CHURCH BELLS - A talk given to Ladies Guild August 21st. 1979.

References used:-

  • Church Bells of England - H.B. Walters
  • Change Ringing - Wilfred G. Wilson.
  • Boardman's History of Deane.

Lesson:- Numbers Chapter 10 v.1-10.

You will see from the lesson I have chosen, that Trumpets were blown to call people together for worship, marching, war or rejoicing. This was the method used in Old Testament times. In the early Christian Church, when Christians were persecuted, the people were called together by a messenger who went secretly from house to house before the service. After these times, a large sounding plank hung from a chain and struck with a hammer or a mallet was often used. For many centuries now, bells have taken the place of old Jewish trumpets. Bells are used chiefly to call people together for worship. They are constantly reminding us that worship is our duty. Bells are also used to express our joy or sorrow, ( Battle of Alemein).

The word "Bell" itself is said to be derived from its sound and to be connected with "Bellow" and "Bleat". In the 4th century B.C., the Greeks produced a small hand-bell, and I am told there are many examples of these in bronze to be seen in our museums. There is one in the British Museum, in a form, something like a high conical cap with a handle on top, which was found on a site at Thebes in Greece, and bears engraved on it, a dedication by one "pyrrhias".

One of the first references to the use of bells, is that Pope Sabinianus about the year 600 A.D. first gave the sanction of the Church, to the use of bells. In 622 St Teilo, on his consecration as Bishop of Llandaff, was presented with a bell which "exceeded every organ in sweetness of sound". There are numerous references to bells from this period onwards, among them being that the Abbess Hilda died at Whitby in 680, when the Death-Knell was always rung when any inmate of the monastery died.

A peal of bells is first mentioned, when in the year 960, Croyland Abbey was presented with a great Bell,and six others were subsequently added. These bells unfortunately perished by fire in 1091, in which year Fergus of Boston, who was described as a "brasyer", the earliest recorded name of an English Bell-Founder, gave two handbells to the Abbey. From this period, there are many references in early manuscripts to peals of bells. It is interesting to note that on a Saxon Cross in Winwick Church near here, (picture) there is a figure of a ringer carrying a small bell in each hand.

The earliest bell in England bearing an actual date is at Claughton in Lancs. It has no inscription beyond the date, 1296 in Roman letters. There is one at Caversfield in Oxfordshire which must be nearly a century older. The inscription is in Roman and Saxon letters:-"In honour of God and St Lawrence, Hugh Gargate and Sibilla his wife, had these bells erected". ( It is known that Hugh Gargate died in 1219).

There are names for the various parts of a bell. At the bottom, where the clapper strikes, the thick rim is known as the "Sound Bow", above that , is the"waist"; and above that is the "shoulder", where the inscription is usually placed.

Bell metal is an alloy of copper and tin, being made up of approximately 13 parts of copper and 4 of tin. There are two main Bell- founders in this country, Taylor's of Loughboro', where Deane Bells were cast in 1954, and Hears and Stainbark in London. After casting the bells require TUNING. This is a very expert job. Metal has to be shaved off to get the correct note in relationship to the other bells in the peal. When all the bells have been tuned, they are assembled together and placed in a frame, usually made of metal, but in many old Churches, they are hung in an Oak Frame, as they were at Deane prior to them being recast and re-hung in 1954.

To ring bells, it is necessary to attach large wooden wheels to them, so that a rope can be attached to the rim of the wheels to enable a person to get the necessary leverage to move the bell, bearing in mind that the weight of a ringing bell can vary from about ½ cwt to one of 82 cwt., which is at Liverpool Cathedral. Before a bell can be controlled for ringing ,it is necessary to turn it over, mouth upwards, so that when it is rung, it makes a full circle each time it is pulled.(picture).

As most of you know bells are rung in "ROUNDS", each bell following the other from the lightest to the heaviest. The light bell is known as the Treble bell and the heaviest, the Tenor bell.

There are many ringing societies in this country, for instance there is the Lancs-Assoc of Change Ringers, to which Deane is affiliated through its Bolton Branch; to foster the art of "Change Ringing". The oldest society was formed in 1637 and is known as The Ancient Society of College Youths. It is said that Sir Richard Whittingham, the famous Lord Mayor,founded a College of the Holy Spirit and St Mary, near the church of St Martin Vintry, College Hill, London, which was burned in the Great Fire of 1666. This was said to be the origin of the name "College Youths".

Refer to Change Ringing (blackboard- preferably at end of talk).See Wilson's book.

I now would like to say a little about our own peal of bells at Deane. Prior to 1896, there were only six bells in the tower. The Treble, 2nd and 3rd bells were originally cast in 1718 by Richard Sanders of Bromgrove, the 4th and 5th by Thomas Mears of London, the 4th in 1792 and the 5th in 1831, and the Tenor by Richard Sanders in 1718.

On the 23rd of November 1895, the Rev. H.S. Patterson wrote to the editor of the Bolton Chronicle regarding the state of Deane bells as follows:-

  1. The removal of the stone stairs and the tie which the steps afforded in the S.E. corner, has rendered that part of the tower weak and dangerous, and it will be strengthened at once.
  2. The bell bearings are so worn away that the bell manufactures have warned us of the great danger of continued ringing until they are renewed, which is also now in progress.
  3. There is a space for two small bells about 5 or 6 cwt, to make up the octave. If put in, they would balance the weight, and their timber would rather strengthen the tower. The correct tone (F sharp) can be assured, and about £50.00 would pay for the bells and £25 would put them in position. Perhaps someone interested may present one or more, and render the octave complete.

Yours H.S.P. Vicar.

( The bells and clock are now insured for £20,000).

This appeal was quickly taken up, two donors, James Boardman and Aid. W. Nicholson J.P., a Mayor of Bolton each gave £25 and the total subscription list amounted to £198-9s.

On Wednesday May 20th 1896, the work having been successfully accomplished, the bells were dedicated. An article appeared in the Bolton Chronicle on May 23rd 1896 in which reference was made to the two new bells.

"The original bells had been renovated and re-set upon an improved principle, the Tower walls had been re-built internally and strengthened. During the dedication; Mr James Boardman pulled off one of the new bells and Aid. Miles the other. The bells now a peal of eight, ran in the order of F Sharp(Treble), E, D Sharp, C Sharp, B , A Sharp, G Sharp and F Sharp (Tenor).

The Churchwardens accounts show an expenditure on the Tower and bells of £297 - 17-7, and further donations from Green's Charity had been received.

Before the bells were augmented, the ringers rang from the ground floor in the present Choir-boys Vestry. However within twelve months, the present belfry was constructed.

In the 1930's there was a certain amount of difficulty in ringing the bells. The bearings had once more started to wear, and the ringers, one of them myself, were finding it hard work, particularly on the Tenor bell. As a result, the P.C.C. agreed to an inspection being made by John Taylor and co, of Loughborough, who reported on September 7th 1936., that it would be advisable to consider putting the present ring of bells into an entirely new frame work and re-casting the peal into a heavier and deeper toned peal, the Tenor bell of which would weigh approx 16cwt. The quoted price for this work was £596-00.There was a certain amount of opposition to this work, and as a result, no action was taken apart from putting the 7th and Tenor bells on ball bearings.

Nothing more was done to the bells. All ringing was stopped during the war years. However in 1952, the ringers were far from satisfied with the condition of the bells and framework, and managed to get the P.C.C. to give further consideration to the matter. On December 4th 1952 a new specification was drawn up by Taylor's of Loughboro' to re-cast the peal in an entirely new frame with a Tenor bell weighing 12½ cwt. at a cost of £1,400. The P.C.C. were anxious for the work to go ahead, but had no funds to pay for it. Ultimately in May 1954, a scheme was drawn up, asking for individuals to pay for a bell. The new peal contained 55½ cwt., of Bell metal, and the cost of recasting was worked out according to the weight of each bell. The old bells were taken out of the Tower in time for the Sermons Sunday in June 1954, hoping that they would attract donors . The result was NIL. At that stage , we had the promise of the gift of 2 bells only. Arrangements had been made to cast the bells at the beginning of September 1954. Within 24 hours of this time I received a message that someone was interested in giving the Tenor bell. I stopped the work at the bell-foundry, and within 3 more days had received promises to pay for the rest of the bells. Recasting took place during the week following, and the new bell-frame and bells were returned to Deane during December 1954.


(Taken from the last page of the sheet of The Dedication.)
Treble MY SOUL DOTH MAGNIFY THE LORD. Given in memory of Robert and Ann Farnworth by their son Robert.
Second MY SPIRIT HATH REJOICED IN GOD MY SAVIOUR. Given by Major and Annie Crook in gratitude for Parents.
Third HE HATH REGARDED THE LOWLINESS OF HIS HAND-MAIDEN. Given in memory of Thomas and Mary Jane McMullen by their children William and Bertha.
Fourth ALL GENERATIONS SHALL CALL ME BLESSED. Given in memory of William and Helen Lever by their son Thomas Cort.
Fifth HOLY IS HIS NAME. Given in memory of James Wood by his sisters Eliza, Annie and Edith.
Sixth HIS MERCY IS ON THEM THAT FEAR HIM. Given by fellow ringers in memory of Thomas B. Worsley and Titus Barlow.
Seventh HE HATH SHOWED STRENGTH WITH HIS ARM. Given in memory of Louisa Barlow by her daughter Elizabeth.
Tenor HE HATH FILLED THE HUNGRY. Given in memory of Titus Barlow by his son Titus.
These Bells were recast in 1954.

A generous donation towards the cost of instillation was given in memory of Henry and Ellen Bently by their daughter Mary Ellen.

The Bells were recast by John Taylor and Co., Loughborough.


The striking was given by Elizabeth Settle in memory of her son Rowland Makinson.

The Clock was renewed by William Potts and Sons, Ltd., Leeds.