Membership boost for Society and heading towards the 500 target

A boost in membership of the Round Tower Churches Society was reported at the latest annual meeting.

As the Society prepares to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, it hopes to reach the 500 membership milestone during the coming months. Membership secretary Nick Wiggin said that 41 new members had joined the Society, which now has 487 supporters.

“We’re aiming to get to 500 members. This will help support and fund repairs and conservation of these distinctive round tower churches,” he told the 48th annual meeting at Seething village hall on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

The Society, founded in 1973, has awarded almost £50,000 in grants to more than a dozen churches in the past four years. Sadly because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many churches were unable to carry out pressing repair work and so the Society only paid £2,500 in grants in the year ending March 31 as against £13,200 in the previous year.

However, in the past three months, it has awarded £16,000 to three churches, including its largest ever single grant of £7,000 for St Andrew’s, Mutford, near Beccles, for urgent repairs to the tallest round tower in Suffolk. In addition, £5,000 has been given to St Michael and All Angels, Geldeston and £4,000 to St Mary, Rickinghall Inferior, near Diss, for repairs.

Members had been extremely generous in adding donations to the annual subscription income of £11,622 last year. In March alone, renewals of £1,256 were received plus £570 in donations. Most members were paying more than the minimum £20 or £30 for joint membership, he added. (See the Join tab to apply and pay subscription)

While the Society had inevitably lost members, there was a net increase on the year from 481.

Mr Wiggin had also represented the Society at a memorial service for David Stannard on Friday, May 6 at Hempstead. An expert on the lost east Norfolk round tower church of Eccles-next-the-Sea, the respected local historian and researcher had spoken at a society conference several years ago. (A full obituary appears in the June 2022 edition of The Round Tower – which will be sent to members).

Of the country’s 184 round tower churches, 124 are in Norfolk, 38 in Suffolk, with a handful in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Sussex and Berkshire.

The society also runs monthly Saturday summer tours to round tower churches with the next on June 11 meeting at Edingthorpe, 2.30pm, then Beeston St Lawrence and Ashmanhaugh, with guides ‘Lyn Stilgoe, Richard Barham and Michael Pollitt.

Members are pictured at Seething church shortly before the latest annual meeting. Photograph: Michael Pollitt.

(See ‘Events’ tab for full summer programme of church visits).