Leeds, St Nicholas

Photo: Dickon Love

  • 10 bells hung for full circle ringing
  • Tenor: 17½ cwt approx. in E.
  • Grid Ref: TQ825533
  • Frame: 1751 Timber frame and inscribed "W.W. R.H. Ch. Wardens / T.S. Fecit 1751" (TS is probably Thomas Sweetlove)
  • Denomination: Church of England
    Diocese (Anglican): Canterbury
    Archdeaconry (Anglican): Maidstone
  • Kent County Association of Change Ringers District: Maidstone
  • Building Listed Grade: I Click for Heritage details.
  • Peals rung at the tower

  • Sound clip of the ring of bells.(c. 1979)

Details of the Bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Diameter Note Date Founder Canons Retuned
® Treble 4 cwt approx.26⅞" G♯ 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Conventional Never
® 2 4¾ cwt approx27⅜" F♯ 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Conventional Never
® 3 5¼ cwt approx28⅞" E 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Removed Never
® 4 5¾ cwt approx30⅛" D♯ 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Removed Never
® 5 6 cwt approx.31⅝" C♯ 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Removed Never
® 6 7¼ cwt approx34¹⁄₁₆" B 1751 Robert Catlin, Holborn Removed Never
® 7 6-3-2635.5" A 1911 Alfred Bowell, Ipswich Never
® 8 10 cwt approx.38.5" G♯ 1638 John Wilnar, Borden, Kent Removed Never
® 9 12-1-042⅝" F♯ 1911 Alfred Bowell, Ipswich Never
® Tenor 17½ cwt approx47¼" E 1617 Joseph Hatch, Ulcombe, Kent Removed Never

®  - Hung for full circle ringing


Earlier bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
7th6-3-2636"1638John WilnarNeverRecast 1911
9th12-1-039"1638John WilnarNeverRecast 1911


c 1000 A small church was built by the Anglo-Saxons.
c 1200 The Normans added a tower and enlarged the church.
1540 By this time the original church building had been enlarged further and the Anglo-Saxon parts rebuilt. The Leeds Abbey on the south side of the church had been dissolved and no-longer controlled the activities of the church. There may have been bels at this time, although no record is known to exist.
1617 A Great Bell weighing about one ton was cast by Joseph Hatch and hung in the tower.
1638 John Wilnar cast 3 lighter bells, making them four.
1751 A major restoration of the church took place. Henry Meredith of Leeds Abbey paid for a bell (the present 5th). The present 6th was paid for by Churchwardens Robert Hatch (maybe a relation of Joseph and William Hatch) and William Woollett. The lighter four bells were paid for by The Hon. Robert Fairfax of Leeds castle. The order was placed with Robert Catlin of Holborn who hung the bells in a new frame. At the same time a wooden spire was erected which stood until 1932 when it became unsafe. The celebrated "Leeds Youths" began ringing at the tower.
1781 The Leeds Youths rang a peal on 1st January following which a song called "Eulogium Campanalogicum" was published in the Kentish Gazette describing the band (sung to the tune of the Abbot of Canterbury). [3]
1898 Some bells were quarter turned and (unsatisfactorily) rehung.
1911 Alfred Bowell rehung the bells on new plain bearings. He also recast the 7th and 9th bells and cut the canons off the rest (except 1 and 2), fitting them on RSJ-type headstocks. The tenor was fitted with an independent clapper staple. Ellacombe apparatus was also fitted.
1923 Alfred Bowell supplied new gudgeons & rehung the tenor. [1]
1933 Alfred Bowell supplied some second hand handbells which appear to have been returned without payment. [2]
1956 Ringing resumed after prompt action against deathwatch beetle.
1963 The spire was replaced and the ringing room redecorated. Carelessness with the redecoration resulted in the loss of much of the interesting writing on wooden panelling around the walls by ringers of the 19th Century.
c 1985 During the 1980s, the space below the ringing room was converted into a kitchen and meeting room. The Ellacombe Hammers were removed and an ugly heating system was installed in the ringing room.
2000 The Ellacombe Hammers were cleaned with the intention of replacing them.
[1] To supplying new gudgeons & rehanging the tenor bell in Leeds church including expenses £14. Less station 3/10 Total £13-16-2. Paid cq. 11 June 1923. (Bowell record, 22 May 1923)
[2] 1933 March: To set of S.H. [second hand] handbells £3-5-0. [makred "returned"]. No payment received. 1938 7 Jan: To 10 new bell ropes as per cont. £11. net. Paid cq 11 Jan 1938. (Bowell records)
[3] EULOGIUM CAMPANALOGICUM. To the Tune of the Abbot of Canterbury, IN seventeen hundred and eighty and one, To begin the new year as the old one was gone, Eight sprightly young striplings were met in Leeds steeple, All ringers of fame, and I’ll tell you the people. Derry Down. These active Leeds youths, who accomplish’d this peal, Went to it like lions with hearts true as steel. In measure and time made the clappers to beat, Five thousand and forty bob majors compleat. Derry Down. The first, Harry Tilby the treble did ring. He sometimes says Amen, and sometimes does sing, He rang his bell well from the time he begun, And I'll tell you his age, it was eighty and one. Derry Down. The second, Dick Masters, his bell at command, And struck her so smart at ropes end and at hand, In his fifty-fifth year he most artists excels, In making of shoes and in ringing of bells. Derry Down. The third was young Barham, a very good striker, Than steady young Thomas none keeps his bell righter, For he rings her in time, both behind and before, His age fifty-eight and what would you have more. Derry Down. The fourth is called Abrah’m, a miller so jolly, With ringing delighted to drown melancholy, Sixty five is his age, and a Barham is he, And understands rightly Campanalogy. Derry Down. The fifth, Johnny Crispe, ever steady boys steady, To make one at any thing always is ready. His age fifty five, sweet in temper though slow, Agreeable always, he never says no. Derry Down. The sixth was John Freeland, no hater of wine, Basket making his trade, though his age sixty nine, He rings always well, though as deaf as a beetle. And is second to none of the youths in Leeds steeple. Derry Down. The seventh, a Barham of very great fame, A noted bob caller, and James is his name, His age fifty-five and he bobs them about, And keeps his bell right till the peal is rung out. Derry Down. The eighth was Tom Lacy, a sturdy young blade, And perfect in time the deep tenor he play’d, There’s none can excel him a tenor to ring, His age fifty-three; and so God save the King. Derry Down. Such a noble performance has never been done, Their ages four hundred and ninety and one. You’ll ne’er find their equals, I'd venture to tell, If you search the world round they will still bear the belle. Derry Down. (Kentish Gazette - Wednesday 31 January 1781)


  • "James Barham and the Leeds Youths", Wratten, Cyril A (The Ringing World) 12 February 1971
  • "Remembering James Barham and the Leeds Youths", Author unknown (probably Davies, Nicholas J) (The Ringing World) 7 December 2001
  • Gallery

    The belfry.
    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 2000

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 2000

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 2000

    Inscription on the side of the frame showing the initials of the churchwardens and the frame builder, TS (who could well be Thomas Sweetlove).
    Photo: Christopher J Cooper

    Peal Boards

    Timber Memorial Board dated 1804

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1891
    10 Nov 1891: 5006 Stedman Caters

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1890
    17 Aug 1890: 5000 Stedman Caters (First peal of Stedman Caters by the Kent County Association.)

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1840
    01 Jan 1840: 5760 Plain Bob Major

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1839
    21 Apr 1839: 10080 Plain Bob Major

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1833
    12 Aug 1833: 5079 Stedman Caters (Rung by the Sussex Society, with the ringers coming from St Saviour's, Southwark.)

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1753
    12 Dec 1751: 6480 Plain Bob Caters
    25 Jan 1752: 7200 Plain Bob Royal
    13 Jan 1753: 20160 Plain Bob Major ("The greatest performance of change ringing ever known by several thousand changes.)

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 1981
    25 Mar 1981: 5039 Grandsire Caters (On the occasion of the visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to Leeds Castle.)

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Timber Performance Board dated 2003
    18 Oct 2003: 5021 Grandsire Caters (In memory of Josephine Elizabeth Saunders.)

    Photo: Christopher J Cooper, 26 June 2022

    Recent Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2016-05-035040 Darton Exercise Delight Royal
    2015-05-195043 Stedman Caters
    2014-08-235003 Grandsire Caters
    2014-04-225021 Grandsire Caters
    2013-07-305040 Minor
    2013-03-195040 Spliced Surprise Royal
    2012-12-045042 Bristol Surprise Royal
    2012-08-245040 Minor (4m)
    2003-10-185021 Grandsire Caters
    2003-08-315120 Kent Treble Bob Major
    2002-09-175000 Spliced Surprise Royal
    2002-02-025040 Superlative No 2 Surprise Royal
    2001-11-016480 Plain Bob Caters
    2000-12-165007 Stedman Caters
    1999-05-295040 Lincolnshire Surprise Royal
    1995-03-115040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    1984-09-295040 Yorkshire Surprise Royal
    1984-01-285040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    1982-02-275040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    1981-08-015019 Stedman Caters
    1981-03-255039 Grandsire Caters
    1976-01-035040 Plain Bob Minor
    1974-05-115040 Plain Bob Doubles
    1974-01-265040 Doubles (2m)
    1974-01-265040 Doubles (2m)
    Recent Quarter Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2022-02-121260 Grandsire Triples
    2021-06-041269 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2020-03-151320 Doubles (4m)
    2020-02-161296 Bourne Surprise Minor
    2020-01-191260 Plain Bob Minor
    2019-12-271296 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-12-201259 Grandsire Caters
    2019-12-011260 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-07-211296 Bourne Surprise Minor
    2019-07-071260 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-06-021260 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-05-191320 Norwich Surprise Minor
    2019-04-211296 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-03-311296 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-03-011320 Doubles (3m)
    2019-01-131260 St Clements Minor
    2018-11-301320 Plain Bob Doubles
    2018-11-251260 Single Oxford Minor
    2018-10-141260 St Clements Minor
    2018-10-061260 Plain Bob Minor
    2018-08-171260 Plain Bob Caters
    2018-08-121260 Plain Bob Minor
    2018-07-301440 St Clement's College Bob Minor
    2018-07-271320 Norwich Surprise Minor
    2018-07-081260 St Clements Minor
    Full list of peals on Bellboard here
    Full list of quarters on Bellboard here

    Elsewhere in the Parish

    Leeds, Castle, The Maiden's Tower
    Single bell hung for swing chiming but unringable

    Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent Page updated: 1 April 2016