Another of the Round Tower Churches that we visited in January 2017, this one you cannot miss, as it sits beside a main road, and it was a bit tricky parking. Also the walk back to the church from where we had parked the car, was far from pleasant, as the cars whizzed around the bend before the church. St Lawrence although not redundant, is not used for services anymore, maybe the decline has something to do with the absence of parking spaces. Of course prior to automobiles, it wouldn’t have been a problem, you can park a horse more or less anywhere, and people use to walk great distances, thinking nothing of it. Anyway, after risking life and limb, to my great joy, the the church was open, which was a surprise, because although its situated on a main road, it’s a very isolated place.
I found this wonderful sign leaning on a wall in the round tower. It would seem that the lower part of the round tower and part of the west wall is Saxon, and the church attached is 14th to 15th century. The church has a very peaceful feel, although it’s quite empty really compare to other churches I had visited during that day. I have read that St Lawrence has become a place of pilgrimage and the visitors book shows a constant succession of strangers seeking sanctuary, and many feel moved to write at great length, some in the hours of darkness by torch light…….not sure that is something I would do.
I stepped inside, to something of a surprise. In the 18th century, the Preston family of Beeston Hall took it upon themselves to turn this church into their mausoleum, which was re-roofed and redecorated in 1803 by Thomas Hulton, later to become Sir Thomas Preston, 1st Baronet. This was the kind of thing that was common where a church had strong ties with a Hall, especially in a tiny village, which Beeston had always been. They are not large memorials, but there are some interesting grave slabs and a table tomb, that are worth a read.
A little history of the village….. The village of Beeston, which the church served, was an ancient one being listed in the Doomsday Book as “Besetuna.” It survived into the 18th century but has since disappeared and is numbered among the 130 or so “lost villages” of Norfolk. At the time of the Doomsday survey (1085) the land at Beeston belonged to the great Benedictine Abbey at Cowholme on the Broads, founded by King Canute in 1034 and now a scanty ruin…….. I think the ruins of the abbey at Cowholme is St Benet’s Abbey which was originally founded on an island called Cowholme.