The Earliest Ring of Bells

john ketteringham john.ketteringham at n...
Fri Sep 6 08:56:50 BST 2002

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I think the original query was the date of the earliest known ring of
bells. If this is interpreted as a set of bells intended to be rung
together then the following information taken from Lincolnshire Bells and
Bellfounders about Crowland appears to be relevant :

There is a long history of bells at Crowland Abbey and it is recorded that
the sixth abbot, Turketyl (946-975) cast a great bell which he named
Guthlac. His successor, Egelric (975-984), added six more which he named,
Bartholomew, Betelm, Turketyl, Tatwyn, Pega and Bega. It is said that when
these seven bells were rung 'an exquisite harmony was produced thereby, nor
was there such a peal of bells in those days in all England'. A fire in
1091 destroyed these bells and two small bells were presented to the Abbey
by Fergus the coppersmith of Boston. Another fire in 1171 probably
destroyed these bells. Abbot Ralph Merske (1253-1281) built a campanile at
the East end of the church and in about 1392 a large bell was given or
recast and it would appear that at that time there were two rings of bells.
By 1405 there were 'four sweetly sounding bells. in the tower beyond the
choir' and circa 1460 the 'great bells' in the campanile were recast 'in
order that they might be brought to a state of more perfect harmony'. At
the dissolution of the Abbey the bells in the campanile were probably
destroyed but those in the central tower remained for the use of the parish.
In 1465 the three bells in the central tower were replaced by five 'fine and
choice bells' which were cast in London. The cost of these bells was ?165
which was paid by the Abbot. It is recorded that the five new bells were
consecrated before being hung in the tower and were inscribed with the
following Saints names : Guthlac, Bartholomew, Michael, Mary and Trinity.
In 1783 Gough in his History of Crowland (as quoted by North) recorded the
inscriptions of three of the bells in the tower at that time as follows :

present tenor bell and was . probably cast a few years after the five cast
in 1465]

rung am called Mary the Rose

of the world] [Cast 1465]

3. HEC CAMPANA BEATA TRINITATI SACRA [Trans : This bell is sacred
to the Blessed Trinity] [Cast 1465]

At Lincoln Cathedral elaborate rules for the ringing of bells date from
c1260 and it is clear that very soon aftdr the dedication of the Cathedral
in 1072 there were four bells intended to be 'rung' together. (See Lincoln
Cathedral : A History of the Bells, Bellringers and Bellringing)

Isn't the six at St Swithins Worcester a complete six cast in the
sevcenteenth century?

>From : John Ketteringham of Lovely Lincoln in Lincolnshire, England

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Humphreys [mailto:mark.humphreys at b...]
Sent: 06 September 2002 07:57
To: bellhistorians at
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Re: The Earliest Ring of Bells

> --- In bellhistorians at y..., "mikechester_uk" <mike at m...> wrote:
> > I was asked in the pub after practice tonight where is the earliest
> > recorded "ring" of bells, i.e. hung for full circle ringing
> > with "several" bells in the ring. I don't where it came from, but
> > Crowland Abbey sprang to mind. I bet I'm wrong, but I also bet
> that
> > someone on the list knows the right answer!

If we're talking complete rings, New College, Oxford, were an eight cast
Michael Darbie in 1655. Unfortunately, four of these survive, seemingly
untuned since. They are said to be the first eight cast by one founder at
one time.

Otherwise, isn't it Bart's, Smithfield?


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