[Bell Historians] Oldest Bells and Fittings

David Bryant djb122 at y...
Tue May 21 12:44:21 BST 2002

At St John, York, there are a pair of bells of 1408 by John Potter of
York. The tenor is dated (and according to Fred Sharpe is the 5th
earliest dated bell in the country - does anyone know whether any of the
four earlier hung for ringing?). It and the 5th are visibly a pair, and
are beautifully cast. The founder has been assigned on their similarily
to the bell at Holy Trinity Priory, just up the road, which bears the
founder's name.

Also in the ring at St John is a very roughly cast bell apparently of
c.1350 (2nd of six). The other three bells are a reputedly C16 bell,
very short waisted and poorly cast (4th), by an unknown founder; a 1633
William Oldfield (3rd); and a 1978 Taylor treble which was formerly 3/8
at St Martin-le-Grand. The frame and fittings are all by Taylor's 1955,
except for the treble's clapper and headstock which were supplied in
1987 when it was installed here - it replaced an underweight Oldfield


> D Cawley wrote:
> I think Chris Pickford is correct in saying effectively that a more
> objective approach may need to be taken in assigning bells to their
> founders.
> A significant example of this is to be found in the treble and tenor
> of the three at Snargate, Kent. Stahlschmidt on the evidence of the
> inscriptions said it has "two bells of this period [not later than
> 1300; possibly much earlier]. The 3rd is the older of the two; it is
> inscribed in exceedingly rudely-shaped lettering, very roughly
> stamped......the letters of which are very widely spaced. The other
> bells, no.1, has the inscription also widely spaced, but much
> betterspaced lettering.". I think that this is one of those
> towers which he didn't personally visit - the shape of the tenor is
> not dissimilar to the bells traditionally assigned to W le
> Belyetere who purchased a house in Canterbury in 1325. The other
> bell - with the better lettering - is a much more archaic shape; the
> late Ranald Clouston placed it c.1250 "and no later". Quite the
> reverse of what Stahlschmidt said but based on objective examination.
> Until 1971 these three bells were hung for ringing (and indeed I rang
> on them); in that year they were rehung but with levers instead of
> wheels, but there is mention that wheels may be fitted again, and the
> frame strengthened. If threes count, then Snargate must have had two
> of the oldest bells in a ring, though not quite in the way that
> Stahlschmidt made out.
> There are also bells bearing the mark and lettering ascribed to
> William le Belyetere of Canterbury c 1325 at Canterbury St Dunstan
> (5th of 6, hung for ringing), Canterbury St Peter, tenor of 4 (hung
> for ringing as tenor of 3 till 1968; now hung dead), Bridge, tenor of
> three (unringable), Patrixbourne, tenor of three (unringable) and
> Postling, two largest of three (now hung dead). In addition the
> former tenor of three from Kingston is on exhibition at the Canterbury
> Heritage Centre at the Poor Priests' Hospital. Quite a surviving
> output for so early a reputed date.
> As to how old fittings really are, it's like walking on eggshells.
> Sometimes you may find fittings - for example some of those recently
> removed from the tower at St Mary, Staines - which are the best part
> of 200 years old but have continued to give good service through
> proper care and maintenance. I think that the Staines installation
> (new tower top, new frame, 8 new sets of fittings, tenor of 1734 six
> recast and two trebles added) was one of the earliest complete working
> 8-bell installations I knew despite re-rimmed wheels, new gudgeons,
> bearings, clapper tops and pulley sheaves in 1922. At present the
> bells are at White's, receiving new fittings. The frame is being kept
> in use. Out of use there is the complete 1673 8-bell installation
> at Horham, Suffolk, with all the fittings in place - the bells now
> hanging in a new frame below.
> Bell sizes are hard enough to quantify; antiquity even more so.
> Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
> This message was sent to you via the Bell Historians' Mailing List. To
> unsubscribe from the list send an email to
> bellhistorians-unsubscribe at yahoogroups.com
> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.

More information about the Bell-historians mailing list