Tower History

The Tower of St Marys Church is 110ft high from the ground and 180ft above sea level. Access to the top is via a stone spiral staircase which goes two thirds of the way up the tower, passing the bell chamber which is behind the square windows at about half way.

There are currently 8 bells and 1 chiming bell. There were probably bells in the tower in the 14th century church. In 1551 Edward VI's Commissioners removed three bells. Five of the current are dated 1637 and are inscribed "John Brend made me". Some of these may be the original bells recast.

1924 - The 5 bells cast by John Brend were lowered from the tower and taken to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The fourth and tenor were recast and a new treble bell added to make a ring of six. This new bell was given by Mrs Cator in memory of Nelson's men who were lost at sea when HMS Invincible sank on Hasbro Sands. The bells were re-hung at a lower level in a new oak frame made by Day of Eye, leaving the old bell frame beams near the top of the tower.

1976 - The bells were again lowered from the tower and taken to John Taylor of Loughborough. The second bell was recast and all the bells retuned and re-hung on new cast iron headstocks.

1985 - The local ringers organised a fund raising campaign which enabled the purchase of two bells, one from Wood Dalling (Norfolk) and the other from St Martin at Palace, Norwich. The bells were taken to Taylors of Loughborough and melted down to make two new trebles. The Church now has a fine ring of 8 bells.

The oldest bell in the tower is not part of the ring of 8. It was cast in 1557 by Thomas Draper at Thetford, one of two trebles made for Illington and some of his earliest work. Both were inscribed "Prays God Thomas Draper me Fecit 1577".When Illington church was abandoned, one treble went to Gaywood and the other treble was bought as a chiming bell for St Mary's by the Rev. Michael and Mrs Christine Payne to mark their 40th wedding anniversary. The frame was funded and installed by the local ringers who also hung the bell which can be seen at the bottom of the new memorial staircase.

Happisburgh has had a keen team of ringers for many years.

From the top of the staircase access to the roof was originally by means of a long wooden ladder unsuitable for public use. In 2001 the ladder was replaced by a new metal staircase in memory of Thomas Marshall a village boy. This enabled the tower to be open on regular days throughout the year. People who wish to climb the 133 steps can enjoy the spectacular views of the coast and surrounding countryside. On a clear day you can see 30 churches, 2 lighthouses, 7 water towers, 5 corn mills, 5 drainage mills, 2 wind farms, Trimingham golf ball (RAF radar installation), Bacton gas terminal, reefs at Sea Palling and the Cathedral spire in Norwich (approx. 16.5 miles away).