In England and Wales, we get used to churches with a tower at the west end, a chancel at the east end and a nave in between, without realizing how rare this is elsewhere. Separate bell-towers are actually rare enough to excite comment. The timber belfry at Pembridge (1: Herefs) is well away from the north side of the church and has recently been the subject of a dendrochronological study, which indicated that the original tower dates from between 1207 and 1223, some of the roof possibly being original – further work was carried out around 1471 and also around 1668/9. The triple-coned candle-snuffer belfry at Brookland (2: Kent), described by Simon Jenkins as something which ‘might have flown in from Transylvania’, is in its origins roughly contemporary with Pembridge. The whole of West Walton church (3: Norfolk) was constructed c.1240, including the splendid stone belfry.
Another separate stone bell-tower, at Beccles (4: Suffolk), dates from the early sixteenth century – money was left for its construction between 1515 and 1547. The Suffolk parish of East Bergholt started to construct a west tower around 1525; money and time ran out, so the parish constructed a separate bell-cage (5) in its place, standing to the north of the church. ND