Towering above the landscape

On the edge of Castle Acre village in West Norfolk stands a rusty old water tower. Apparently a Braithwaite type (the name refers to the manufacturer), it was originally constructed for nearby RAF Massingham during WWII, and afterwards recycled and moved to Castle Acre where it was decommissioned in the early 90s. Left to stand and rust, it became a familiar landmark to us locals and in some people’s eyes it was considered a bit of a blot on the lovely landscape, well that is until recently.

Picture: Matthew Usher.

Bought in an auction by a professional photographer from London it has, in the last couple of years been given it a complete face lift. Driving by we have watched the transformation with curiosity.

So what joy it was back in September when the new owners kindly held an open day and invited us all in, and free of charge. We went in droves, proving that we all love a good snoop when the opportunity arises. The garden gates were open wide and with a glorious blue sky and a quirky house sign we were welcomed in.

The recently laid drive has on one side a mature mixed hedgerow and on the other newly planted Corsican pines.

At first sight the impressive structure appears almost menacing and I wondered for a brief moment if I might spy a German soldier peering from the slit windows.

The owners employed the clever team of architects tonkin liu https://tonkinliu.co.uk/architecture .

An awesome beast, it is a touch industrial but at the same elegant.The understated front door is pinned open…….

and you enter into a garden room.

The spiral stairs beckons you upwards

each step crafted into neat wooden sandwiches.

I am keen to get straight to the top just allowing my heavily pregnant daughter-in-law to stop a second to admire the windows,

and then the stairs morph into a metal ladder

and we clamber up out on to the roof. We thought it a still day but the wind blows up here.

My friend seems to be a very long way down,

But the views are stunning; stubble fields stretch northwards,

while to the east, the small village of Newton by Castle Acre is hidden by trees.

To the south is the village of Castle Acre, with Southacre beyond,

and to the west, the road winds towards Westacre. Much of these acres are owned by the Holkham estate situated some 18 miles away, the home of the Coke family. The story goes that when Coke was increasing his lands back in the 17th Century, King James 1 was not happy with the acquisition. Coke’s comment was that it was just three more acres he wanted to purchase and so proceeded to acquire Castle Acre, West Acre and South Acre.

It is time to descend, the way down through the hatch somehow does not seem as inviting as it did on the way up.

We go down into the floor below which is in fact the old water tank and now the kitchen,

with the large ballcocks cunningly recycled into ceiling lights,

and the windows cut out of the metal sides to reveal the landscape. It is pure art.

Below the kitchen, on different levels are the two bedrooms, a ladder reaches to the raised bed area. No curtains adorn the ceiling to floor windows but why would you want to block out that view.

The owner Denis and his wife haven’t quite moved in and have been residing in a double converted container situated by the tower. There is no garden as yet, and indeed surrounded by such landscape there is no need. Outside the container the patio area is decoratively paved with recycled manhole covers,

and from here you can look up and check the time. And for us we realise it is time to go.

Owner Denis is an acclaimed still-life photographer and his profile describes his ability ‘to create spectacular, dynamic imagery from all manner of raw material’, I think it could be said that he displays his talent in this extraordinary building.

12 thoughts on “Towering above the landscape

  1. I love its bleak but beautiful industrial look. The interior detailing is impressive. What a very interesting blog Julia. As ever- really great photos

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  2. Great, thanks Julia. Another very interesting garden gate is open foray. It’s refreshing to see that an outwardly redundant previous structure can be ‘re-purposed’. And what a good job has been done too. It also prompts me to reflect upon how the many surviving wind pumps/mills of East Anglia and The Fens are now cherished, valued and protected. The ironic comparison with their modern equivalents (wind turbines) which are deemed unwanted and eyesores by some, in spite of their awesome grace and elegance, plus the clear benefit to humanity and the environment, can be made.

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  3. What a unique building, a place for young people to live with all of those ladders. The views would be worth it. I am not such a fan of the industrial look but so many people do love it. I do like the way the sandwiched steps soften the inside.

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  4. As a Castle Acre villager I was amazed when visiting the Water Tower , on the Open Day , and it became a pleasant memory ., and talking point . I too took some photographs , but your photos and accompaning blog excels. Now I have a permanent record ( thanks to the wonders of IT ) , with your permission Julia, to share and broadcast .
    This historic monument has become a Treasure which I hope will be in the history books along with the Priory and Castle.

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