[Bell Historians] Dunwich, All Saints

Richard Smith richard@ex-parrot.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Thu Feb 25 16:32:14 GMT 2016

chester at michaelchester4.orangehome.co.uk [bellhistorians] wrote:

> A picture of Dunwich, All Saints taken a short while 
> before the remains fell over the cliff has been posted on 
> Facebook today.
> I can find reference to the church receiving bells from St 
> Peters in the late 17th Century before it fell into the 
> sea., so All Saints must have had bells at some point 
> after this.

Raven's 'Church Bells of Suffolk' [p.184-5] says that both 
St Peter and All Saints had three bells in the Edwardian 
inventory of 1553.

Thomas Gardner's 'Historical Account of Dunwich' (1754) 
[p.49] says of St Peter's, he says "This Church, by Reason 
of the Proximity of the Sea, which daily threaten the 
Overthrow thereof, was by Agreement of the Parishioners, in 
the Year 1702, divested of the Lead, Timber, Bells, and 
other Materials; the Walls only remaining, which tumbled 
over the Cliff, as the Waves undermined them."  If they went 
to All Saints, he doesn't specifically say so.

Of All Saints, Gardner [p.52] says "The Tower built of Flint 
and Free-Stones, with various Decorations, is old but pretty 
strong, and indifferently handsome; crowned with a 
Battlement, each Angle supporting an Angel, representing 
Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel; whereof one is blown 
down, and destroyed.  It is deprived of a Clock, which 
formerly it enjoyed, but possesses three Bells, the first or 
little Bell cast 1725, the second 1678 and the third 1626."

As the treble post-dates St Peter's destruction, so was 
presumably have been cast for All Saints.  And as there were 
three in both towers in 1553, there's no particular reason 
to assume that the other two bells in All Saints in 1754 
were from St Peter's, rather than like-for-like replacements 
of the Edwardian bells at All Saints.  Equally, that's not 
to say they weren't.

The Dunwich Museum's research notes mention a "several 
documents referring to maintenance of All Saints Church 
dated 1723", in which "mention is made of three bells in the 
steeple the value of which can not be determined until they 
are removed, 'but they are very small bells'".  This is 
before (and perhaps related to) the new treble of 1725.

Raven [p.184] quotes David David's journal entry for 24 Oct 
1839 which says of All Saints, "The steeple appears in 
tolerable repaid: I remember a man who had occupied a farm 
at Yoxford, and whose name was Parker, being convincted and 
transported for stealing, I think, one of the bells and some 
of the lead.  This was reported in the Norwich Chronicle of 
27 July 1782 [p.3, col.3], "Bury, July 25.  On Saturday last 
the Assizes ended for the County of Suffolk at the 
Shire-hall, in this town, when [...] Thomas Parker, and 
James Easy, for stealing lead off the church of Dunwich, 
were left to the opinions of the twelve Judges."  (It has no 
great relevance, but I'd be interested to know what that 
means.  That the judges were unclear on a point of law? 
That the defendants were given leave to appeal?)

Note no mention of a bell being stolen, just the lead; but a 
separate incident recorded in the Norwich Mercury of 7 Apr 
1787 [c.f. Order & Disorder, vol.1, p.292] tells records the 
theft of a bell on separate occasion.  "At Bury assizes 
[...] which concluded on Saturday last, ten prisoners 
received sentence of death [...] Robert Sharman, for 
stealing a bell out of Dunwich church", though the 
commentary in O&D implies the death sentence was commuted, 
presumably to transportation.  Seemingly in recalling the 
events, Davy conflated the theft of a bell by Sharman with 
the theft a few years earlire of lead by Parker.

I have no idea whether the bell was recovered and restored 
to the tower, nor how long there continued to be be bells in 
the tower.  Raven's lack of a mention of bells in 1890 
suggests there were none, and that would be hardly be 
surprisng; a picture of the church in 1780 suggests it was 
already lost its roof by then.  The two instances of theft 
in the 1780s were presumably from an increasingly ruined 
church, and I imagine no effort would have been made to 
replace the lead or bell, even if they had been recovered.

I've always been fascinated by Dunwich!


Posted by: Richard Smith <richard at ex-parrot.com>


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