Great Hautbois round tower church Norfolk

Round tower churches are not only unique in structure, they are unique in location too. Predominantly found in England, the vast majority of these churches are in the region of East Anglia.

To break that down even more, according to the Round Tower Church Society, of the 181 remaining structures in England, 126 are in Norfolk (my home county), 42 are in Suffolk, 6 are in Essex and 2 are in Cambridgeshire.

Despite constant efforts to ignore him, I’ve learned a lot of what I know about round towers from my dad. It was on a walk with him in Coltishall (deciding to stop off in nearby Hautbois) that finally sparked my interest.

St Theobald’s Round-Tower Church – Hautbois, Norfolk

Great Hautbois round tower church Norfolk

Even though it’s in a state of ruin, the church comes alive in springtime with a carpet of daffodils.

Ancient English Graveyard

Everything, including the graffiti inside the church, is pretty old.

Ancient Stone Carving

 

Why are the towers round?

Many of the round tower churches of East Anglia are Anglo Saxon of origin, the reasoning for their unique towers is somewhat disputed (most heavily by my dad and his friend).

One school of thought is that, due to the building materials available in East Anglia at the time the churches were being built, their creators were subsequently limited in building techniques too. Round tower churches are predominantly built from the local flint which is a difficult material to construct corners with as it is not easy to cut or work the stones into the correct shape. Because of this, it’s believed that this is the reason that the churches have distinctive, thick round walls instead.

The other opinion is that the towers were built as defensive structures against raids (with the towers having been built first and the churches added later). This one tends to be a less popular opinion for many reasons; the same limitations on building techniques would most likely have affected how high the towers were built (hence them often being short). The towers also often appear to have flat walls where they join to the main structure of the building (indicating that they were added to the church and not the other way around).

Aslacton, St Michael

Parts of south Norfolk are believed to have a particularly high concentration of medieval churches. Yet hidden gems like Aslacton St Michael can be a little difficult to find. Luckily, on my trip to Aslacton, I had a local guide (my boyfriend) to help me navigate the little country lanes that lead to the church.

This charming little round tower is believed to be late Saxon in origin and underwent restoration in 1890.

Aslacton St Michael round tower church South Norfolk

Forncett, St Peter

Forncett St Peter is a popular example of one of Norfolk’s medieval round tower churches, it is even believed to have features that date back to Saxon and even Roman periods.

Unfortunately, the church itself was locked during my visit but I took a respectful walk around the grounds to take in the impressive tower. Visiting church grounds like Forncett is extra special on a bright spring day as there often lots of flowers, like crocus and snowdrops littering the ground.

Where to find the round towers of East Anglia.

Norfolk: 

A
Acle, St Edmund
Ashmanhaugh, St Swithin
Aslacton, St Michael
Aylmerton, St John the Baptist
B
Barmer, All Saints
Bawburgh, St Mary and St Walstan
Beachamwell, St Mary
Bedingham, St Andrew
Beeston, St Lawrence
Belton, All Saints
Bessingham, St Andrew
Bexwell, St Mary
Bradwell, St Nicholas
Brampton, St Peter
Brandiston, St Nicholas
Breckles, St Margaret
Brooke, St Peter
Burgh Castle, St Peter and St Paul
Burnham Deepdale, St Mary
Burnham Norton, St Margaret
Bylaugh, St Mary
C
Clippesby, St Peter
Cockley Cley, All Saints
Colney, St Andrew
Cranwich, St Mary
Croxton, All Saints
D
Denton, St Mary
Dilham, St Nicholas
E
East Lexham, St Andrew
East Walton, St Mary
Eccles, St Mary
Edingthorpe, All Saints
F
Feltwell, St Nicholas
Fishley, St Mary
Forncett, St Peter
Framingham Earl, St Andrew
Freethorpe, All Saints
Fritton, St Catherine
Fritton, St Edmund
G
Gayton Thorpe, St Mary
Geldeston, St Michael
Gissing, St Mary
Great Hautbois, St Mary
Great Ryburgh, St Andrew
Gresham, All Saints
H
Haddiscoe, St Mary
Hales, St Margaret
Hardley, St Margaret
Hardwick, St Margaret
Hassingham, St Mary
Haveringland, St Peter
Heckingham, St Gregory
Hellington, St John the Baptist
Hemblington, All Saints
Horsey, All Saints
Howe, St Mary
I
Ingworth, St Lawrence
Intwood, All Saints
K
Keswick, All Saints
Kilverstone, St Andrew
Kirby Cane, All Saints
L
Letheringsett, St Andrew
Little Plumstead, St Protase and St Gervase
Little Snoring, St Andrew
Long Stratton, St Mary
M
Matlaske, St Peter
Mautby, St Peter and St Paul
Merton, St Peter
Morningthorpe, St John the Baptist
Morton on the Hill, St Margaret
Moulton, St Mary
N
Needham, St Peter
Norwich, St Benedict (Tower)
Norwich, St Etheldreda
Norwich, St Julian
Norwich, St Mary at Coslany
Norton Subcourse, St Mary
O
Old Catton, St Margaret
P
Poringland, All Saints
Potter Heigham, St Nicholas
Q
Quidenham, St Andrew
R
Raveningham, St Andrews
Repps-with-Bastwick, St Peter
Rockland, St Peter
Rollesby, St George
Roughton, St Mary
Roydon, St Remigus
Runhall, All Saints
Rushall, St Mary
S
Sedgeford, St Mary
Seething, St Margaret
Shereford, St Nicholas
Shimpling, St George
Sidestrand, St Michael
South Pickenham, All Saints
Stanford, All Saints
Stockton, St Michael
Stody, St Mary
Surlingham, St Mary
Sustead, St Peter and St Paul
Swainsthorpe, St Peter
Syderstone, St Mary
T
Tasburgh, St Mary
Taverham, St Edmund
Thorpe Abbotts, All Saints
Thorpe next Haddiscoe, St Matthias
Threxton, All Saints
Thwaite, All Saints
Titchwell, St Mary
Topcroft, St Margaret
Tuttington, St Peter and St Paul
W
Wacton, All Saints
Watton, St Mary
Weeting, St Mary
Welborne, All Saints
West Dereham, St Andrew
West Lexham, St Nicholas
West Somerton, St Mary
Whitlingham, St Andrew (tower collapsed)
Wickmere, St Andrew
Witton, St Margaret
Woodton, All Saints
Worthing, St Margaret
Wramplingham, St Peter and St Paul
Y
Yaxham, St Peter

 

 

Suffolk:

A
Aldham, St Mary
Ashby, St Mary
B
Barsham, Holy Trinity
Beyton, All Saints
Blundeston, St Mary
Bramfield, St Andrew
Brome, St Mary
Bruisyard, St Peter
Bungay, Holy Trinity
F
Frostenden, All Saints
G
Gisleham, Holy Trinity
Gunton, St Peter
H
Hasketon, St Andrew
Hengrave, Church of the Reconciliation
Herringfleet, St Margaret
Higham, St Stephen
Holton, St Peter
I
Ilketshall, St Andrew
Ilketshall, St Margaret
L
Little Bradley, All Saints
Little Saxham, St Nicholas
Lound, St John the Baptist
M
Mettingham, All Saints
Mutford, St Andrew
O
Onehouse, St John the Baptist
R
Ramsholt, All Saints
Rickinghall Inferior, St Mary
Risby, St Giles
Rushmere, St Michael
S
South Elmham, All Saints
Spexhall, St Peter
Stuston, All Saints
Syleham, St Margaret
T
Theberton, St Peter
Thorington, St Peter
W
Weybread, St Andrew
Wissett, St Andrew
Wortham, St Mary

If you’d like to discover what else there is to explore in the beautiful county of Norfolk, browse my Norfolk Life category. If local wildlife is your thing, you should read my post about the Seals of Horsey Gap.