Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent : lovesguide.com

THE BELLS OF KINGSNORTH

Alan P. S. Berry 1977

Dedication Leaflet, sent in by Stephen J Davies The bells of St Michael and All Angels, Kingsnorth were remodelled in 1977 with the result dedicated on 27th April, 1977 by the Bishop of Rochester. As part of the dedication order of service, a short article about the bells was written by Alan Berry which is now reproduced here.

Those who have been granted by Almighty God the privilege of sharing in the Restoration of the bells at Kingsnorth bid you welcome in His Name and invite you to rejoice with them on this Festal Occasion.

The Church has stood witness to the Christian Faith for many centuries. Its treasure is a fine piece of stained glass of St. Michael in contest with the dragon which is situated in the North window facing the Church door. The window is probably the best of its kind and was made in about the year 1400. At the time of Edward VI, the number of bells in the Church was recorded as follows:

"Item in the stypull iij bells
Item ij handbells with ij sacring bells"

It is not known how long they remained in the Church but in 1727 Samuel Knight of Holborn, London, cast the second, third and fourth of the old ring probably from some of the metal of the former bells. In 1728 he cast the treble and fifth and hung all the bells in a wooden frame. In 1880 Stahlschmidt recorded in his book "Church Bells of Kent", Bell fittings in bad order; two of the bells reported to be unusable". Very little work was done on the bells but in the 1920's the second bell was found to be cracked in the crown and in order to prevent the crack spreading, the cast-in crown staple and the canons were removed. In 1966 an inspection of the installation revealed that, in the long term, it was necessary to install a new metal frame, designed to house six bells and to ensure that the supporting girders stiffened the west wall across the vertical crack in the tower which ran from the main west window up to the clock dial in the bell chamber. In the short term the third bell needed to be rehung and minor works undertaken on the remainder. This work was carried out as a labour of love in 1967/68 by Mr. Brian Johnson, a ringer at Smarden. This work enabled the bells to be rung occasionally until the current restoration. As Churches in the County began to close the Kent County Association of Change Ringers became aware of the need to take an active part in ensuring that redundant bells of historical interest were preserved. The Association had already removed the five bells from Holy Cross, Canterbury and these were to be rehung at St. Saviour's, Westgate. Early in 1974 arrangements were being made by Mr. D.P. Smith, Convenor of the Association's Bell Restoration Sub Committee, to remove the three bells from St. Nicholas Church, Rochester (now the Diocesan office). Negotiations reached a satisfactory conclusion and the bells were offered to Kingsnorth. Acceptance would enable Kingsnorth to have a peal of six with the Rochester bells being the second, fourth and tenor. The existing Kingsnorth treble could be tuned to become the third and the remaining four bells broken up and the metal cast into a new treble and a new fifth. The Parish readily accepted the kind donation of the Rochester Diocese and in May 1975 the Rochester bells were removed in the rather unorthodox manner of lifting them through the roof. The traditional method of lowering them within the tower was impossible as a telephone exchange had been installed in the intermediate chamber. The bells were taken to the Whitechapel Bellfoundry, Ltd., in London for cleaning by shot blasting, tuning and refitting. Also in 1974 the eight bells of St. John the Baptist, Tunstall, were being rehung in a new steel frame. The existing frame (housing the six heaviest bells) consisting of cast iron frame sides on timber beams was no longer required. These frame sides could be used at Kingsnorth although considerable redesigning would be necessary in order to hang the bells to present day standards and they would need to be erected on a steel foundation. The frame sides (kindly donated by Tunstall Church) were moved to Mr. Nelson Homewood's farm at Stubbs Cross on the 25th January 1975 and Mr. Alan P.S. Berry prepared the design drawings for the new frame at Kingsnorth.

The work of fabricating the foundation girders was entrusted to British Rail Engineering Ltd., Ashford Works and this was executed in an excellent manner. On 28th May 1976 members of the Kent County Association of Change Ringers commenced the removal of the five bells, the frame and the floor, this was followed by the installation of concrete support pads in the tower walls and the erection of the new frame and belfry floor. The whole of this work was completed by the year end.

The new treble and fifth bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bellfoundry on 16th December, the former in memory of Mr. Harry Parkes, a ringer and bellhanger, who was employed by the Whitechapel Foundry. Harry Parkes was a native of the neighbouring village of Mersham and between the wars, taught a band to ring at Kingsnorth. The K.C.A.C.R. opened a fund and it was considered that a bell at Kingsnorth was the most fitting memorial. The fifth bell records the work of restoration by the people of Kingsnorth and, as is quite traditional, also bears the name of the Rector. All the bells and fittings were delivered to the Church on 21st January 1977 and by nightfall the bells were hanging in their respective pits in the frame. The provision of a gallery was also undertaken and access was easily made by opening up the doorway leading from the tower staircase to a former gallery. The balustrade was made by Mr. Douglas Gardiner to a design by the Architect and incorporates the clappers from the five former bells. The gallery provides excellent ringing facilities and leaves the ground floor clear for future construction of a narthex.

The bells were first rung on 5th March 1977 by those ringers who had assisted in the restoration work and the work of instructing recruits in the art of ringing was started the following week at Mersham under the direction of Mr. N.J. Davies. The concluding work entailed the installation of lighting fittings and redecoration of the lower part of the tower.

The whole work was directed and supervised by Alan P S Berry assisted by many other volunteers, mentioning especially, Keith I Davis, David M Joyce, Richard C Offen, Miss Dawn V A Petts, Cyril P Griggs (Architect), Frank Fort (former Manager, British Rail Engineering Ltd., Ashford Works) Cyril Hambleton (Civils) Michael Osborne (Local Transport), Joe Fagg (transport to and from Foundry), Dr. Norman Corfield and Graham Blakey (Electrics). The Whitechapel Bellfoundry were most helpful at all stages throughout the project and to them we extend our most grateful thanks. All this has been done with the encouragement and support of the Church Council and of the Rector, The Revd. W E Michael Lennox. These are the particulars of the bells: 

The former ring of five: 

Treble: (27 13/16" diameter; note D; weight 4 cwt - 1 qr - 21 Ibs)
Inscribed: PRAIS THE LORD YOUR KING 1728

Second: (28 13/16", C sharp, 4 - 2 - 21)
SAMUELL KNIGHT FECIT 1727

Third: (30 11/16"-, B, 5 - 0 - 21)
ANTHONY IARUIS CW SK FECIT 1727

Fourth: (33 7/8", A, 6 - 2 - 6)
IOHN • TAYLOR • CW • SAMUELL • KNIGHT FECIT

Tenor: (38 3/16", G, 10 – 0– 0)
THOMAS READER RECTOR SK MADE ME 1728

The present ring of six:

Treble: (23 3/4", F sharp, 2 - 3 - 13)
IN MEMORY/HARRY PARKES/1900-1975 /RINGER & BELL
HANGER/* // 19(W)76/WHITECHAPEL

Second : (25 3/8", E, 3 - 1 - 1)
IOHN BVRGES THOMAS SYMONS C11VRCHWARDENS 1695
I (B) B

Third: (27 3/4 -, D, 3 - 3 - 17)
PRAIS THE LORD YOUR KING 1728

Fourth: (29 3/8", C sharp, 4 - 1 - 6)
(M) R.E. VALE, and J.W. MARTIN, C.W.1914/THIS BELL WAS GIVEN BY/ MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION. //IN MEMORIAM/LT. COL. H.F. COOPER, R.M.L.I/AND J.P. OF THIS CITY./OBIIT OCT. 13.1913.

Fifth: (32 3/4", B, 6 - 1 - 25)
RESTORED BY THE PEOPLE OF/KINGSNORTH/1976/W.E.
MICHAEL LENNOX M.A. RECTOR// 19(W)76 WHITECHAPEL

Tenor: (36 1/2", A, 8 - 1 - 6)
WILLIAM HATCH MADE ME MC IH CW (H) 1654

•..coin * K.C.A.C.R. symbol (W) -- Whitechapel Foundry Stamp
(B) James Bartlett's stamp (M) Mears & Stainbank Stamp
(H) Hatch Foundry Stamp / new line of lettering
// opposite side of bell

The second and tenor retain their canons (one missing on the second) and together with the third have been turned to offer fresh surfaces to the clappers. The fittings are by the Whitechapel Foundry, 1976/77.