St Peter’s Church Bells

According to the 1553 Inventory

The 1553 inventory gives five great bells but no mention of a Sanctus bell. Two of the five great bells have gone, may well have been recast into later bells.
Treble To commemorates the Queens Silver Jubilee, provided by Peter A Taylor in memory of his mother Clara Ann Taylor 1897-1959. Whitechaple Bell Foundry London 1978 Weight 5 cwt 18 lb.
Second The gift of the East Anglian Artists commemorating the 250th anniversary of Thomas Gainsborough’s birth in 1727. Whitechapel Bell Foundry London 1978 – Weight 5 cwt 37 lb.
Third John Warner & Sons London 1874 – Weight 4 cwt 110 lb.
Fourth John Warner & Sons London 1874 – Weight 5 cwt 24 lb.
Fifth John Darbie made in 1662 Ipswich – Weight 5 cwt 92 lb.
Sixth James Edbury, 1605 . RB. IS. RS. IW. RF. RB. TB. RB. WB. IC. EC -Weight 6 cwt 79 lb. (James Edbury, Bury St Edmunds).
Seventh Sit Nomen Domini Benedictum. Kebyll of London. circa 1480 – Weight 8 cwt 100lb.
Eighth In Multis Annis Refonet Campana Johannis. Kebyll of London. circa 1480. Weight 12 cwt 251b.
Ninth Miles Gray made me 1641 – Weight 14 cwt 53lb
Tenor Intonat e Celis Vox Campane Michaelis. Kebyll. London circa 1480 – Weight 20 cwt 481b

St Peter's Sudbury

The restoration of St Peters bells in 1978, with the addition of two new bells celebrating the Queens Silver Jubilee and the 250th anniversary of Thomas Gainsborough’s birth, was a year out but due to delays we were ten months overdue. Mention should be made of the help and sponsorship from Philip Lait company and Hobal engineering. The magnificent response of artists from a very wide area, professional and amateur who donated oil, watercolours, pen and ink drawings. All were displayed on the viewing day and subsequently auctioned the St. Peters of Sudburyfollowing day. Raising sufficient money to purchase the bell, commemorating Thomas Gainsborough’s birth, which is known as the artists’ bell. Bruntons cast a plaque in bell metal marking the occasion with Leslie D Mills and Ray Playford named as the driving force that accomplished this enterprise. It was a wonderful year for St Peters, although a redundant Church it epitomizes Sudbury, and the focal point of the town centre. (More information on St. Peter’s can be found here)

The other bells the 3rd and 4th of 1874, created eight bells. The new clock was installed and with the two new bells the Cambridge Chimes could be used and the hour struck by the tenor bell. The clock is still doing service but now powered by electricity instead of being wound up by hand. The 6th by James Edbury regarded as one of his best bells. The series of initials on the inscription may well be those of the donors of the bell.
The three Kebyll bells of circa 1480, 7th 8th and tenor, are renowned for the very high quality letters, particularly the capitols in their Latin inscriptions.

Translation of the Latin text:-
7th Sit Nomen Dommini Benedictum – Blessed be the name of the Lord.
8th In multis annis refonet campana Johannis – May Johns bell sound for many years. Tenor Intonat e celis vox canpane Michaelis – The voice of Michaels bell thunders from heaven.

9th Miles Gray of Colchester is of the 1st Miles Gray.

The Clock chimes known as the Cambridge chimes are rung on the 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th bells. The hour is struck on the tenor bell. The verse of the chimes is: –

All Through This Hour.
Be God Thy Guide
That By His Power.
No Step May Slide

The Suffolk Guild of Ringers maintains the bells.

For ringing of a bell. At the Vestry meeting on 2 April 1777 it was agreed to allow John Lilly for ringing the bell at five in the morning and again at nine in the evening. Payment two guineas a year.

In 1863 The Rector, Rev Sir John Molyneux became aware that the bell ringers were planning to ring the bells in celebration of the Prince of Wales wedding, which was during Lent. Not approving of weddings in Lent he locked the belfry door. Undeterred the ringers gained access with ladders onto the roof and then into the ringing chamber via the roof door. The populace enjoyed the bells and sustained the ringers with food and a generous supply of drink, hauled up onto the roof by spare bell ropes.

Kebylls Bell inscriptions of 1470/80 at St Peters

on the seventh, eighth and tenor, acknowledged as the finest nationally.

One of Sudbury’s treasures. A national gem of outstanding bell founding skill rivalling the best that can be given by the carpenter, mason or any other craftsman, to adorn our Churches. Hidden away in the belfry unseen, and not even known of by almost all who visit and admire our beautiful Churches.

Depicted below are the capitols and a cross taken from the inscriptions of Kebyll’s three bells, just as if they have been written by a scribe on vellum. The skill Kebylls the bell founders of 1470/80, not only leaving us with such beautiful script, his bells are equally as good.


Tower, Spire & Clock Bell

March 1701 Henry Pleasant undertakes to make and maintain a clock. This did not have the facility to strike the hour. No provision was made in Henry Pleasant contract of March 1701 for his clock to strike the hour.

August 1790 – Michael and John Jones to take down the spire on St Peters Church, repair any ruiness timbers, being unfit to support a new spire. Make and erect a new spire to the same height as now, pointed and leaded, at a cost of £20.

1810 – The new spire was erected, and sheathed in copper. Why the twenty year delay is unclear. However louvered openings were incorporated in the spire for a clock bell to sound from. (Clear intentions were made that the next clock would strike the hours)

1820 – Henry Pleasant clock is replaced by a new clock at a cost of £62, which clearly had the facility to strike the hours.

1831 – A clock bell approx weight of three cwts cast by T Mears fecit 1831. This was the first and only clock bell.

– The 1820 clock was removed and the present clock was installed by Messr Gillett & Bland, Croydon. Two new bells were cast, making a ring of eight bells, and the Cambridge chimes could be used on the bells leaving the hour to be struck on the tenor bell. This now left T Mears clock bell of 1831 redundant, but remained in the spire.

1954 – The tower was declared unsafe and ringing was stopped. The bells were virtually impossible to be rung.

1958 – The clock bell was taken down and put in the bell chamber.

1968/69 – The spire was taken down. To reinforce the structure of the tower two concrete ring beams were installed.

1973 – The bells which had to be removed for the major repairs to the tower were returned and hung in fixed position on a steel girders, the clock bell was not fixed in such a way but left standing on the floor.

1976 – The Friends of 8t Peter were formed and efforts were made to get the bells re-hung for full circle ringing.

1978 – The bells were taken down and sent to the Whitechaple bell foundry.

8th October 1978
– The dedication service celebrating the re-hanging of the bells, along with the two new bells, making a ring of ten bells. 1977 was unique year as it commemorated the Queens silver jubilee, and was the 250th anniversary of Thomas Gainsborough’s birth. The second bell was the gift of East Anglian artists who donated oils, watercolours and prints, which were viewed, sold and the money paid for the purchase of the bell known as the artists bell. The old clock bell of 1831 was used to help make the two new bells.

Henry Pleasant’s clock for St Peters, Sudbury

Transcript of an Agreement between the Churchwardens, Overseers and Chief Inhabitants of the town and Henry Pleasant bell founder, to make a clock.

(As written)
Memorand that it is agreed between the present Churchwardens, Overseers and Chief Inhabitants of the parish of St Peter in Sudbury whose names are hereunder subscribed, and Henry Pleasance of the same parish, belfounder this 31st day of March Anno domi 1701 as followeth.

Imprimis that the said Henry Pleasance shall well and workmanlike and with his best skill and art, make and frame one substantial Church clock with a pendulum to ye same as large and or rather better than for use as generally made. And shall set up and fix the same in such place of the Church or Chappell of St Peter afores’d as the Churchwardens and Overseers or the greater number of them shall appoint: And further that the said Henry Pleasance shall from time to tyme and at all tymes during his abode in the said parish as a parishioners thereof lyable to ye paying of parish rates and performing parish duties keep and maintain the said clock with its necessary supports, stays and appendages in good and sufficient repair and in such good order that with our winding up it may keep and perform true constant and regular mocton (motion).

And in consideration thereof it is agreed on the part of the said Churchwardens, Overseers and parishioners that the said Henry Pleasance shall during such tyme of his abode in the said parish as aforesaid be wholly free and exempted from ye payment of all parish rates and assessments and from all parish offices and duties to which he may be lyable during his abode as a parishioner in the said parish.

Thomas HallThomas MannHenry Pleasant
Tho FirminTho Dansie 
Will HallSam’ll Brasior 
Danoll GibbonNath Gilson 
John BakerEdward Hart 
Joseph WaitHenry Ballonay 
John PackJohn Mizon 
Tho Taylor  

(Note: That the contract drawn up makes Henry’s name as Pleasance, whereas Henry signed as Pleasant. Other occasions Henry is referred to as Pleasant in documentation. It would seem that his surname was often spoken in the plural sense.)

These articles were collated & produced by Walter A Perry © 2008

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