The Tower Bells

Since around the year 1360 the tower of All Saints’ has contained at least one bell; for calling the people to church, ringing the hours and curfew.

The Five Bells

For 220 years All Saints’ Church’s peal consisted of five bells:

The ‘Ancient Bell’, a tenor, which is believed to have been cast in the mid-1360s. It is listed in the Church Building Council’s Schedule of Bells for Preservation in Coventry Diocese and, until 4 January 2015, it was the oldest bell still ringing in a peal within the Coventry Guild.

Two bells cast in 1703

Two bells cast in 1793

The last two bells were cast shortly after the current church was built, but the first three would have hung in the ancient mediaeval church, which stood on the same site; the ‘Ancient Bell’ was probably cast in a pit in the church grounds, because transportation of a 7cwt bell would have been fraught with difficulties in the 14th Century.

We don’t know for sure who paid for the first three bells, although the 3rd Bell has “Mr Winter, Warden”, inscribed on it, which probably refers to Thomas Winter, who’s memorial is on the south wall of the Upper Room and who would have been aged about 39 when the bell was cast. He and his wife, Ann, lived at Wootton Grange to the north of the village of Leek Wootton.

We know that The Hon Mary Leigh, who donated the bells in 1793 was a great benefactor of the Church, contributing to the building of the new Church in 1790.

Restoration, 1921

In 1921 Beatrice Mary Leigh had the bells restored in memory of her husband, Major The Hon Rupert Leigh of the 4th Dragoon Guards (formerly 15th Hussars), who had died in 1919, aged 63. He was the younger brother of . The work was carried out by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough, a firm which can trace its history back to Johannes de Stafford who cast the ‘Ancient Bell’ in the 14th Century. In 1921 the bells were ‘de-crowned’ (the original cast crown was removed so that the bells could be bolted onto modern headstocks). In 1926, when consulted about insurance of the bells, Taylors stated, “In our opinion this bell should not be rung, and should be very carefully preserved in the Church. There are only a few specimens of this founder’s work in existence today.”

Remedial Work, 1966

In 1966 a letter to Taylors refers to the 1921 restoration when the bells were, “…de-crowned and bolted up to wooden headstocks”. It also describes the arrangement, “…the ring is anti-clockwise” and the condition, “The wheels are somewhat warped and loose … worn pulleys, does not allow the ropes to run true…”.

In 1966 some remedial work was undertaken to repair the wheels and bearings and, perhaps, to replace the wooden headstocks with steel ones.

Text extracted from the History of the Bells leaflet, Leek Wootton History Group, 2014

The ‘Ancient Bell’ as pictured in 2015 before being returned to the belfry.  The red headstock is actually on the bell to the rear of the ‘Ancient bell’ as can be seen in the main picture.

Appeal, 2014

In June 2014, 93 years after the last major restoration, a 2014 Bell Restoration Appeal was launched, because the bells were in need of a major MOT to ensure the ringing of them for another century. Its aim was to raise between £40,000 and £50,000.

The Appeal received an excellent response, with donations from parishioners and residents, local community groups, businesses and interest groups. There were also fundraising events held throughout the community, including two music concerts staged in the church and an Open Gardens / Scarecrow competition, sales of artwork and cards. The old peal of five bells rang for the last time on Sunday, 4 January 2015 and on 10 January work began to remove them from the tower, with the assistance of a mini crane inside the church, lifting the bells over the balcony to the floor.
Refurbishment, 2015

At John Taylor & Co of Loughborough, the original five bells were restored, added to with a second-hand tenor and newly cast treble bell and retuned as a peal of six bells and clock bell.

Return, 2015

They arrived back at the church in June 2015, where the retired ‘Ancient Bell’ now exclusively chimes the hours, the clock hammer causing less damage than ringing with a clapper. A small eighth bell, the new Sanctus Bell (cast by John Warner & Sons Ltd in 1911), was previously the Garden Bell at nearby Stone Edge.

The peal is now a ring of six, still arranged anti-clockwise and ready to ring for another century.

Edited Videos from the Return of the Bells 2015

The crane arrives. The Ancient Bell begins its journey
Ancient Bell Video 1
From the Balcony and Through the Upper Room
Ancient Bell Video 2
Moving on through the Ringing Chamber
Ancient Bell Video 3
Into position in the Belfry, for semi-retirement.  To ring, but not to swing
Ancient Bell Video 4
High-speed fitting of six bells
Bell Video 5
High-speed fitting of the new frame for the seventh bell
Bell Video 6
The first ring of the new peal of six bells. 17 June 2015.
Bell Video 7