Special cake marks 50th anniversary of Norfolk Church Tours

A special cake was cut to mark the golden jubilee of Norfolk Church Tours.

It was 50 years ago when Mid-Norfolk farmer Richard Butler-Stoney and a group of like-minded enthusiasts started the first tours.

And over the past half century, hundreds of churches across the county have been visited as the full summer programme of four tours started in June 1970.

The special cake, with (from left) Richard Barham, Tom Butler-Stoney, son of the founder, ‘Lyn Stilgoe and Michael Pollitt.

To mark the anniversary, Tom Butler-Stoney, who is Richard’s oldest son, was invited to cut a decorated cake at St Mary Magdalene, Beetley. Slices of the rich fruit cake were given to about 50 members to mark the final tour of the season on Sunday, July 21.

Richard Barham, who was a long-standing advisory council member of the Norfolk Churches Trust, provided the cake.  He explained that Mr Butler-Stoney, of Mileham, who died in 2003, researched and wrote several hundred church guides over the following years. He was a founder of the Norfolk Church Tours with another farmer and churchwarden, Hugh Holbeach, who had died in 1991.

Mr Holbeach, churchwarden at Bittering for 33 years, gave talks on church tours for more than 20 years alongside Mr Butler-Stoney. They had started with trial visits in 1969 in the Brisley and Elmham Deanery Synod and then spread further afield.

The tours are now organised by a small group, led by ‘Lyn Stilgoe, Richard Barham and Michael Pollitt, who talk about the churches. Mrs Stilgoe, also secretary to the Round Tower Churches Society, and who took over from Mr Butler-Stoney, has written about 250 guides for the church tours during the past three decades.