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Appleby History > Miscellany > Bells

The Bells of St Michael & All Angels Church

Six bells are housed in the tower of Appleby church in the uppermost chamber of four (porch, ringing chamber, clock chamber, and bell chamber which is immediately below the battlements).

Nichols (1811) gives the basic information about the bells indicating that the oldest is dated 1619 and that there have been six in the tower since 1774:

'On the treble bell: "This bell raised by subscription 1774; the 2d gave by Mr Moore's family, 1769, the 3d and 4th re-cast by subscription; the 5th re-cast by the parish to the old tenor. Pack and Chapman, of London fecit." On the tenor: "I.H.S. Nazarenus, rex Judeorum, filii Dei, miserere mei. 1619" [Jesus saviour of men of Nazareth, king of the Jews, son of God, have mercy on me.]'

Recasting the bells has taken place at various dates. Estimates were obtained in 1892 but it seems unlikely that any action was taken immediately. Following a public appeal a complete restoration was subsequently carried out in 1911 at the cost of £283 - 18s - 9d with over 100 villagers subscribing; and sales of work and concerts held to raise further funds.

The need for restoration came up again in 1974 when a detailed inspection was made by Messrs Eric E Speake and Charles F W Eyre, members of the Stafford Archdeaconry Society of changeringers (I believe that Mr Eyre's family came from Appleby). Their report is worth quoting in full as it contains so much detail of the construction, materials and condition of the whole bell frame:

"APPLEBY MAGNA. 28th Sept. 1974.

"FRAME. Made by E C Kemp of Leicester in 1911. The main bearer and header members are of cast iron channel section, with diagonal cross braces at the sides and ends, bolted and rivetted to the main sections. All the main members are grouted direct into the tower walls. Some corrosion is present throughout the structure but this is not of a serious nature.

"BELLS. The tenor bell cast in 1619 is the oldest, 4 more were cast by Lester and Pack of London in 1769. The same firm added a treble in 1774. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and tenor bells have been quarter-turned, so that the clapper strikes a different place on the soundbow. The treble and the 5th bells were recast by Mears & Stainbank of London (eventual successors to Lester and Pack) in 1911, when the whole 6 were rehung. All the bells are cast with canons, and are hung anti-clockwise.

"FITTINGS Each bell is fixed to an elm headstock by metal straps. On percussion the headstocks of the 2nd and 5th bells sounded slightly less solid than the remainder, some of the straps on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th are loose.

The bells have plate gudgeons which rotate in plain metal bearings, all of which are worn, those of the treble particularly so, probably due to chiming this bell over a long period, and shortage of lubricant.

The wheel and stays are of traditional type but the sliders are of an unusual pattern:- a curved steel bar, actuated by the stay, which slides upon 2 metal rollers whose supports are bolted to the cills of the frame. The slots in which the bars move are all worn, and some of the rollers have "flats" on their working surfaces.

All the wheels and stays are sound, but the position of the fillet or garter holes in the soles of the wheels is too low, some of the wooden flanges or "raves" on the wheels need a carpenter's attention.

The clappers are fitted to independent crown staples which are probably of local manufacture, and their bushes seem to be in a satisfactory condition.

The bushes of all the rope pulleys are worn, some noticeably so."

Subsequently, the bells were taken down in November 1981 and the frame rebuilt. All six bells were restored by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough and the fifth bell again recast. All six, of course, were rehung.

The fifth bell was found to have been further inscribed:




Re-dedication took place during a service of Morning Prayer, at 11 am on 4th April 1982, which included the Venite, Psalm 150, the Te Deum and the Jubilate as well as four hymns of praise. Lessons were read by Major Aubrey Moore and Mrs Hazel Oakley and the preacher was Canon Neil Robinson, Rector of Market Bosworth. The rector of Appleby, Canon Christopher Cox, re-dedicated the bells:

'O God who has caused men to set apart buildings for your glory, and for the assembly of your people, accept these Bells, and bless all who will ring them and all who hear them, that in their joys and sorrows they may know your love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.'

'In the faith of Jesus Christ and for the benefit of this parish we BLESS AND HALLOW these bells to the Glory of God, and for the bringing of thy people to worship. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN'

The bells were rung briefly at the end of the service. The order of service records that the bells had been restored through the generosity of Mr and Mrs Harold Oakley of The Old Rectory. A plaque to that effect may be seen in the church porch.

The restoration of the bells was accompanied by a determined effort to train new ringers for the village. With the assistance of Mr Jack Gadsby and other ringers at Swepstone, a revived team from Appleby was trained in time for the dedication service. Thanks were expressed to Jack and his team for their enthusiastic support.

© R Dunmore,October 2009

See also:

Appleby In Focus chapter 26: Appleby Church Restorations part 1, and subsequent chapters, by Richard Dunmore

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