It was 50 years ago that the Round Tower Churches Society was founded, said the charity’s chairman Stuart Bowell. He told BBC Radio Norfolk’s Faith programme (Sunday, June 25), that in the past half century more than £400,000 has been given in grants to help maintain these special churches.
Mr Bowell said that the Society was founded in 1973 and today has more than 500 members – a milestone reached in the golden jubilee year.
Started in March 1973 by a former TV engineer, Bill Goode, who lived at Lowestoft, he brought together like-minded enthusiasts. The Society, which became a registered charity, was actually founded on September 1, 1973.
Thanks to donations, including some very generous legacies, the Society has been able to help so many churches but membership subscriptions of a minimum £20pa were key, he said.
Mr Bowell said that of the country’s 180 round tower churches, 124 were in Norfolk and 38 in Suffolk. A lack of natural stone and because there was an abundance of locally-available building material, flint and lime mortar, so many round towers were built over some 400 years from around 1000AD.
He said that in the past financial year, a record total of £36,500 had been paid out in grants to 11 churches in Norfolk and Suffolk. The grants included £4,000 to Long Stratton, £3,000 for Forncett St Peter and £2,000 to Threxton.
Another £40,000 had also been pledged for outstanding repairs and conservation work.
He said that the Society had celebrated the special anniversary at the May annual meeting and a number of members were invited to a special reception by Lady Dannatt, HM Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk.
In addition, the Society has been invited to attend the Royal Norfolk Show’s Community Champions’ tribute on Wednesday, June 28 at the Norfolk Showground. Lady Dannatt will address these dozens of organisations from across Norfolk gathered in the grand ring at around 7.15pm.
The Society’s also arranges summer tours with the next scheduled on Saturday, July 1, starting at Freethorpe, NR13 3AH, starting 2.30pm, then Moulton St Mary and finally Clippesby. Tours are free and guides will talk about the exterior and interior of the churches.
See – How to join the Society. This can be done on-line.