thereby enabling the Society to devote more of its funds to helping churches;
  • Stephen Hart who has left the Society a legacy to support repairs in Round Tower Churches as well as articles & materials about Round Tower Churches. Some of these articles will be published in future editions of the Round Tower and others are being added to the website;
  • several people who have made generous donations in money and in kind to the Society including Mr T R Mee has kindly donated two of his fine drawings of Round Tower Churches- Herringfleet (left) and Cranwich (right).

St Margaret's Herringfleet by TD MeeCranwich Mr T D Mee

Privacy policy. The Society has updated its privacy policy in line with General Data Protection Regulations (aka GDPR) which applies from May 2018. For more information see The Round Tower for March 2018 or go to RTCS Privacy Policy.

Information about the Society- its membership, activities, financial report and grants to churches is reported to Society’s AGM in May each year and is reported in June edition of The Round Tower. To access this information go to The Round Tower Magazine500