The founder’s story: Bill Goode who raised the profile of round tower churches

Round tower church enthusiast Bill Goode, who campaigned to safeguard a key element of the region’s heritage, died aged 95 in January 2008.

He spent more than five decades studying round tower churches and published books on the subject, which helped to raise their profile to a wider public.

In 1973, he founded the Round Tower Churches Society, which later enjoyed the patronage of the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III.

In the past five decades, the society has donated more than £300,000 towards church restoration projects.

Born in Ealing, London, he left school at 14 and then lived in Lowestoft, where he was a pork butcher.

While he was on war service as a wireless operator/gunner, seeing action in North Africa and later Italy, the shop was run by his wife, Ada. Later, he worked as a television engineer at Lowestoft’s former Pye factory until 1975.

His fascination with round tower churches started in 1965 when he acquired a new camera. “His choice just happened to alight on round towers,” the Eastern Daily Press reported in 1996.

“He readily admits he didn’t even know how many of them there were… and became hooked on the mystery, the beauty and the character of these remarkable buildings.”

Then, using £2,000 of his life savings, he published a book, East Anglian Round Towers and their Churches in 1982. It was a financial success and went on to make £3,000 profit. This was ploughed into the society by its president, who retired in 2007.

He published a revision, Round Tower Churches of South East England, with added drawings by Diana Bowie, in 1994. His first booklet, East Anglian Round Tower Churches, has again been revised.

As a result of 17 years of research into round towers, including 130 in Norfolk and 42 in Suffolk, he concluded that most dated from Saxon times and were pre-Norman Conquest. It was a controversial finding, which generated much debate and dispute among academics over the years.

However, his enthusiasm encouraged others to research and study round tower churches. A leading author and expert on church architecture, Stephen Hart, said that the society would remain a living memorial to its enthusiastic founder.

Mr Goode surveyed churches using a simple plumb line of his invention and with his late wife travelled thousands of miles in an orange Volkswagen Beetle, complete with 19ft ladder on the roof.

His wife died in 2001. Bill Goode, June 6, 1912 to January 27, 2008.

Footnote: It is likely that the Society’s 2023 annual meeting (TBC) will be held at St Peter, Gunton, marking the start of the golden jubilee celebrations.