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Medieval tower in Great Yarmouth opened as unusual holiday let

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:35 19 November 2015

The South East Tower along Yarmouth's mediaeval town wall has been converted in holiday accomodation.

The South East Tower along Yarmouth's mediaeval town wall has been converted in holiday accomodation.

© Archant 2015

A town wall tower which was once heralded for its unique vantage point in fending off pirates has reopened after extensive renovations - but now it is welcoming holidaymakers over the threshold instead.

History of the ‘flinty ring of 15 towers’ which surrounded Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth boasts the second best preserved medieval town wall in England, after York’s city wall.

The borough council owns 10 of the 11 surviving towers in the wall, seven of which are largely intact and currently unoccupied.

The five-storey South East Tower features a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom.

Conservation work included re-pointing and repairing the stonework, conserving the gargoyles, limewashing the interior walls, repairing the floors, and installing a timber staircase.

Great Yarmouth town wall traces its origins to 1261 when King Henry III granted permission to enclose the town with a wall and ditch.

The work took many years and continued until about 1400. The fortification, which was last manned during the English Civil War, was more than 23 feet high, 2,280 yards long and boasted 10 gates and 16 towers.

The South East Tower dates back to the 14th century and was nearly doubled in height by an extension in the 16th century.

This tower was particularly suited to repelling pirates as it protruded and gave the inhabitants a better vantage point for defending themselves. During the time of the Spanish Armada, the wall and towers were described as a “flinty ring of 15 towers which sent out thunder whenever a Spaniard dare to come near”.

The medieval South East Tower, part of Great Yarmouth’s 13th century town wall, has benefited from a £100,000 makeover to transform it into a cornerstone of the resort’s reinvention as a cultural and heritage destination.

Cutting the ribbon to the five-storey conversion at an official opening ceremony yesterday were borough councillors Barry Coleman and Bernard Williamson. Mr Coleman, whose portfolio includes arts, culture, heritage and conservation, said: “One of the borough council’s priorities is to work with champions and partners to gain national recognition for, and make better use of, the borough’s extensive cultural heritage. We have the second oldest town wall in the country here, we’ve had the opportunity to use the tower to further our cultural heritage and create a truly unique holiday destination.”

A crowd gathered for the chance to see inside the tower, which is a far cry from the original interior flint and pebble walls, which are now white washed with wooden features.

Many onlookers were taking a break from an all-day conference at St George’s Theatre, which is in itself a beacon of regeneration. The conference – organised by the newly-formed Great Yarmouth Cultural Heritage Partnership – aimed to find ways to make better use of the borough’s heritage assets and successfully resolve the conundrum about how to create a year-round resort.

The South East Tower along Yarmouth's mediaeval town wall has been converted in holiday accomodation.The South East Tower along Yarmouth's mediaeval town wall has been converted in holiday accomodation.

The renovation of the tower is fitting with the aims of the cultural conference too, which Hugh Sturzaker, chairman of the cultural heritage partnership, said went “very well” with more than 100 delegates attending and tickets selling out.

Mr Sturzaker added: “It’s a fantastic idea to convert the tower. It’s taking something very practical and I’m sure it will generate income, which will hopefully lead to doing up the other towers too.”

If the first tower proves a success, borough council conservationists and Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust will turn their eyes to the North West Tower, close to the White Swan pub as well as the Pinnacle Tower, unusual due to its conical roof, which is tucked away behind BHS in the town centre and Park House Care Home, who jointly own it.

In the meantime, discussions are being held with the Landmark Trust, who, it is hoped, will take the South East Tower on to their books for rental.

The trust would also give expert advice on how to furnish the quirky retreat.

The tower is expected to open for guests from Easter 2016.

Do you have a heritage story? Email geraldine.scott@archant.co.uk

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