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Strood, St Nicholas


Photo: Dickon Love

Details of the Tubular Bells

Bell Date Founder
1 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
2 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
3 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
4 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
5 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
6 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
7 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
8 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
9 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry
10 1899 Harrington, Latham & Co, Coventry

The three bells destroyed 1898

Bell Weight
(most recent)
DiameterDateFounderFate
1 (of 3)5 cwt approx.30"1765Thomas SwainDestroyed 1898
2 (of 3)6 cwt approx.32"1788"Old" John WarnerDestroyed 1898
3 (of 3)8½ cwt approx.36"1788"Old" John WarnerDestroyed 1898

Original ring of six: 3 were sold in 1849, 2 recast in 1788

Bell DateFounderFate
Treble1765Thomas SwainSold 1850 or destroyed 1898
21765Thomas SwainRecast 1788
31765Thomas SwainRecast 1788
41765Thomas SwainSold 1850 or destroyed 1898
51765Thomas SwainSold 1850 or destroyed 1898
Tenor1765Thomas SwainSold 1850 or destroyed 1898

History

1552 Record of 4 bells and a sanctus in the tower.
1765 The bells had been augmented to 5 at some stage. In this year, the 5 bells were recast with more metal into a ring of 6, by Thomas Swain. This cost £140 10s 0d. [2]
1788 The 2nd and 3rd of this new ring of six can't have been very good as they were recast just 23 years later, "Old" John Warner.
1797 Record of 6 bells in the tower. [3]
1818 The church and top of the tower were rebuilt.
1846 Some parts of the church clock went missing, stolen, it was claimed, by a workman in the employment of the millwright and horologist John Stedman. [4] [5] [6]
1849 Three of the bells and the sanctus bell were sold for £79 18s 1d. The money was needed to fund a new clock, for which tenders were requested. Some historians didn't look very kindly on this as there was a legal challenge over items that the Trustees DID end up paying the churchwardens just 4 years later. [7] [8]
1850 The 3 cracked bells were sold and the new clock was paid for with the proceeds. Mr Steadman was also paid £10 as a reward for leading the parish to the apprehension of the thief. [9]
1887 A gentleman offered to put a new ring of bells in the tower. This "splendiferous" offer was rejected by the Trustees who were concerned about the safety of the fabric of the tower. [10]
1898 The tower was gutted by fire, the bells crashed and broke and later sold. A new clock was purchased. In addition 10 tubular bells, made by Harrington, Latham & Co., were purchased from Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, Chelsea. They probably dated from 1890 when that church was rebuilt. [12] [13]
1899 Within a year of the fire, more of the tower fell down in a gale. Following the repairs, the 10 tubular bells were installed. [14]
2013 It was announced that the church was to receive a new ring of 8 bells based on the 5 redundant bells from All Saints, Murston, to be installed by Easter 2014. This project never happened and the Murston bells eventually left the county. [15]
[1] Item iiij belles in the Stepill. Item a lytill sanctus Bell. (Edwardian Inventory, 1552)
[2] April 18th, Paid Mr. Thomas Swain's bill and receipt for new casting the 5 bells into 6 with additions of mettel &c. ... £140 10s 0d (Trustees' Accounts (from The History of Strood, Henry Smetham, 1899))
[3] The church of Stroud is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It was formerly a chapel to the parish church of Frindsbury. It is a spacious building, consisting of a nave and two isles, and the great chancel, with a tower steeple at the west end, in which is a clock and six bells, one of which was added in 1765. ('The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent. Vol 5', Edward Hasted)
[4] CITY PETTY SESSIONS. Saturday. (Before R. Clements, Esq., Mayor, J. Nightingale, and E. Wickham, Esqrs.) Strood Church Clock. J Sedgewick, appeared to answer the complaint of the Rev. Mr. Deacon, for taking away some of the works belonging to Strood clock. Sedgewick stated that he went to church with some of the gentlemen, and overhauled the works, and found that some of them, which he had left there, were missing. The last time he visited the church, he left the key with the ostler at the Bull’s Head, and he had no knowledge whatever of the missing property. The rev. gentleman said he could carry the case no farther, and here the matter ends for the present. —lt appears that the clock had been ordered to be painted and repaired by two distinct authorities in the parish, and the work had actually been executed under the first order but not being done to the satisfaction of the second party, the dial plate was secretly taken down moon-light, painted and gilded and again replaced without the knowledge or sanction of the first party ; and from that time to the present the clock has been contumacious, and won’t go. (South Eastern Gazette - Tues 05 May 1846)
[5] Strood Clock. - At the Guildhall on Saturday tha complaint of the Rev. T. Deacon, against a person named Sedgwick, living in St Margaret’s, came on for hearing. The defendant in the employ of Mr. Stedman, miller, who or many years has had the superintendence of the clock at Strood Church. The parties had appeared before the Magistrates on Wednesday, and the case was then adjourned till this day, in the hope that in the mean time some arrangement might have been come to and the works restored, the Magistrates at that time desiring Sedgwick to search for them, but who now said he had been unable to find them. Here the matter for the present rests, the Rev. Gentleman saying that he should not proceed further the case without legal advice. Amongst the parish authorities there seems exist little doubt the whereabouts of these works, but with the public the case is involved in mystery. (Kentish Independent, Sat 09 May 1846)
[6] "Ordered, that the clerk do to-morrow write to Mr Steadman and request him to restore the works of the parish clock immediately". [7 Apr] Mr Steadman had not answered the clerk's letter. "Ordered, that Messrs West and Bass be appointed to wait upon him and endeavour to induce him to restore the works of the parish clock." [14 Apr] The two emissaries above named were unable to see Mr Steadman, that gentleman being ill; but they reported that the worthy but unfortunate clocksmith (he was in fact a millwright) had handed over the missing vitals to his workman, named Sedgewick. Mr Wickham "is desired to interrogate" the last named horological authority ... [21 Apr] Mr Steadman "is informed that the Trustees will pay him two guineas for replacing and repairing them within two weeks." [5 May] It appears that the works had been stolen! The Trustees resolve "To offer Ł10 reward for the apprehension of the person or persons by whom the said works were clandestinely removed." [29 May] No news being forthcoming, "Mr Wickham is instructed to prepare a case for the opinion of counsel as to what steps should be taken to recover the missing works of the parish clock or compensation for the loss of them." [7 Jul] "Resolved, that so many of the bells which are cracked as shall be necessary to enable the Trustees to pay for a new clock and the fixing thereof shall be sold. Resolved, that [9 members] are hereby constituted a committee for the purpose of selling the said bells, and with the proceeds of such sale of purchasing a new turret clock and having the same fixed in the tower of the church." [11 Aug] "Ordered, that the sum of ten guineas demanded by Mr Steadman be paid at the first opportunity from the poor rate." Apparently the clocksmith scored! [10 Nov] (Minute Book of the Strood Trustees was quoted in Henry Smetham's "History of Strood" in 1898)
[7] TO CLOCK MAKERS AND OTHERS. PERSONS willing to supply, set up, and fix in the towerof the PARISH CHURCH of STROOD, in the county of Kent, CLOCK, properly made and finished, according specifications to be seen at the office of Mr. Wickham, Solicitor, Strood aforesaid, are requested to forward Tenders for the same to Mr. Wickham, on before Tuesday , the 20th day of March next, after when no tender will be received. All tenders to be sealed up, addressed and sent or delivered to Mr. Wickham, Solicitor, Kent, and indorsed "Tender for supplying, &c. Parish Clock." The advertisers will not bind themselves to accept the lowest or any other tender. (South Eastern Gazette - Tues 27 Feb 1849)
[8] 5th February, 1849. The Trustees sold four of the bells (cracked) of the Church for £79 18s. 1d. (Trustees' Accounts (from The History of Strood, Henry Smetham, 1899))
[9] "By proceeds of the sale of bells £79..18s..1d To [sundry works] and balance paid Messrs Moore £32..9s..5d To Mr Steadman for losing the works £10" (Minutes of the Strood Trustees, 16 May 1850)
[10] One for the three remaining bells having become cracked, the Vicar, Mr Banning offered to place in the tower "A complete and splendiferous peal of bells". Misgiving existed among some of the Trustees as to the stability of the tower and "On the proposition being put to the meeting that the Trustees give their consent to the placing of extra bells in the tower of the Church, and a show of hands being called for, the proposition was declared lost." Had things gone differently, the new bells would have lasted only eleven years. (Minutes of the Strood Trustees, 10 Mar 1887)
[11] 10th March, 1887. "On the proposition being put to the meeting that the Trustees give their consent to the placing of extra bells in the tower of the Church, and a show of hands being called for, the proposition was declared lost." At this meeting, when Mr. Banning made his proposal for the Jubilee Peal of Bells, some misgiving existed among the Trustees as to the stability of the tower being equal to the strain the Bells would put upon it. The question was raised as to who was responsible if the tower collapsed. It was replied that "the Trustees were responsible." Acting under this belief the members, as a matter of self-protection, voted against the proposition, with the result as above recorded. The preceding matter had been written and published before this explanation of the Trustees' vote came to the writer's knowledge, and he thinks it but fair to offer this explanation. Had he himself accepted the same view, he should have voted as they did. The assertion that the Trustees were responsible is entirely erroneous. No such liability rests upon that body. It is worth noting that the walls of the tower are 4ft. 6in. thick, and though some of the inner portion is of chalk, it is well and firmly built, and solid in all parts. (The History of Strood, Henry Smetham, 1899)
[12] [Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wed 21 Dec 1898] A Church on Fire. - St. Nicholas' Church Strood, near Rochester, caught fire slightly after noon on Saturday, and the flames for some time raged fiercely. The Strood Fire Brigade, however, then were able to check the fire, and in the result the main structure was saved, but the interior was extensively damaged. The tower bells and clock were destroyed. During the fire a marriage ceremony was conducted in the church. (Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wed 21 Dec 1898)
[13] On Saturday, 17th December, 1898, a disastrous fire broke out under the floor of the tower. For a considerable time it appeared that the entire structure was doomed, but, fortunately the efforts of the Rochester Volunteer Fire Brigade who worked with great discretion and unflagging zeal were successful in keeping its ravages confined to the tower, but the whole of its interior fittings were entirely destroyed. The ringing platform went first, then the clock, and finally the bells, which came down with a heavy crash, and broke to pieces among the debris. Happily, the tower itself, beyond some scaling off suffered by the stonework, was but little the worse structurally a fact giving much satisfaction, seeing that the tower is the only part of the ancient building left after the vandalism of 1812. The particularly ugly "meat-safe" arrangement that did duty for the upper part of the tower since the above-noted date perished completely, to the regret of no one. The liberal settlement by the insurance offices concerned, i.e., the "Imperial" and the "Yorkshire," brought forth the sum of £1,780, with such other sums as the sale of the bells, &c., might realise. A joint Committee for Restoration was appointed, consisting of [9 members]. Messrs. Ruck and Smith, architects, of Maidstone, were engaged to submit plans and specifications, which were approved, and the contracts for the work were secured the restoration of the tower by Messrs. Fryer & Co., Maidstone, and the painting and decorating by Mr. J. S. Hitch, of Strood. It was decided, after a visit of inspection to Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London, by the following members, appointed as a sub-committee : viz., The Vicar, Messrs. Woollett, Edmonds, G. Robinson, and the Architect Mr. A. W. Smith, and after their favourable report upon the same, to have ten tubular bells, completely fitted with chiming apparatus, erected in the tower, in lieu of the three cracked bells lost in the fire. Also that a new clock, with two transparent dials facing South and West for night illumination, and fitted with Cambridge chiming apparatus, should be secured for the use of the Parish. The bells were contracted for by Messrs. Harrington, Latham & Co., of Coventry, for the sum of £291; and the clock by Messrs. John Smith & Sons, of Derby, for the sum of £135. (Minutes of the Strood Trustees, 17 Dec 1898)
[14] AN ILL-FATED CHURCH. Another misfortune has befallen the parish church of St. Nicholas, Strood. At Christmas the tower was burned out and the turret and bells destroyed. During the gale early yesterday morning a portion of the tower was blown down. A heavy piece of masonry crashed through the roof and fell on the floor of the church, narrowly missing tho font. (Sheffield Independent - Tues 24 Jan 1899)
[15] After 115 years St Nicholas Strood are to have a ring of eight bells to replace the set of ten tubes that replaced the three old bells left from the ring of six which were destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1898. On 30 April 2013 the tower was overrun by a group of people to check the tower for a 10½cwt ring of eight. These people were Rev Adrian Demster (structural engineer specialising in church bells and towers), Rev David Cawley (KCACR committee member), Doug Snoswell (KCACR PRO and Chairman Bell St Nicholas Strood Bells Appeal), and Elaine Ford and Ken Reynolds (churchwardens). After Adrian had spent about an hour photographing the tower from all angles followed by a further two hours climbing over the inside of the tower, the long awaited verdict was that the tower was perfectly strong enough; even the cracks around the windows were expansion cracks and nothing to worry about. When the bells are put in the only structural alteration that will be needed is a concrete ring beam at the new belfry level, trapdoors to the new belfry and an extra trapdoor to the old belfry for sound control purposes. According to Stahlschmidt there were three bells left in 1887, the other three (being cracked) having been sold about 50 years previously, “the proceeds being mainly appropriated to the purchase of a new clock”. The treble of the three didn’t have any founder’s details, but the other two were cast by Warner’s in 1788, the first year of the firm’s existence. There was an interesting snippet in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper of 18 December 1898, reading as follows: Yesterday, in the church of St. Nicholas, at Strood, near Rochester, preparations were being made for a marriage to take place in the church, when suddenly flames were observed issuing from the western tower, the only part remaining of the original structure built nearly 800 years ago. Although the fire brigade were very smart in getting to work, the fire completely gutted the tower, leaving only the walls standing. The Portland stone turret was destroyed, together with the clock and bells. Despite this unforeseen disaster, the bridal party arrived on the scene before the firemen had quitted it, and the nuptial knot was tied while the ruins were still smouldering. After 114 years St Nicholas Strood are to have a ring of eight bells to replace the set of ten tubes that replaced the three old bells left from the ring of six which were destroyed in a disastrous fire in 1898. The five bells that are at present at Murston will form part of the ring with three new bells. It is hoped that they will be installed and ringing by Easter 2014. (KCACR Website report by Douglas Snoswell, 23 May 2013)

Articles

  • "Order of Service for the Rededication of St Nicholas Strood following the fire and new bells", () 29 November 1899
  • Gallery


    The tower immediately after the fire of 1898.
    Photo:

    The tower prior to the first of 1898.
    Photo:

    The tower after the first of 1898.
    Photo:

    The following poem appears in Henry Smetham's "History of Strood"



    STROOD CHURCH BELLES.
    (With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.)

    Oh the bells - Oh the swinging and the ringing of the bells.

    Oh, the bells, the Strood Church bells!
    That once we had ! It's really sad, much too bad!
    How the Trustees sold our bells to buy a clock!
    Let the tale be briefly told, how in those dark days of old,
    Strood, as usual, went to leeward o'er the clock.

    Many long years in the tower, our old clock had tolled the hour
    (Tho' it never tol'd the rogue who stole its works).
    But no doubt those wicked men, who 'sniped' off with its vitals then.
    Were as naughty and unspeakable as Turks.

    The Trustees waxed exceeding cross, and they advertised their loss;
    Yea, and offered a reward of sovereigns ten - Noble men!
    But 'twas never run to ground or in other words not found;-
    Oh the shock! So at last they sold the bells to buy a clock.

    Ever since our noble peal - three in number, shameful deal!
    Make a very sorry, sorry ding, dong, ding,
    As they clang their jarring notes, fit to burst their brazen throats-
    One has done it! mark its wheezy ping, pong, ping!

    Now however fair the bride - humble she, or puffed with pride,
    We can never give bell music - tho' alack!
    When death comes among the people, they proclaim it from the steeple,
    But they've never rung a joy bell since the wrack.

    Now 'twas not so long ago, as we all most clearly know,
    Queen Victoria attained her Jubilee;
    Mr. Banning, worthy man, he came forward with a plan,
    One both sensible and fitting, as you'll see.

    Said this worthy Vicar then, to the Trustees "Now my men"-
    (This, of course, was not his phraseology)-
    "We are badly off for bells, we can only toll the knells,
    Now this offer I will freely make to ye.

    To celebrate our good Queen's reign, and to bring to Strood again
    Former glories that were her's as hist'ry tells.
    If you'll give to me the power, I will place up in your tower,
    A complete and a 'splendiferous' peal of bells."

    Now you'll hardly think it true, what I'm going to say to you,
    Though its true as eggs are eggs - and what a frost!
    When for this boon you understand, each Trustee had raised his hand-
    God forgive 'em! Its recorded

    "IT WAS LOST" !!!

    Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent Page updated: 25 April 2020