[Bell Historians] Stepney

'Chris Pickford' c.j.pickford.t21@btinternet.com [bellhistorians] bellhistorians at yahoogroups.com
Tue Jul 5 08:55:13 BST 2016



This is what I have (raw materials from quite a wide range of sources) on Stepney. Don’t feel like sharing this with Mr Hedgcock et al though! I’d be reasonably certain that the pre-1806 tenor at Stepney was in the region of 48 cwt, maybe a little over-estimated but not vastly. I have a photocopy of the Walters Ms (abbreviated below)


Stepney, St.Dunstan (Middlesex)

Walters Ms – As we learn from the inscription on the tenor, four bells came here in 1540 from the Priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate. The inscription on the 7th indicates that it was one of the original bells of the Priory. One might hazard a guess that the old tenor was by William Burford or John Langhorne. As will be seen from the extracts below, the fifth was recast by Laurence Wright in 1599 and again in 1619; the fourth was recast in 1601 but the founder’s name is now given. Probably Robert Mot cast the three largest bells between 1601 and 1603. Lysons (1795) shows that the first part of the tenor inscription was on the bell recast in 1799. In 1708 there were six bells, later augmented to eight and in 1806 to ten. Extracts from vestry minutes – recasting of great bell or fifth bell in 1598-9 by Lawrence Wright of Hounsditch in the parish of St.Botolph without Aldgate, bellfounder; recasting of fourth bell, 1601, though “many parishioners have not paid the sessment taxed for the new casting of the great bell”; sexton dismissed for various misdemeanours including taking in a bell and delivering the same bell out of the steeple without the consent of the churchwardens; fees for knells, listing five bells, 1603; Edward Parberry, cobbler, to be responsible for maintaining the bells, 1603; payment of debts (over £50) to the bellfounder, 1605; recasting of broken fifth bell, 1619

1. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  31”         7-0-20

2. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  32”         7-1-7

3. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  33”         7-2-12 

4. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  34¼”      8-1-14

5. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  37”         9-0-26

6. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  40½”      11-2-6

7. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  43”         13-3-27

8. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  46”         17-0-16

9. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  50”         23-2-16

10. Thomas Mears, 1806                               54”         31-1-7

Clock bell: C. & G. Mears, n.d.                    27”

Inscription of 7th gives inscription of “the 6th bell of the late peal, Virginis Egregiae Vocor Campana Marie 1603”. The ninth refers to Sir Charles Wager, first Lord of the Admiralty 1729, and “patron of the Stepney or Cockneys Feast, instituted as Ratcliff in the year 1674 and discontinued in 1784”. The tenor says “the late tenor wt 49 cwt was given to the Priory of the Holy Trinity Dukes Place Aldgate by Nicholas Chadworth and renewed by Thomas Marsow 1386 was sold with three others by Sir Thomas Audley to the parish of St. Dunstan’s Stepney about the year 1540, recast 1602, 1764 & 1799. The late peal of eight bells were recast into ten by Thomas Mears & Son 1806”. All in good order. Recently retuned and quarter turned. Treble hung above the rest. Clock bell hung dead on beam (no clapper) in a sort of wooden cage on top of the tower. For ringing records see Church Bells 23-30 March 1872

Stepney, St.Dunstan: Reopening of church and dedication of three stained glass windows in memory of Lt. Charrington RN, 11 Nov.1885; Reopening, 7 Dec.1899; Reopening after fire, 21 June 1902 (CEYB “record”)

On Saturday last as Stepney Great Bell was Ringing, it fell down to the first Floor of the Belfry, and did no other Damage than breaking its Wheel: The Bell weighs 48 Hundred Weight, and allow'd to be the finest in England for Tone. ‘Tis said the Parish intend now to make those 6 Bells up to a Peel of 8, which will then be the finest Ring of 8 in Europe (Norwich Gazette 21 August 1725 - Morris History and Art p. 505 wrongly gives the date of the paper as 19 August)

London, Auguft 19. /      Last Saturday the Great Bell of St. Dunstan’s Stepney, which weighs 48 Hundred, fell down as it was tolling, to the first Floor of the Belfrey, but by good Luck did no other Damage than breaking the Wheel. (Whitehall Evening Post 17/19 Aug. 1725; Also Gloucester Journal, Mon. 23 Aug. 1725); On Saturday last as the great Bell at St. Dunstan’s Stepney was tolling, it fell down to the first Floor of the Belfrey, and did no other damage than breaking the Wheel: This Bell weighs Forty Eight Hundred Weight, and is reckon’d the finest in England for Tone. We hear, feveral of the Parishioners defign to promote the making of a Peel [sic] of Eight Bells, will then make the finest Ring of 8 in Europe. (The London Journal, Sat. 21 August 1725; The Weekly Journal or, The British Gazetteer, Sat. 21 Aug. 1725; The British Journal, Sat. 21 Aug. 1725. A similar, but rather shortened, report appeared in The Post-Man, 17/19 Aug. 1725); On Saturday last as Stepney Great Bell was Ringing, it fell down to the first Floor of the Belfry, and did no other Damage than breaking its Wheel: The Bell weighs 48 Hundred Weight, and allow’d to be the finest in England for Tone. ‘Tis said the Parish intend now to make those 6 Bells up to a Peel [sic] of 8, which will then be the finest Ring of 8 in Europe. (Norwich Gazette, Sat. 21 Aug. 1725)

The fine Peal at Stepney was performed, and a new Peal is preparing for the Parifh of Edmonton in Middlefex, by the fame Hands [Mr. Samuel Knight, Bell-founder, and Mr. Robert Catlin, Bell-hanger – then recently contracted for the new bells at Southwark, also reported in same paper] (The St. James's Evening Post, Tues. 3 December 1734; Fog's Weekly Journal, Sat. 7 December 1734)

On Saturday last the Society of COLLEGE YOUTHS perform’d an extraordinary Peal of 5040 Bob-Major, on the eight celebrated Bells at Stepney, cast by the ingenious Mr. Samuel Knight, which by all good Judges in the Exercise of Ringing then present, was allow’d to be one of the best Peals of that kind ever perform’d. The said Society were three Hours and about forty Minutes in performing the same, which, considering the great Weight of the Bells, and the Truth of the Compass in Ringing, is thought almost inimitable. The said Mr. Knight is now going to recast a complete Peal for the Parish Church of Edmonton in Middlesex; and Mr. Robert Catlin, who made the curious Frame-work for Stepney, is also to make the Frame for the said Peal (London Evening Post, Tues. 1 Oct. - Thurs. 3 Oct. 1734)

Edward Simmons list of bells “hung or repaired”: St.Dunstan, Stepney, 8, 48 cwt - undated, but entries above and below are of 1785-6

Details of ring of ten, by Thomas Mears 1807, from F.E. Robinson Among the Bells p.26 and Whitechapel “Peals Book”

1.                            31”         7-0-20                   6.                            40¾”      11-2-6

2.                            32½”      7-1-7                      7.                            43¾”      13-3-27

3.                            33½”      7-2-12                   8.                            46½”      17-0-16

4.                            35”         8-1-14                   9.                            50⅝”      23-2-16

5.                            37”         9-0-26                   10.                          56⅝”      31-1-7

Letter from “Campanalogia” on the state of bells in London, printed in The Times 26 Feb. 1836 (following the fire at Spitalfields) and reprinted article by David Herschell in Ringing World 24 July 1981 p.659 - St. Dunstan, Stepney. A fine peal of ten bells; tenor same weight and key. Sexton the steeple-keeper; duty performed by deputy and a parcel of boys. The 7th bell thrown from its hangings a few months back by bad management.

London Diocesan schedule p.25 (DLC 1966 and VP 1988) and Whitechapel foundry records (all weights apparently exact, including those shown with “0”)

1. Mears & Stainbank, 1952                         30”         6-2-0      (old bell 7-0-14)

2. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  32”         7-0-0

3. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  33”         7-0-0

4. Mears & Stainbank, 1952                         34¾”      8-1-27   (old bell 8-1-5)

5. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  37”         8-0-0

6. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  40¾”      10-3-0

7. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  43½”      13-1-0

8. Mears & Stainbank, 1952                         46”         17-1-26 (old bell 16-3-9)

9. Thomas Mears, 1806                                  50⅝”      21-0-0

10. Thomas Mears, 1806                               56¾”      28-3-0

Clock bell: C. & G. Mears, 18..                     27”         4-1-10 [this has gone – see below]

Whitechapel daybook 27 March 1854 – The Parish of St.Dunstan, Stepney. By old bell 2-1-22, do 3-3-0 (6-0-22), staple & dirt 10, 6-0-1 @ 12d £34.4.0; Daybook 20 April 1854 – To a Bell 4-1-14 @ 16½d £33.13.9, dead stock & ironwork & fixing £2 [index says “St.Dunstan's Stepney (clock) 1 4¼ cwt” with “Highgate 1853” alongside]

Re the clock bell, Philip Denton comments “there used to be an undated clock bell by C & G Mears, which hung in a cupola on top of the tower. There is no longer a cupola; I would be interested to know if there are any details about what happened to the bell” (Feb 2014)

E-mails from Nigel Taylor (Whitechapel) to Philip Denton, 17 February 2014 “The weights are approximate for the old bells, but accurate for 8, 4, 1. The job was done on an extremely tight budget and the old bells were never weighed” and “The old bells have been tuned and turned! All new frame and fittings.  Not weighing the bells would have made hardly any difference to the cost of restoration.”; addendum from Nigel Taylor to Philip Denton 7 March 2014 “The clock bell from Stepney was scrapped in 1953, when the cupola was demolished and the top of tower was rebuilt. It weighed  4-1-10. The bells were 1/4 turned in 1899. There is no reference to turning bells in 1953.”

Report of restoration of the bells following war damage to the tower (Ringing World 19 Dec.1952 p.809)




Chris Pickford

4 Walmsley Court, High Street, Kinver, DY7 6HG

Tel: 01384-878435 or 07811-453525

E-mails (interchangeably – use either)  <mailto:c.j.pickford at talk21.com> c.j.pickford at talk21.com or  <mailto:c.j.pickford.t21 at btinternet.com> c.j.pickford.t21 at btinternet.com 


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