Friday, 8 March 2013

Cow Tower: Zak to the future


I’M A big fan of Cow Tower in Norwich, but here’s how not to take a photo of it.

It’s a late 14th century “artillery blockhouse”. In other words a free-standing tower which used to be full of soldiers and guns. But the trouble with taking a photo from here is that you have no idea why such a defence would have been needed in this part of the city.

The answer – of course – is location, location, location. Just beyond this photo lies the River Wensum. And while much of the rest of medieval Norwich is protected by walls, the river was pressed into service as a natural moat in this north east corner …with Cow Tower providing a bit of belt and braces. So the best place to take a photo is from the other side of the river to put the whole thing in context.

cow tower zaksWhich is why it’s so disappointing to walk round to Barrack Street to discover that the town planners didn’t quite have their historical heads on, when they gave Zaks planning permission. Incidentally this whole section of Norwich is dripping in medieval history, most notably due to its connections with Kett’s Rebellion of 1549. The rebels swarmed down from Mousehold Heath. At one point during that crazy destructive summer Cow Tower took direct hits. If Zaks wasn’t there you would be able to see the damage. In the future we will look after vistas like this a bit better. Won’t we?

083So we try a bit higher. There must be a good shot from the lower slopes of Mousehold Heath. After all its height is why they had to build the tower so high in the first place. But no, the Zaks roofline ruins that angle as well. You still can’t see the Wensum. So in the end the only way to get a photo with a proper sense of history is to head down to Petch’s Corner and look straight ahead.CT for desktop

You’ve lost the height, which is a shame. But at last you can see the Wensum and appreciate the tower’s strategic position on a bend.

So it’s this final shot you’ll get to see in the book. …But I just wanted to let you know that I had thought about it first.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A fine village in a fine city - but no pub


I’VE MOVED on now to the tricky subject of Norwich Cathedral. Tricky in that people write massive tomes on this magnificent building and I don’t think I can justify more than about 700 words.

There’s an impressive amount of proper history here of course. A humdinger of a city versus monks row culminating in a 1272 riot which saw at least 13 people die. The dissolution of the priory in 1538, the ejection of the bishop during the Civil War and a near escape during the WW2 bombings.


I think the key is to see it as part of The Close ..which of course runs down to my all-important river. The sheer ambition of its founder Herbert de Losinga all those years ago is impressive. He set out to appropriate a truly massive site – 42 acres in all. Nine hundred years later it survives in its entirety.

So as a close you’ve got a cathedral, a school, and a community. (“A Fine Village in a Fine City” said the Dean back in 1976. Thanks for that Mr Very Reverend.)  Pull’s Ferry used to protect a canal which ran up to the cathedral. And I’ve just been reading some stuff on how The Close used to be full of dodgy alehouses. But by the mid 18th century there were just the five. The Ferry House, The Gate House, The Black Jack, The Three Cranes and the Garden House. There’s a challenge for CAMRA. Reinstating a boozer into the genteel world of The Close …and calling it traditional.