HOW ST. ANDREW’S ACQUIRED ITS TOWER
fter the death (murder according to Shakespeare) of Richard II in
1400 England entered the century of the Wars of the Roses, the
years from the accession of Henry IV, of the House of Lancaster, to the death in 1485 of Richard III, of the House of York. On Northwold’s smaller stage Stephen Noble became Rector in 1412, followed by John Drew (1421), Thomas Belton (1435), Thomas Lane (1442), and John Downham (1465). In spite of England’s internal dynastic troubles, and wars with France, this was a period of economic prosperity in East Anglia, a time when England’s exports of woollen cloth increased fourfold. “By 1450,” according to Briggs, “cloth, not wool, was England’s greatest export.”
Inscriptions inside the tower record the fact that Richard Powle, Vicar of Foulden, gave 30 acres of land to help pay for repairs in 1479, and that Richard Constable of Northwold left property to the church in 1482. The tower, built in or about 1473, is in the Perpendicular style.
Seven bequests paid for it, the largest being ten marks from John Wyntener in 1467. One mark was 13s.4d., and so the Wyntener bequest totalled £6.13s.4d (say £4250 in today’s terms). In those days, according to G.M. Trevelyan, a country parson could live quite reasonably on £10 a year (about £6374 today). Wages were paid in pennies.
Pevsner writes: “It is an ambitious tower. Diagonal buttressed with flushwork emblems” (i.e. decorative use of flint to show initials and patterns). “Such emblems appear also on the base frieze and a frieze above the doorway. Double-stepped battlements with flushwork panelling and eight pinnacles.”
The emblems include A for Andrew and X for his cross, together with the wheel symbol of St. Catharine of Alexandria, who was reputed to have been martyred by being broken on a wheel. St. Catharine was patroness of learning, and her cult was widespread in mediaeval Europe. For example, in 1473, the probable year of the building of the tower, St. Catharine’s College was founded in Cambridge.
Until the beginning of the 20th century the clock operated from a lancet window in the bell-ringers’ chamber. Originally there was a peal of six bells made by William Dobson of Downham in 1818. Two more bells were added later.
Top: The west face of the tower.
Above: Pinnacle on the tower roof.
Left: The tower steps and details from the exterior of the tower.
Below, left: Three of the enthusiastic bell-ringers of all ages who can regularly be heard at practice and in action before services of all kinds. The Captain of the Bell-ringers, Mr. Charles Askew, is on the left. Against the wall behind them stands the ladder to the clock chamber.
Below, centre: The clock.
Below, right: The tower in winter.