[Bell Historians] Community of the king of Love, Whaley Hall

Richard Smith richard at ex-parrot.com
Thu Dec 9 09:50:17 GMT 2021

frjamie via Bell-historians wrote:

> Many thanks for your kind email. 
> I can confirm that my thoughts on the bell being older are 
> the fact that it was originally at Saffron walden,  and 
> sold in 1846.
> Details  on this are from Cecil Deeds.

Are you saying this is the bell mentioned in Deedes & 
Walter's 'Church Bells of Essex' under St Mary's, Saffron 

   There was formerly a Priest's Bell, sold in 1849.

If so, I'd first ask what the evidence is for that.  I've no 
particular reason to doubt it, other than the minor 
discrepancy in the date, but you don't want to be led down a 
blind alley.

I should think it quite likely that some details of their 
former priest's bell (particularly its weight) might be 
recorded in the churchwardens' accounts or vestry minutes 
for the time, and you can compare them with the particulars 
of your bell.

Perhaps you could share with us how much your bell weighs, 
its diameter at the lip, and its height to the crown (i.e. 
excluding canons)?

> What we were not aware ar the times was 4 ecclesiastical 
> buildings being built their.
> These comprised of
> The Priory
> The Abbey 11 36 ad
> Church replaced earlier one built 11.30 Ad.

The fourth presumably being the present church, which has a 
few features dating to the mid 13th century.

However the abbey and the priory are the same place: the 
monastery was founded as a priory (in the 1130s or '40s – 
there's reason to distrust the 1136 date – see VCH Essex, 
vol 2, p 110), and upgraded to abbey status in 1190.

And all we can say of the earlier church is that there was 
one.  We can only speculate where it was, and there's 
absolutely no reason to suppose it was built c1130 – that's 
simply the date of the earliest know reference to it.  (See 
Kenneth Dixon's 2000 history of the church for details.)

However, having established the unsurprising fact that there 
were ecclesiastical buildings in Walden in the 12th century 
– the 'Saffron' was only added in Tudor times – this does 
not mean your bell is 12th century in origin, even if we 
accept it was the priest's bell at St Mary's.  Most bells 
are not coeval with the buildings which house (or housed) 
them – the original bells get damaged and are recast or 
otherwise replaced.  Otherwise, why not use the 
circumstantial evidence for a circa 9th century Saxon church 
to the west side of the High Street to say your bell is from 
the 9th century?  (I'll give you a clue: it isn't.)

> This is why we wonder if it actually was cast in Belgium,  
> not England,  and is before 12 50 ad .

Why Belgium?  Are you hoping that bell founding was 
significantly more advanced there, and that a 12th century 
bell cast there might look like an English bell cast several 
centuries later?  That really isn't the case, at least not 
in this period.  I'm not familiar with any 12th century 
Belgian bells, but I have studied enough bells elsewhere to 
know that even somewhere as far-flung as Iceland was 
following the same trends observed in Germany or Italy. 
I'm sure there was some lag as new developments propagated 
around Europe, but we're talking decades not centuries.


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