The Bells and Tower of St Mary’s Richmond, North Yorkshire

c.a. 1399: the tower was built  

c.a. 1500: our earliest remaining bell was cast. The maker’s mark indicates that it is from the Seliok Foundry in Nottingham and that it was by either John Seliok (1470-1507) or Richard Seliok I (1507 – 1523)

1697: four new bells were cast by Samuel Smith of York. Two were lighter than the 1500 bell and two were heavier. Hanging alongside the earlier bell, these would have provided a total of five bells, the minimum for scientific change ringing to be practised. The five bells would have enabled our ringers to follow in the footsteps of the ‘father of bellringing’, Fabian Stedman, who in 1677 wrote Campanologia, a book on the scientific art of bellringing and invented a ringing method or ‘principle’ named after himself. He followed the lead set by Richard Duckworth who authored Tintinnalogia in 1668.  

1739: an additional bell was provided becoming the treble to make a ring of six. The the gift of Conyer’s D’Arcy, MP for the town, it was cast by Edward Seller of York. At the same time a new frame was built by James Harrison bellhanger, of Barton on Humber, Lincolnshire. James was the brother of John  Harrison, a clockmaker who constructed the first effective marine chronometer which eventually won a prize of £20,000 offered by an Act of 1714. James turned to bellhanging, bellfounding and milling after helping his brother make regulators and this first sea clock. It took some years and a court case or two before the Royal Society admitted that this Harrison chronometer was indeed an effective and reliable timepiece, suitable for estimating the longitudinal position of ships at sea, and paid the prize money. Sections of the Harrison frame, carved with his name and those of Church officials, are extant and hang in the Tower. 

1862: the tenor, the heaviest of the 1697 bells, cracked and was replaced by a new bell from Warner’s of London which carries a crest indicating Warner’s Royal warrant. The headstock from this Warner tenor bell, with an inscription telling us about the replacement of the bell, remains and hangs in our exhibition.

1894: a new frame for eight bells was installed by Thomas Mallaby & Sons of Masham, Yorkshire. This provided for a ring of eight hung on two levels with the heaviest four underneath. In the event, only the existing six bells were hung leaving the augmentation to eight to a later date. This frame will be replaced when our new bells are installed. Prior to its removal, the Mallaby frame will be accurately recorded by Archivist Chris Pickford of Bedford. This record will be in our exhibition along with some fragments of the frame.


1904: a treble and a second bell, cast by John Warner, were added to the existing ring of six to create a ring of eight bells. The treble bell was provided by public subscription, records of which are amongst the papers in the tower. The second bell was the gift of Lawrence Dundas, 1st Marquess of Richmond and 3rd Earl of Zetland, whose grandson has been patron of our current restoration project.

1923: Bells 2-7 were tuned and all the bells re-hung by Taylors of Loughborough. The fittings are Taylors from that date. At that time some extra steel bracing was added to assist in keeping the frame rigid.

2016: in November and December a new ring of eight bells was cast for St Mary's by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough to the classic profile of a 1920-1930 set of Taylor bells. These will be installed in the tower in a new, single level frame, in May 2017.

Our Heritage Lottery grant is funding us to retain the five historic bells from 1500, 1697 and 1739 in a purpose designed exhibition above the new bells.

We commissioned Chris Pickford FSA, sometime archivist of Bedfordshire and recognised national expert in Bell Frames, to survey our tower and frame and to produce drawings and a description of the old frame before removal.

 

Chris's  report is shown below along with the drawings and photographs he put together during the survey.