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Visiting Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, and its North-West Tower, dating from c.1344: overlooking the Bure River

Updated on December 15, 2011
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
North West Tower and Bure Bridge, Great Yarmouth
North West Tower and Bure Bridge, Great Yarmouth | Source
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner; C.Heath & HE Lloyd, 'Picturesque Views in England and Wales', London, 1838
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner; C.Heath & HE Lloyd, 'Picturesque Views in England and Wales', London, 1838 | Source
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Map location of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk | Source

Keeping watch for more than 7 centuries

This restored tower, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, is reckoned to date from c.1344, and once formed part of the town's Medieval walls.

Some history and features

Great Yarmouth's North-West Tower was executed in a combination of materials comprising brick and flint, the latter being a noted feature of older buildings in the region. The structure incorporates a striking, conical roof, with tiling. The Tower attains a height of 9.2 metres.

The North-West Tower was restored in the 1960s. It is situated at Great Yarmouth's North Quay.

Recent rôles which the tower has adopted has included service as an architect's office. (Imagine a North American architectural partnership availing itself of such a building, details of which might be put on its letterhead or calling cards!)

Altogether, six other towers from the Medieval town walls are still extant in largely intact condition; these are known as follows: Palmer's Tower, at Blackfriars Road; the South-East Tower, which is now a museum, with an exhibition centre and a specialism in pottery; the octagonal King Henry's Tower; and the North-East Tower.

The Norfolk Record Office retains a detailed account, dating from 1336-1345, of the building of Great Yarmouth's town wall defences. This wall complex is one of the earliest examples of brick usage in East Anglia which can be dated with considerable certainty. The work on the walls, originally sanctioned by King Henry III, continued between 1285 and circa 1400. In 1558, Thomas Nash wrote of Great Yarmouth's as 'a flinty ring of 15 towers which sent out thunder whenever a Spaniard dared to come near' (1)

The name Great Yarmouth refers to the mouth of the Yare River, where it flows into the North Sea; but also at Great Yarmouth is the confluence of the Yare and Bure Rivers. It is this latter river that the North-West Tower overlooks.

Great Yarmouth is located on the coast of Norfolk, in the historic region of England known as East Anglia.


(1) Norfolk Record Office Leaflet 26: Great Yarmouth Town Wall. On a personal note, I find the history of the town rather gripping because someone with my family name — Fenn, but then spelt 'Fen', was once Bailiff of Yarmouth in the Middle Ages.

Also worth seeing

In Great Yarmouth itself, St. Nicholas's church is said to be the largest parish church in England. Church Plain has Anna Sewell's House. The Town Hall is a fine, brick building. The Britannia Monument commemorates Admiral Lord Nelson.

Burgh Castle (distance: 6.8 kilometres) dates from Roman times.

Norwich (distance: 34 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, a few of which include: Norwich City Hall, Norwich Castle, the Guildhall and Norwich Cathedral.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Great Yarmouth is served by rail from London Liverpool Street Station. The town is 265 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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