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.
Which 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?
So 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.
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.