Emmy Award-winning screenwriter, Stephen Davis, warns pylon plans risk ruining Wortham's Church of St Mary the Virgin
As National Grid’s controversial pylon plans continue to prompt objections across the region, one amateur historian has warned that it could result in electricity cables hanging over one of the most historic buildings in Britain.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, in Wortham, sits squarely in the middle of the proposed area where National Grid plans to build 50-metre-high pylons as part of the East Anglia Green project.
The church’s round tower has long been established as the largest in the UK – measuring 29 feet in diameter – but Stephen Davis, an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter who lives in the village, has suggested that the tower could hold even more significance than that.
The 71-year-old has had a fascination with the tower for the nine years since he moved to Suffolk from the Cotswolds, where he made headlines for identifying a number of neolithic standing stones.
Mr Davis, who won an Emmy in 2004 for his work on BBC drama Waking the Dead, has pointed to the prostrate standing stone, a few feet from the tower, as an indication of a pre-Christian significance – possibly dating it to a time before the religion dominated the region.
Furthermore, the entrance to the tower is several feet high, suggesting that it could have been used for defensive purposes.
He argues that this could contradict previous suggestions that the tower was built in the 11th century, as there was no well-known defence imperatives for people around that time.
“As soon as I saw the churchyard, I saw two things,” said Mr Davis, who lives in Low Road. “I saw a prostrate standing stone – that tells me the site is pre-Christian.
“And its entrance is seven feet off the ground, so I think it was built for defensive purposes, meaning it’s probably pre-Norman era.
“To be still standing, I can’t think of anything else that’s older, other than Roman ruins.
“We could be looking at the oldest building in England.”
The father-of-two has endorsed the idea of an archaeological dig around the building.
While nothing is certain, he warned that National Grid’s pylon project could risk ruining the landscape of what could be one of Britain’s greatest undiscovered landmarks.
“It completely compromises the landscape of were this tower stands,” he said.
“They are going to put 50-foot pylons over what could be the oldest building in Britain – it doesn’t show much of a commitment to heritage in this country.
“I hope that I add to a cumulative awareness to the sensitivity of this bit of landscape, which is quite special.”
Like many others in the area, he endorsed the idea of an undersea cable route from the offshore wind farms into the Thames estuary, known as Sea Link 2.
“I suspect that National Grid’s commercial incentive is to get these pylons up,” he added. “But I think when they realise the real cost of building this, they will understand the better solution will be an offshore solution.
“Do they really want to go down as the bunch of people who put up pylons over the oldest building in Britain?”