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Town’s medieval tower could be brought back into use in heritage scheme

The North West Tower next the the River Bure in Great Yarmouth.

Picture: James Bass

The North West Tower next the the River Bure in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2015

A funding bid is being put in to look at whether one of Great Yarmouth’s medieval buildings should be brought back into use.

The North West Tower, which stands by the River Bure by the town’s magistrates court, is the subject of a Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s economic development committee paper looking at approving a £9,250 bid to lever funds from the Architectural Fund Trust for its renovation.

It is hoped the £9,250 will help lead to the full repair and reuse of the tower, which is a scheduled ancient monument and is part of Yarmouth’s medieval town wall.

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The tower was last used as an office for a surveyors firm and has been vacant and, according to the council, under maintained since 2004 and is in a poor condition, which is likely to worsen.

It is owned by the borough council which annually spends £30,000 on maintaining, repairing and consolidation the town wall and its towers.

The council says the Architectural Fund Trust would very much welcome an application to support work to renovate the tower.

The overall initial development work totals £23,000, which is match funded and has also seen the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust pump in £2,500, leaving the £9,250 shortfall the council is looking at.

The overall application would be handled by the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust.

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Council papers say: “Great Yarmouth Town Wall and Towers are important heritage assets and considered to be of international importance.

“The development work includes exploring the existing architectural sketch scheme and concept for conversion and considering the options and business case for reuse and future funding opportunities.

“The development work will enable applications to be made to a range of potential funders including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England and The European Walled Towns Group.”

There is also a possibility of the tower and also the town’s South East Tower, which has been converted into holiday accommodation, could both be transferred to the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust.

The council will look at the issue on April 3 with a recommendation the £9,250 be sourced from the council’s special projects.

TOWN WALL HISTORY

Permission to enclose Great Yarmouth with walls and a ditch was granted by Henry III in 1261 but work did not start until 24 years later.

Completion of this huge task took over 111 years, the labour hit by a series of setbacks not least the town sending 2,000 men to fight for the King in Calais, France, and the plague which killed 70pc of the town’s population.

It stretched over one and a quarter miles long and enclosed the town in a half circle from the beach leaving the riverside accessible.

It enabled Yarmouth to also ensure taxes could be collected, a right only a King could grant – and in itself that proved how important the harbour and town was to England.

As a Scheduled Ancient Monument, large sections of these walls and 11 towers still survive today, many hidden behind buildings which came much later and some parts providing the foundation for hotel

It is the country’s second most complete medieval town wall.

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