It has been a homecoming beacon for sailors and a wind-battered lookout for Second World War soldiers.

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And this weekend, following a year-long restoration project, Winterton-on-Sea’s ancient church tower will open to members of the public, offering commanding views across east Norfolk and over the North Sea.

The stone tower of Holy Trinity and All Saints’ church was built between 1415 and 1430 and, at 132ft tall, is the third tallest church tower in the county.

This Saturday and Sunday, visitors can climb the 147 narrow steps to the top – where they will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views, as well as an insight into the church’s long history.

On a clear day, views stretch as far as Happisburgh lighthouse to the north and past Caister water tower to the south.

Also worth investigating are the names and doodles scratched into the tower’s lead roof. The graffiti was left by soldiers who were posted to the top of the tower to look out for approaching enemies during the Second World War.

For those unable to make the climb, a webcam has been put in place and views from the top of the tower will be projected on to a 12ft screen inside the church all weekend.

At 10.30am on Sunday, the Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford, will lead a rededication service.

Tours of the tower will take place from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and noon to 5pm on Sunday, with volunteers leading groups of five people at a time.

On the way up, visitors will be able to stop and take a closer look at the church bells.

The bells, which date back to 1883, are one of only three complete sets cast at the village foundry of Moore, Holmes & Mackenzie at Redenhall, near Harleston – the others being at Thorpe St Andrew and Weybread.

Due to the state of the bell frame in the chamber above, the bells cannot be rung but are chimed as a carillon in the chamber below.

Climbers will also be able to see patches of repaired stonework and new wooden window slats which were installed during the extensive tower restoration.

Like many historic churches across the country, inclement weather has taken its toll. Salt air has whipped the stonework for centuries and rain got inside the tower causing cracks in the wall where frost then took hold during winter and vegetation sprouted during spring, further damaging the stones.

The Parochial Church Council pushed ahead with work after securing £350,000 in grant money, including £177,000 from English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 12-month restoration project was carried out in conjunction with Norwich-based conservation specialist Nicholas Warns Architects.

Are you restoring an old building? Email lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk

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