The Cow Tower, Norwich. (© NCC)History
The Cow Tower was built in 1389 to 1399 as an addition to the city’s defences. The tower is a freestanding circular artillery tower developed for canon, but it was also used for bows and arrows. The origin of the name is derived from the surrounding water meadow known as ‘Cowholm’, in which it stood. It was constructed mainly of flint, with a facing of brick. The tower may have housed a communal dining room, as well as sleeping quarters on the upper levels. It stands at 15m high, and is located beside the tranquil River Wensum. Although a ruin, the original arrowslits and gun ports can still be seen. The tower was subject to damage during Kett’s rebellion when the poor rose up against the ‘enclosure’ policies of the rich, which prevented them from using the common lands. Robert Kett was the nobleman who led the uprising, which proved to be a failure, his campaign ended with his hanging outside City Hall in Norwich. The tower is owned by English Heritage but it is managed by Norwich City Council.
So is it a good day out?
Definitely worth a look, particularly to budding historians or those with an interest in local history. However, it should be noted that you cannot actually access the inside of the tower itself, it can be viewed through a metal grate. The tower is within walking distance of the Anglican Cathedral and the two buildings make a good combined visit. The tower has some historical interest, however it is essentially a ruin and there is limited information about the building offered at the site meaning a visit does not take up a great deal of time. It is great as a point of interest while walking by the riverside but it would be disappointing to travel a long way just to see it. It is easy to access and located in a nice area of the city for river walks, with a handy nearby pub for refreshments and looking at the local wildlife. The tower and surrounding area is an interesting and enjoyable afternoon trip.
Could you take the family?
Aside from the tower, there is a grassy area and benches which would make a convenient picnic area. There is a peaceful river- walk taking you away from the city centre. There are plenty of ducks for children to feed.
Refreshments and facilities?
There is a family pub located approximately 50 yards from the Cow Tower, serving evening meals, snacks and lunches. It offers parking for patrons only.
There is a free fishing location on the River Wensum from the left bank 200m upstream and from the right bank 100m downstream of the Ringland Bridge. Species to be found include Chub, Dace, Pike and Roach.
Alice Saunders, Ruth Threlfall and Joanna Millington, 18 October 2006.
The interior of the Cow Tower, Norwich. (© NCC)Essentials
The Cow Tower is situated close to the cathedral on south bank of the River Wensum.
There is no parking at the site. Short stay parking is available at Norwich Railway Station, Multi storey parking can be found over the road from the station, next to the Riverside Complex. Both parking facilities are approximately 10 minutes walk from the Cow Tower.
There are no facilities at this site.
Self lead group visits. There are no additional facilities or activites for groups.
The tower is not accessible. There is a board walk for wheelchairs and push chairs.
All year, any reasonable time, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
City Hall, St. Peter's Street, Norwich, NR2 1NH