Follow in footsteps of Cromwell’s foes in Mautby

The church towers of Runham and Filby loom over the landscape while in the distance Breydon Water is shimmering in the heat haze.

It is a peaceful scene of gently rolling countryside unchanged for centuries – save for the 21st century addition of wind turbines at Somerton and offshore at Scroby Sands.

The serene vista is thought not to have been experienced by the public since the days of Oliver Cromwell, when anxious Royalists used the tower of the 13th century St Peter and St Paul Church, in Mautby, near Great Yarmouth, as a lookout.

However, modern-day visitors will be given a unique opportunity to enjoy the views when the 46ft 6in tower is opened from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, August 13, as part of celebrations for Open Churches Week.

Church organist and treasurer Richard Howard, 64, said: 'In recent times, it would have only been architects on their five-year inspection visits who would have climbed the stone spiral staircase and two wooden ladders to the top.


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'We thought about opening it up to the public last year, but ran out of time.

'Earlier this year, our rector, Graham Steel, went up and was so impressed with the view that he said we simply had to do it this summer.'

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Retired banker Mr Howard, who lives in nearby Ormesby but was born and raised in Mautby, said the first step was to get permission from church insurers Ecclesiastical.

'A representative came out and gave us the all-clear, subject to certain safety measures such as providing lights,' he said.

'Then it was time for our party of volunteers to come in to carry out the first spring clean in centuries; pigeons had got in at some point and there was all their mess as well as bits of thatch they had brought in.'

Mr Howard said tower visitors would be climbing the same steps as the 17th century Royalists who lived through one of the church's most eventful periods.

'It was a very Royalist area and people climbed the tower to keep a look out for Cromwell's Parliamentarians,' he said.

'It is thought Parliamentarians were responsible for burning down the rectory in 1649 when it was reported that parish records along with 2,000 books were burned to cinders.' The Rev Steel, who took over at Mautby and the neighbouring parishes of Filby, Fleggburgh, Runham and Stokesby four years ago, said: 'Opening up the church tower will give people the opportunity to experience views they will have never seen in quite the same way before.'

He stressed that comprehensive safety precautions were being taken with a number of guides on hand with torches.

He said Fleggburgh church tower would also be opening this Saturday, at the start of Open Churches Week and they were also organising a number of guided walks during the week.

For more about other events in Open Churches Week visit www.norfolkopenchurches.com.

stephen.pullinger@archant.co.uk

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