Lewisham, St Mary the Virgin

Photo: Dickon Love, Apr 2003

  • 8 bells hung for full circle ringing
  • Tenor: 21-1-14 in E♭
  • Grid Ref: TQ379749
  • Rung from: Upstairs Ringing Room
  • Frame: 1894 John Taylor & Co. metal
  • Denomination: Church of England
  • Diocese (Anglican): Southwark
  • Kent County Association of Change Ringers District: Lewisham
  • Building Listed Grade: II* Click for Heritage details.
  • Peals rung at the tower (Felstead Database)

  • Details of the Bells

    Bell Weight
    (most recent) *

    (As received 1894)
    Diameter Note Date Founder Canons Retuned
    ® Treble 6¼ cwt approx. 29¾" E♭ 1819 Thomas Mears II Never
    ® 2 6-0-11 31" D 1896 John Taylor & Co., Loughborough Never (NB Inscription says cast 1895)
    ® 3 7¼ cwt approx. 33" C 1819 Thomas Mears II Never
    ® 4 8-1-8 35" B♭ 1859 John Warner & Sons Never
    ® 5 9¼ cwt approx. 38" A♭ 1777 Pack & Chapman, Whitechapel Never
    ® 6 11-2-11 12-0-21 40¾" G 1776 Pack & Chapman, Whitechapel 1894 John Taylor
    ® 7 16-3-19 45⅝" F 1894 John Taylor & Co., Loughborough Never (NB Inscription says cast 1893)
    ® Tenor 21-1-14 49¾" E♭ 1777 Pack & Chapman, Whitechapel Never

    * Source of weight figures: 1. Duncan (an approx. weight), 2. Taylors, 3. Duncan (an approx. weight), 4. Duncan (exact), 5. Duncan (an approx. weight), 6. Taylors, 7. Taylors, 8. Duncan (exact)

    ® - Hung for full circle ringing


    Frame Bells Year Maker Material Truss(es) Local
    1 All bells 1894 John Taylor & Co., Loughborough Cast iron
    Inscriptions on the Bells

    The only known dated bell before 1766

    Bell Date Founder Fate
    Bell 1743 Unknown Recast in 1766 or 1776
    The 1766 ring of 8

    Bell Weight
    (most recent) *

    (As received Taylors 1894)
    Diameter Note Date Founder Retuned Fate
    Treble (of 8) 5-1-10 28" F 1766 Lester & Pack Never Scrapped 1777
    2nd (of 8) 5-2-9 29½" E 1766 Lester & Pack Never Recast or retuned to E 1777 to become 1 of 8. Recast 1819.
    3rd (of 8) 6-1-13 6-0-12 31" D 1766 Lester & Pack Never Became 2 of 8 in 1777. Scrapped at 6-0-12 in 1895.
    4th (of 8) 7-0-23 32¾" C 1766 Lester & Pack Never Became 3 of 8 in 1777. Recast 1819.
    5th (of 8) 7-2-13 35" B♭ 1766 Lester & Pack Never Became 4 of 8 in 1777. Recast 1859.
    6th (of 8) 8-3-18 37" A 1766 Lester & Pack Never Recast 1777 to become 5 of 8.
    7th (of 8) 11-2-23 12-0-21 or 11-2-11 39¾" G 1743 or 1766 Lester & Pack Never Became 6 of 8 in 1777. Recast 1776.
    Tenor (of 8) 15-2-16 16-1-12 44½" F 1766 Lester & Pack Never Became 7 of 8 in 1777. Recast 1896.

    * Source of weight figures: Whitechapel Peals Book as supplied

    1471 Plans to build the tower were drawn up. The originator of the plan seems to have been one William Sprigg, who in 1471 desire that his tenements with their appurtenances situated in East Greenwich should be sold, and the money "disposed toward the building of the bell tower in the churchyard of Lewesham." Money from wills and bequests followed over the next 14 years. [1]
    1512 The tower was completed following a bequest from William Batt of 26/8 to making the "vice," or stairway. [2]
    1517 John Francis left £3-6-8 to buy a bell. Thereafter the church accounts noted several contributions to new bells and to the bell frame. [3]
    1552 Record of 4 bells. [4]
    1743 A bell was cast or recast.
    1766 A new ring of 8 bells was cast by Lester & Pack at Whitechapel. It is possible that the ring was cast around the 1743 bell (which was the 7th) as the inscription on this bell does not mention a recast in 1766 but does mention 1743. The College Youths rang the first peals on the new bells, Bob Major on Sat. 8 Mar 1766, and Treble Bob Major on Sun 16 Mar 1766. There was some controversy in a local newspaper where there was a claim that the College Youths received a sum of money for opening the bells, which they denied. [5]
    1774 Rebuilding started on the church and tower by George Gibson, Junior, architect.
    1777 Rebuilding was completed and the first Sunday of its opening was 7 Sept 1777. On the second Sunday since the reopening of the new church, part of the east side collapsed, hurting just one lady parishioner. As it was considered (in the Kentish Gazette) that the raised tower was too weak to bear the ringing of the bells, it was decided to sell 5 of the bells to raise money for the alteration of the church. In the event the opposite happened and the whole ring was remodelled into a heavier one with the addition of a new tenor and the 6th recast acting as the new 5th. The 7th was recast the previous year to form the new 6th. [6]
    1812 A clock was supplied by Moore of Clerkenwell with two 5 ft dials. [7]
    1819 Treble and 3rd recast by Thomas Mears.
    1859 The 4th was recast by John Warner & Sons.
    1888 The Vestry noted that "the bell" required rehanging, although it is not clear which bell, or whether it referred to all of them. Members hoped that something would be done speedily in the matter. [8]
    1892 2 peal boards were dedicated on 19 Mar 1892 commemorating the consecration of Dr Legge as Bishop of Lichfield, and the other of the induction of Rev. Samuel Bickersteth as his successor as Vicar of Lewisham. [9]
    1893 The bells had fallen into a poor state of repair. An appeal was launched to restore the bells and augment them to 10, as well as add an additional clock face to the tower. Money was raised for the restoration, but the plan to augment the bells never went ahead. The 7th had become cracked in the crown and was recast by John Taylor with the date 1893 inscribed on the bell, although the metal was actually poured on 1 Jan 1894 and the bell marked as completed 24th Mar 1894. [10] [14] [15]
    1894 The 6th was retuned at this time (completed 12th Mar). All the bells were rehung in a new frame on one level, which was an improvement on the earlier frame which had been of oak and laid the bells out on two levels. The bells were rededicated on Sat 24 Mar by the Bishop of Southwark. [11] [12] [13] [16] [17]
    1896 The 2nd had become cracked and was recast by John Taylor. The Taylor's metal book recorded the weight of this bell as received as 6-0-11 and 6-0-12 in different places. Whilst the bell was cast in 1896 on 27 Jan, the inscription on the bell says 1895. [18] [19] [20] [21]
    1909 F E Robinson published his book "Among the Bells" in which he listed a set of weights for the bells. The source of his information is not known, and some of these look very dubious, either being identical to the 1766 weights but corresponding to the wrong bells, or simply being in the wrong brackets. [22]
    1950 The bells were rehung on ball bearings by Mears & Stainbank. It seems certain that the bells never left the tower. [23]
    1991 The tower roof was repaired.

    [1] From the wills of various parishioners we gather that the tower, which stands at the west end of the church, was erected between 1471 and 1512. The originator of the plan seems to have been one William Sprigg, who in 1471 desire that his tenements with their appurtenances situated in East Greenwich should be sold, and the money "disposed toward the building of the bell tower in the churchyard of Lewesham." From that date the contributions flowed in from parishioners of every class, from the five marcs of Richard Walker to the twelve pence of John Kyngston, or those who had no money left a few bushels of corn "to the new making" or reparation of the steeple, until in 1512 William Batt left 26/8 to making the "vice," or stairway. In 1498 Robert Cheseman desired his executors to "glas the grete new wyndowe in the belfraye with the picture of the passion of our Lord." Of this, however, if the work was carried out, nothing remains, the glass in the said window, at the present day, being modern. [A list compiled from wills, of bequests to the building of the tower is given.]' ('The parish church of Saint Mary, Lewisham, Kent, its building and rebuilding; with some account of the vicars and curates of Lewisham, Duncan, Leyland L., 1862)
    [2] The tower, as originally built, consisted of two stages, divided into three storeys. The uppermost storey - where the bells were hung, and which is now used as the ringing-room - had four two-light windows, one on each side of the tower; that on the west only is now open, those on the north and south being closed, and that on the east now looking into the church. The room below this was the original ringing-chamber - it has one small square-headed windown on the west side. The lower part of the tower, which has an internal measurement of 11ft. 7in. from north to south, and 14ft. from east to west, then, as now, was open to the church. It has a three-light window on the western side, "the grete new wyndowe" mentioned by Robert Cheseman in 1498, and below it is a doorway with continuous mouldings of the usual Perpenducular character. The tower opens to the church by a loft archway, having interior shafts with capitals and outer continuous mouldings. The full height of the arch cannot now be seen, as the floor of the church is some ten feet above the old level; but it is a very fair specimen of the work of the latter part of the 15th century. At the south-east corner of the tower is a spiral staircase - the "vice" - in part the gift of William Batt in 1512. The walls are built of flint, rubble and Kentish rag, a good effect being obtained in the interior by the way the material is worked in bands of stone and cut flints. The buttresses, which are placed at the south-west and north-west angles, are also finished off with flint-work.' ('The parish church of Saint Mary, Lewisham, Kent, its building and rebuilding; with some account of the vicars and curates of Lewisham, Duncan, Leyland L., 1862)
    [3] In 1517 iiil. vjs. viijd. to buy a bell. In 1520 Stephen Levendale leaves xs. for the like purpose. Other contributions occur, such as - 1527, Richard Edwardes, toward a bell xld; 1529, Thomas Gryme, husbandman, "to the belles of Leusham" vjs. viijd., and Denys, his widow, left iijs. iiijd. "to the bell;" 1556, Cithbert Streytt, to the reparacion of the bells vjs. viijd. Robert Batt, a member of an old Lewisham and Sydenham family, in 1535 left twelve pence to the bell frame.' ('The parish church of Saint Mary, Lewisham, Kent, its building and rebuilding; with some account of the vicars and curates of Lewisham, Duncan, Leyland L., 1862)
    [4] Item iiij greate bells of brasse sutyd in the Steple. Item on sants bell of brasse called the morowmas bell. Item on hand bell & ij sacryng bells of brasse.' ('Edwardian Inventory, 1552)
    [5] To the PRINTER. THE paragraph in your’s [sic], and other papers, relating to the College Youths, receiving a sum of money, for opening the new peal of bells at Lewisham in Kent, we can assure you is without foundation, and only designed as a malicious reflection on the said gentlemen. Your’s [sic] A MEMBER.' ('Gazetteer and Daily Advertiser, Sat. 22 Mar 1766, advert)
    [6] On Sunday while divine service was performing for the second Sunday since the new church at Lewisham in Kent was built, part of the said church the East side fell to the ground. The inhabitants were much alarmed, but providentially only one woman was hurt, though many were put into the greatest fear. As the steeple is too high and weak to bear the ringing of the bells, five of the eight are to be taken down and sold, to help to pay for the alterations going to be made in the body of the church, which is not well contrived for room.' ('Kentish Gazette, Sat 20 Sept 1777)
    [7] ' (' Moore list 1877 and supplement to 1886)
    [8] ST MARY'S LEWISHAM This Vestry met at the Board of Works Offices, Catford on Tuesday evening ... The CHAIRMAN stated that the bell required rehanging, and he trusted that something would speedily be done in the matter.' ('Kentish Mercury, Fri 6 Apr 1888)
    [9] Two tables were unveiled in the belfry of St. Mary's Church, Lewisham, on Saturday evening last. One was in commemoration of the consecration of Dr. Legge as Bishop of Lichfield, and the other of the induction of Rev. Samuel Bickersteth as his Lordship's successor as Vicar of Lewisham. In the absence of the Vicar, who was unfortunately prevented from being present by a sprained ankle, the ceremony was performed by Mrs. Bickersteth, in the presence of Mr. Churchwarden and Mrs. Hardy-Smith, the bellringers of St. Mary's, and others. The ceremony was preceded by a touch on the bells, conducted by Mr. W. Bedwell. Devotional exercises having been conducted by the Rev. T. E. Teignmouth Shore, B.A., Mrs. Bickersteth unveiled the tables, with the remark that she had great pleasure in doing so in the absence of her husband. After another touch on the bells, Mr. Churchwarden HARDY-SMITH moved a vote of thanks to Mrs. Bickersteth. He regretted the absence of the Vicar and its cause, and explained that Mr. Churchwarden Warrington would have been present but for his absence from town. Having acknowledged the services of the bellringers and the co-operation of the Rev. T. E. Teignmouth Shore, Mr. Hardy-Smith assured them of his own and his fellow churchwarden's sympathy, and expressed his gratification at having during his term of office been privileged in bidding God speed to the late Vicar on his appointment to his high office, in welcoming his successor, and now in taking part on this interesting occasion of the unveiling of the tablets commemorating these events (applause). The Rev. T. E. TEIGHMOUTH SHORE having seconded and expressed his gratification at seeing one of the churchwardens present, the proceedings were brought to a conclusion with a short selection on the handbells, under Mr. Bedwell's direction. The tablets which were designed and executed by Mr. H. Warnett, one of the bellringers, bear respectively the following inscriptions in gilt lettering:- "Society of Trinity Youths. On Tuesday, September 29th, 1891, was rung in this steeple, in two hours 52 minutes, on the occasion of the consecration, as Bishop of Lichfield, of the Rev. the Hon. A. Legge, D.D., late Vicar of Lewisham, Holt's ten part peal of grandsire triples, 5,040 changes, by the following: G. H. Daynes, 1; John Rose, 2; F Rumens, 3. H. Warnett, 4; F. W. Thornton, 5; Jas. E. Davis, 6; W. Bedwell, 7; T. Chandler and H. Barrett, tenor. Conducted by W. Bedwell. T. H. Warrington and R. Hardy-Smith, churchwardens." "Society of Trinity Youths. On St. Andrew's Day, November 30th, 1891, was rung in this steeple, on the occasion of the institution and induction of the Rev. Samuel Bickersteth, M.A., to the vicarage of Lewisham, by the Bishop of Rochester, Holt's ten part peal of grandsire triples, 5,040 changes, in two hours and 48 minutes, by the following:- A. C. Bedwell, 1; E. E. Richards, 2; G. H. Daynes, 3; H. Warnett, 4; C. Wilkins, 5; H. Barrett, 6; W. Bedwell, 7; T. Chandler, tenor. Conducted by W. Bedwell. T. A. Warrington and R. Hardy-Smith, churchwardens." Each of those present at the ceremony was presented by the Rev. T. E. Teignmouth Shore, on behald of the vicar, with a printed copy of the hymn commencing, "Hark on the high the joyful music" (No 361) in Dr. Bickersteth's "Hymnal Companion"). This hymn, which is extremely popular in Devon, was set to the tune "Carillon" by Dr. Vincent at the request of the Bishop of Exeter (father of the vicar of Lewisham), who is the author of the 2nd and 6th verses, the 3rd, 4th and 5th being based on lines by Dr. John Mason Neale, written for the dedication of a bell.' ('Kentish Mercury, Fri 25 Mar 1892)
    [10] ST MARY'S PARISH CHURCH, LEWISHAM. PROPOSED BELFRY IMPROVEMENT. On Saturday afternoon, a public meeting was held in the Parish Hall, Ladywell, in connexion with a movement for placing a new clock face on the recreation ground side of St. Mary's Church, and the addition of two small bells to the existing peal of eight. The chair was taken by Mr. R. T. Pigott, D.C.L., and amongst those present were the Revs. Canon Rhodes Bristow, S. Bickersteth, T. E. Teignmouth Shore, F. J. Hammon, Mr. S. P. Low, J.P., Mr. Churchwarden Warrington, Mr. Churchwarden King, Mr. G. A. Harvey, L.C.C., Mr. E. H. Oxenham, Mr. Edgar Banks, Mr. R. Hardy-Smith, &c. Mr. J. Carline, C.E. (honorary secretary) read the notice convening the meeting, and letters from the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, Lord St. Germans, Col. Trench, and many others, giving their approval to the project. The letter from the Bishop of Lichfield was as follows:- The Palace, Lichfield, 24th April, 1893. Dear Mr. Carline,- Anything to improve the old parish church of Lewisham, and whatever belongs to it, must always have my sympathy. The suggestion to put an additional face to the clock is eminently practical, and those who use the railway station for business and the recreation ground for pleasure will be equally ready to contribute towards so desirable an end. If the addition of two small bells will make the "sweetest bells in Kent" still sweeter, I am sure that those who live within hearing of the peal will provide the means for placing them in the tower. Wishing you complete success, I remain yours very truly, - AUGUSTUS LICHFIELD. The CHAIRMAN said he was in rather a difficult position, as he knew nothing about bells, but they felt the importance of the beautiful adjunct to the church. The bells were given by their forefathers, but the framework was weak, and all interested he felt would come forward and help in the work. He suggested they each undertake to give and collect a small sum. About £300 was required, and of that £135 or so had been received. Mr. S. P. Low, J.P., said if he were discouraged through the small attendance he might sit down without saying a word, but it was such a good work that people only wanted to know of it to make up for the deficiency of attendance. It was proposed to have another face for the clock, and he was pleased to say the Charity Trustees, out of the herbal rents, had granded £25. What they wanted with regard to the bells was that the peal might be made effetive. He moved "That the belfry fund deserve the hearty support of all the parishioners, and that it is desirable if possible to raise a sum of money, not only sufficient to put the present bells and their framework into a proper state of repair, but also to add two small bells to the present peal." He thought it would be a disgrace if the money was not forthcoming for so desirable an improvement. The Rev. Canon RHODES BRISTOW seconded, and said he was not discouraged by the lack of attendance, for it was difficult to get a meeting at any time in Lewisham. He took heart at the attendance, for it was essentially representative, and they had in quality what they lacked in quantity. They should be stirred up to induce all present to make collections, or in other words become recruiting seargeants to obtain allies. Some ladies did not like a single bell, considering it should be rung, and the ringing of peals was essentially natural, with its changes so different to what was found on the Continent, and it should come home to them as English folk. They should be assisted in making an appeal to their friends. He often listened to the bells of St. Mary's at Christmas, the Queen's birthday, and on other occasions with the keenest interest. They should feel if anything happened to their bells of an adverse character it would be a calamity to the parish. The bells were for the good of the whole parish, and he was sure those who had charge of them would feel they were neglecting their duty if they used them for party or political purposes. It was said those who were born within the sound of Bow Bells were cockneys. He did not know what the bells of Lewisham made of those born within the sound of them, except that they should be happy people. If they did not do what was wanted soon the bells would have to be silent for awhile, but it only needed to be known money was required for them for its being forthcoming. He had that day received a contribution from a cobbler in his parish of 6d. The resolution was carried unanimously.' ('Kentish Mercury, Fri 5 May 1893)
    [11] RE-DEDICATION OF THE BELLS OF ST. MARY, LEWISHAM. For several months past the bells of Lewisham Parish Church have been silent, owing to the fact that the long needed, and at last imperative, work of replacing their wornout and insecure framework has been in hand. Now, however, that work has been satisfactorily complete, and the bells (one of which it was found necessary to re-cast) safely suspended once more in the old tower. On Saturday afternoon in accordance with the announcement we were able to make last week, and in the presence of a large congregation, they were re-dedicated, at a brief special service arranged for the occasion, by the Bishop of Southwark. It may be of interest to mention that the work has been admirably carried out by Mr. John Taylor, of Loughborough, Leicestershire, the well-known firm of bell bell founders, the total cost being £257, of which £15 was required prior to the service on Saturday. The bells are now hung from an iron frame instead of one of oak as formerley, and are now all on the same level. They are fitted with Hastings tongues and guiders in place of the usual sliders, this being an invention of Rev. Edward Horne, of Bishop's Down, Tunbridge Wells, and in that respect are absolutely unique. The seventh bell - that which has been recast - bears the date of founding (1766) and of re-casting (1894) [it actually bears the date 1893], with the names of the present vicar of Lewisham and churchwardens (Messrs. T. A. Warrington and G. W. J. King), in addition to the following Latin inscription from an ancient Christmas hymn in the Mayence Hymnary:- Gloria tibi Domine. / Qui natus es de Virgine. ("Glory to thee, O Lord, Who wast born of the Virgin")' ('Kentish Mercury, Fri 30 Mar, 1894)
    [12] diameters 29¾", 31", 33",, 35", 38", 40¾", 45", 49¾" [no other details];' ('Taylor job book 80 pg 250)
    [13] Slightly different record of the diameters: 29½", 31", 33", 35", 38", 40⅞", --, 50".. Old seventh cracked in the crown, 16-1-12. Sixth 12-0-21 nett [brought in for tuning, returned as 11-2-11 (metals book)]. New seventh 45⅝" 16-3-19. Completed 24 March 1894;' ('Taylor job book 80 pg 305)
    [14] 40½" bell as came in gross 12-0-21' ('Taylor metal book 2, pg 4, 12 Dec 1893)
    [15] 7th cast 1 January 1894.' ('Taylor casting book)
    [16] one bell old 11-2-11, new 16-3-19' ('Taylor metal book 2, pg 17, 12 Mar 1894)
    [17] Vicar and Churchwardens of St.Mary’s Church, Lewisham (to T.A. Warrington Esq, 7 Limes Grove, Lewisham). To recasting the cracked 7th bell of the ring of eight (recast bell 16-3-19) and rehanging the ring with entirely new fittings, framework & girders, including carriage & fixing according to estimate 8 October 1892 and letter of 15 July 1893 £257, To inscription on the recast bell according to quotation 13 December 1893, 161 letters at 4d £2.13.8., [Total] £259.13.8. Settled 26 April 1894' ('Taylor daybook 7 p.155, 24 Mar 1894.)
    [18] one bell 6-0-11.' ('Taylor metal book 2 pg 111, 1 Feb.1896)
    [19] Recast the second, 4 Sept.1895. Old cracked second 6-0-12 nett. New bell 30½" 6-0-11 1155 (nominals of 6-8 noted as 768.5, 687, 612.5)' ('Taylor metal book [ref needed])
    [20] Ex Lewisham, one cracked bell received, nett 6-0-12. New bell cast 27 January 1896' ('Taylor furnace book 2, pg 47, 11 Feb 1896)
    [21] Vicar and Churchwardens of St.Mary’s Church, Lewisham (to Rev. T.E. Teignmouth Shore, 25 Thornford Road). To recasting the cracked 2nd bell of the ring of eight according to estimate 24 October 1895 (recast bell 6-0-11, cracked bell 6-0-12) including taking down, carriage & fixing £20, inscription 75 letters at 4d £1.5.0., [Total] £21.5.0. Settled 26 May 1896' ('Taylor daybook 7 pg 402 - 6 Feb 1896)
    [22] 1. Thomas Mears, 1819, 28", 5-1-10; 2. Taylor, 1896, 31½", 6-1-0; 3. Thomas Mears, 1819, 33", 6-2-10; 4. Warner, 1859, 35", 7-1-13; 5. Pack & Chapman, 1777, 37", 7-2-13; 6. Pack & Chapman, 1776, 39", 8-3-18; 7. Taylor, 1894, 41", 13-1-0; 8. Lester and Pack, 1777, 49", 21-0-0.' ('Among the Bells, Robinson, F E)
    [23] Peal rehung, new G/B (SA), clappers overhauled & C/S re-set, new bottom half of treble wheel, new elm pad between 6th bell and it headstock, Aug.1950' ('Whitechapel Index, Aug 1950)
    Literary collection

  • "St Mary, Lewisham, London SE13", Stevenson, Ian P (The Ringing World) 9 December 1977
  • Bells elsewhere in the parish

    Page updated: 22 August 2020