Climbing the Tower
Twenty steps up, there is a recess which led through a doorway to a bell gallery. This ceased to be used many years ago and it is possible that, at some period, the bells were rung from this gallery. On the way up the staircase, the various periodical 'patching-up' of the walls through the centuries and the fine brick vaulting are well worth noting.
Eighty two steps up, you come to the Bell Ringing Chamber, housing the fine clock mechanism, which has served Cromer so well since 1863. On the east side of the chamber there are three doorways that lead to smaller staircases. Two of these give access to the north and south sides of the nave roof. The other staircase looks down on the nave, and at one time gave access to the previous roof void, which for safety reasons, although partly glazed, was sealed up during 1971. The door of the ringing chamber is also partly glazed to enable visitors to see the more interesting parts.
Ninety steps up, there is a bricked-in doorway. This once led to a platform, which was the highest point of this section of the tower staircase. It was thought that on this platform a light or beacon was exposed towards the sea before the introduction of lighthouses. The doorway is known as "Yaxley's Hole" as it is tradition in Cromer, that a boy of that name, whilst bird-nesting with a companion, had a dispute regarding the spoils. It seems the other boy either pushed or let go of Yaxley's legs, and he fell off the platform to the ground about 70 feet below. Incredible, as it may sound, he came to little harm. He was known to have served on a 'man-of-war" in the Royal Navy, returning after an eventful life to die quietly within sight of the tower that made his name part of Cromer's folklore. An outside examination of the tower will reveal that the platform from which Yaxley fell is in fact the top of a small tower, which encloses this section of the staircase between the two buttresses of the main tower. The staircases of the north and south porches are constructed in a similar manner. The staircase is now incorporated within the main walls of the tower. It is not so wide as the first section although much bigger than a normal church tower staircase.
One hundred and fourteen steps up will bring us to the Bell Chamber which houses six bells. The original peal was five but only one of these remains, the other four being sold during the sad period of the 18th century. This ancient bell was cast at Norwich in the latter part of the 15th Century and bears the Leonine inscription in black letters, "Missus Vero Pie Gabriel Fert Leta Marie" (Now Gabriel being sent, bears joyful tidings to Holy Mary). The present peal was presented by Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, Bart. and was cast by Mears and Steinbank at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1874. The peal was re-hung on ball-bearings in 1948. These require greasing every ten years. There are two tall, two-light bell openings in each side of the chamber which is quite unusual, and the door of this chamber is partly glazed for the benefit of visitors.
One hundred and fifty eight steps up, and we come to a recess which once led to a room under the roof of the tower. Walter Rye mentions the room and describes the door which led to it in his 'Cromer Past and Present'. The beams which supported the flooring of this room can still be seen from the bell chamber. This room was lit by eight small windows, two on each side of the tower, which can be easily identified from the ground by an iron bar placed across each of them. The purpose of the room is unknown. It has been suggested that it could have been used by men engaged on 'watch duties' in times of peril and fears of invasion.
One hundred and seventy one steps up brings us to the roof of the tower which is tiled and surrounded by a most attractive stone parapet 3 feet 9 inches high. This is crested on each side by eight stone fleur-de-lis. On each corner there is an imposing pinnacle and the traditional water spout gargoyles. A bridge extends from west to east across the roof. The views to be seen at this level are magnificent. A fact that can be verified by the thousands of visitors who ascend the tower during the summer season, when it is open to the public.