Tunbridge Wells, St Luke

Photo: Dickon Love, 29th Jan 2005

  • 8 bells hung dead with clavier
  • Tenor: 14-1-9 in G♭
  • Formerly single bell hung for ringing, 14 cwt approx. Scrapped when the new chime was installed.
  • Grid Ref: TQ588408
  • Rung from: Upstairs Ringing Room
  • Frame: 1919 Gillett & Johnston
  • Denomination: Church of England
  • Diocese (Anglican): Rochester

  • Details of the Bells

    Bell Weight
    (most recent) *

    (Tower Notice)

    (Cast weight)
    Diameter Note Date Founder Canons Retuned
    1 3-3-12 3-3-6 4-0-24 25⅛" G♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (78) Never
    2 3-2-24 3-2-17 3-3-10 25½" F♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (79) Never
    3 4-0-5 4-0-8 4-0-18 27³⁄₁₆" E♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (80) Never
    4 4-2-19 4-2-22 4-3-26 29" D♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (81) Never
    5 6-0-3 5-3-25 6-1-20 31½" C♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (82) Never
    6 6-3-22 6-3-16 7-2-1 33½" B♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (83) Never
    7 9-0-7 8-3-25 9-1-26 36¹⁵⁄₁₆" A♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (84) Never
    8 14-1-9 14-0-25 14-3-19 42" G♭ 1919 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (85) Never

    * Source of weight figures: G&J Tuning Book

    ꓕ- Hung dead

    Inscriptions on the Bells

    How the bells are tuned

    Prior to 1919

    Bell Weight
    (most recent)
    Diameter Note Date Founder Retuned Fate
    Single Bell 12 cwt approx. 41¾" G 1910 John Warner & Sons Never Hung for ringing. Removed 1919.

    1910 The church was built and consecrated on Mon 31 Oct. by the Bishop of Rochester. One of the early benefactors of this new church was Miss Mitchell, who funded the building of a tower and a single Warner 14 cwt Warner bell that was hung for ringing. This was intended to be one of a future ring of bells. Both tower and bell were given in memory of her parents. [1] [2]
    1919 Mrs Mitchell continued her generosity with the provision of a new clock and bells to the memory of the ninety gallant men the parish who gave their lives in the Great War. The Vicar engaged the services of William Wooding Starmer, who was Professor of Campanology in the University of Birmingham and a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Music, London, as well as local organist at St Mark's Broadwater Down, a musicologist, and a keen proponent of carillon music in the early 20th century. Starmer was a close acquaintance of Taylors and there is a extensive record of correspondence between the two. In Starmer's mind, there was only one choice for contractor - Taylor's! He invited Denison Taylor to visit the tower and provide a quote for a new clock (to be subcontracted to Smith's of Derby) and a 4 bell clock chime to sound the Cambridge quarters. He considered the Warner bell to be of such poor quality (mainly because it had the name "Warner" on it - he was a well known critic of the quarter chimes in the Palace of Westminster) that he asked for the quotation to allow for the recasting of this to be a hour bell. He had failed to get the original church architect to go to Taylors for this bell a decade earlier, so he had another good reason to see it broken up. Starmer also requested a supplimentary quote to fill in the other notes of the octave and provide an 8 bell chime, with the new hour bell as the tenor. Taylors visited and provided the quotations. They estimated the Warner bell to be 12 cwt in G, so provided a quote for a new 12 cwt set of 5 and 8 bells as well as a quote for a 14 cwt chime of 5 and 8, all to be hung for chiming with a clavier. Starmer then went to visit Armagh in Ireland to advise on the provision of bells at the cathedral, and while he was there, members of the church's committee approached Gillett & Johnson for a quotation behind his back. Furthermore, Starmer returned to find that the Gillett quotation was accepted! He was furious and 'disgusted'. As he was still in the pay of the church to ensure that the job was delivered with the requisite quality, Starmer was clear that he was going to be very meticulous with this and that Cyril Johnson had better look out! In the event, the bells were accepted, the tenor bore Starmer's name, and the new bells were dedicated by the Bishop of Rochester on 12 October. Starmer was asked to chime the bells for 4 minutes, and he put together 60 changes for the event (which amused him as he wasn't a change ringer). For Starmer, this was the second time that year he had been unable to secure a contract for Taylors in Tunbridge Wells. In July a new ring of 8 had also been opened at St Peter's, also by Gillett & Johnson, and also with Starmer's name on the tenor. He was holding out on providing Taylor's with at least another job in Tunbridge Wells as a fund was open to cast a new bell for St Mark's, Broadwater Down. This never happened either! [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

    [1] CONSECRATION OF ST. LUKE'S CHURCH. ... On Monday evening the new Church of S. Luke was consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Rochester in the presence of a large congregation ... A scheme was definitely launched when the Jubilee of St. John's Church was celebrated in the early part of 1908. A generous financial start was afforded by Miss Mitchell, who gave a donation of £1,500 ... and at Christmas of las year the tenrder of Messrs Strange and Sons was accepted for the building. Once more Miss Mitchell, the lady bountiful of St. Luke's showed her practical sympathy by defrating the cost of the site and during the present year rendered still further magnificent help by providing the cost of the tower and bell as a memorial to her parents. This generous supporter of the scheme laid the foundation stone in February, and the handsome church was for all practical purposes complete in time for the consecration ... The church, which is situated in Wilkin-road, is built of rastone with Bathstone dressings and tiled roof, and is designed in the early 15th century style. It consists of nave, chancel, north and south aisles, and has a square tower, at North-East angle the lower part of which, with arched opening into chancel, is arranged for organ space and provision has been made for a peal of bells, one of which has at present only been hung.' ('Kent & Sussex Courier - Fri 4 Nov 1910)
    [2] One Warner bell, 1910, 41.75". Hung for ringing.' ('John Taylor inspection notebook (EDT 47 p.77 16th May))
    [3] I had a visit from the Vicar of St Lukes, Tun. Wells a new church re a peal of bells for the church. I told him nothing but of £1000 would be any good. He is coming to see my again shortly. This is the church I tried to get the single bell for you when it was built and the architect did me out of the job although he came to me for all the necessary advice on the organ and organ chamber!' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T298) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 3 Dec 1918)
    [4] Nothing has been done at St Marks yet re bells. I am pushing them on at St Lukes about a peal and keeping them as warm as possible.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T298) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 14 Jan 1919)
    [5] Have just had a long talk with the Vicar of St Lukes, that church I tried to get the single bell from you for here. They have decided to have a clock and chimes and have put the matter in my hands so I am writing re clock tonight. What I want to know is this: the cost of bell for the chorus [DIAGRAM: treble clef F# E D A G] I presume you will make them carillon scale. The present bell weighs about 10 cwt as far as I know and would be the hour bell but as it is Warner it must be recast. So let the estimate be recast present bell and add the 4 notes (1). (2) to provide the extra 2 bells to complete the octave so that they could be played and chimed from a clavier. I hope I have made the quite clear. As I want to get the matter in hand before I start away on Monday I shall be glad if you could write me at once.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T363) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 29 Apr 1919)
    [6] Dear Mr. Starmer, I hope you are going on all right. Is the weather hot with you, if so I guess you will find it rather trying especially if they put you in examining in a stuffy room. Well, I went to Tunbridge Wells on Friday, the 16th,., with Mr. Haynes, from Smith's of Derby. We found St. Luke's Church with a little enquiring, for, as you will know, it is quite on the outskirts of the town. The Vicar was there kindly to meet us and stayed all the time. It is a fine tower and in a good position for a chime of bells to be heard to great advantage. I measured and tested the tone of the Warner bell. It is 3' 5½" dia. note G (about continental pitch). Hum G sharp and a false strike of G flat. I explained to the Vicar that it could never sound in harmony with other bells and must be recast. The organ makes it a bit troublesome to get the bells up through the floors, so they will have to go up either through a window, which would mean removing temporarily the mullion of the window, or be hoisted over the parapet on to the roof of the tower. There is a trap door left in the rood. However, I explained all this to the Vicar when I was there and have mentioned it again in my written report. I should say the Warner bell is quite 12-cwts. so I have send two estimates - No. 1 for Cambridge quarters (five bells) with hour of 12-cwts., appending the cost of the other three bells to complete the octave; and No. 2 for increasing hour bell to 14-cwts. All to be hung for chiming with clavier, whether five or eight. I shall hope to hear that the 14-cwt. tenor is decided upon. I feel sure the bells would sound very pretty there, and especially on the open Southborough side.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T363) Denison Taylor to W W Starmer, 26 May 1919)
    [7] Dear Sirs, I write to thank you for your estimate of May 23rd - a request my committee cannot accept the same. The estimate for our clock + chimes given by Messrs Gillett & Johnston has been accepted by us.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T493) Ferrier-Rowe, A.D. (Vicar) to Taylors, 4 Jun 1919)
    [8] Re St Luke's Ch. I have a letter before me now which I am about to answer and in no indefinite terms I assure you, they appointed me to advise them. While I was away they got on their own an estimate from Gillett & Johnston. He undercuts Smith's estimate for the clock and yours for the bells and throw in the necessary work in the Tower. This they accept without a word to me. I am very disgusted with such treatment however they are bound to pay me and they shall do so well. also I think that Mr Cyril Johnston will wish me further before he has finished the job. When he knows what he is up against. He shall cast his bells to the exact pitch of the organ and four harmonics in each bell shall be the test. Of course one cannot expect everything to come off triumph but I do feel badly done by in this matter because no such procedure was hinted at but on the ? I believe there are men who are what you call 'double cunning' and no doubt they think that they have done something wonderful and diddled me out of my plans! The Vicar knows nothing whatever about music or musical things but when he came to see me I said 'Well you may be all right about your clock but as far your bells they won't be in it with what you would have got from Taylor's. Between ourselves Smith's of Derby are not enterprising enough and their work here has not brought them much repute. So John's clock is not a good time keeper and St Marks is far from perfect. They ought to have some method by which they could inspect at ?staked times the work they have done. It may be that the local ? is not sufficient but my experience of them is that when a clock is put up then the job ends, but it should be there the job begins. They are apathetic and never seem to like the slightest interest as to whether their clocks or chimes are a success when they have been erected. This is no business proposition as far as they are concerned, they ?might to do everything probably to examine the success of their work and they never seem to see this. This is not your way of doing things and it certainly is not mine. I have never recommended any body for such work but Smith's and I always feel that in their own interests they do not come up to scratch, and I am right. With regard to St Luke's bells I am exceedingly sorry and disappointed that the work has not been placed in your hands but I know you will understand that everything I could possibly do, without prejudicing the issue, has been done. It ?was very much against the grain but as dear old John [Taylor] said to me when I was discussing the matter of St Peter bells and Gillett & Johnston here in this very room "Well, we never could expect that you could always come [obscured word] and keep free from other firms. We understand the difficulty of your position and appreciate have done your very best for as. We know that we cannot get everything and the wonder is that you have so spendidly managed to avoid such difficulties. I have said the same to Denison and I only want you to understsand our very sincere appreciation of your loyalty to me = There were practically his last words to me.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T356) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 19 Jun 1919)
    [9] I have just got back from St Lukes. Dedication of the bells, by the Bishop of Rochester. He sent for me so I had to play changes for 4 minutes during the service. You can just fancy me doing changes! I very carefully selected 60 of the most musical, they will henceforth [be] known as Starmer Method! At any rate it made me sorry that we had no bells at St Marks. There were over 1000 people to listen to the bells so I felt a bit important for once.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T356) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 12 Oct 1919)
    [10] THE BELLS OF ST. LUKE'S, TUNBRIDGE WELLS. DEDICATION BY THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER. MEMORIAL TABLET UNVEILED. To the memory of the ninety gallant men the parish of St. Luke's, Tunbridge Wells, who gave their lives for King and Country, a clock and peal of bells have been installed in the tower of the sacred edifice and a memorial tablet bearing the names of these heroes has been erected in the interior at the back of the choir stalls facing the organ. The latter is the gift of Miss Mitchell, whose beneficence in connection with the church is well known. Sunday afternoon was set apart for the dedication and unveiling, and there was a crowded congregation, extra seating accommodation having to be provided along the aisle. The occasion was graced by the presence of the Lord Bishop of Rochester, who dedicated the clock and bells, whilst Miss Mitchell unveiled the tablet. The Vicar the Rev. A. D. Ferrier conducted the service, opened with the processional hymn, "Onward, Christian soldiers." whilst the lessons were read by Major A. R. Kelsey, the hymn "Hark on high the joyful music," also being sung. His Lordship addressed the congregation, choosing his text Numbers x. 10: "Also in the day of your gladness, and your solemn days and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifice of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God." The joyous feeling, said His Lordship, of those bells now dedicated to the service of God and to the use of God's people in that place and district, formed the completion of a memorial suitable in the highest degree - a memorial to those ninety gallant men who from that parish went out into the Great War and laid down their lives, in the face of deliverance of this mother country and nation, and of civilisation and of Christianity itself. It was deliverance from the menace which had been unparalleled in the history the human race. The bells, what was their message? They turned to the Old Testament and found that the silver trumpets which Moses formed for the people of Israel were a counterpart of the bells of today, and carried the same meaning and the same lessons as their bells and the clock. There were then eight bells. He would not give them eight calls, but would give six, which they made upon them in one way or the ether. First there was the call to awake. They woke up on an occasion like that with the feeling that the day was sacred to God. The bells, like the trumpets at the beginning of the month, were the call to awake and rouse themselves, and not be sleeping and slothful. but to do the work which lay before them. Then there was the call to assemble. They wore called together unto God's House to worship Him there. From another point of view the bells were a reflection, because together with the clock they pointed to the flight of time. They reminded them that the day of life was getting on, and that however much they might look forward to a long life, which perhaps would grow more mellow as evening approached, and they would be more serious and more ready to face the great change, yet, as they knew from the record of those names inserted the tablet, they knew that life was uncertain. They were names of those who doubtless looked forward to many years of faithful work and worship, but who had been cut off in their prime, and brought face to face with the wider and more spiritual existence beyond the grave. The clock, too, recorded hour after hour of the passing days, which was a solemn thing. It was something which gave them the opportunity of consecrating and dedicating their day and work, work which sometimes was worship in itself, and the duty of doing their share in the responsibilities of life. The hours passed and were recorded: the clock slowly ticking the seconds, minutes and hours was therefore a solemn thing as they realised the flight of time. The bells, like the old silver trumpets, were a call to service, to action. In the journey through life there often came some crisis. They found perhaps that some great illness came upon them, that some dear one was lying between life and death, that they were upon to make some great decision which would mean an influence through the years that parsed before them, and in the time of such conflict the bells were like the silver trumpets, reminding them of the nearness of God. But there was something far above the earthly life. There was something far better than wealth or influence; honesty, purity, truthfulness and sympathy and straight forwardness between man and man. The bells had their message they as they did for the children of Israel in the journey through the Wilderness. The bells spoke the message of consecrating life to God. There were two other messages. The bells spoke of the unity and harmony of brotherhood. Life to complete must be harmonious. There must be a sweet cadence in the notes. We looked at England today and realised the conflicts between class and class and the struggle for what they knew to be their rights, and at the same time the disregard for their responsibilities and duties, was such a moment England's history that it was to have such peace was won in the war. Let the bells ring in true love for their brother men; usher in a better England, an England which would strengthen their comradeship and intercourse between man and man. Let these be a thought for others as much as a thought for self, so that better England might be the outcome of that glorious self-sacrifice which was recorded in the name of those gallant men on that tablet. The bells, too struck a note of sympathy. It was the Church bells which enlarged the scope fo some little sorrow or some family happiness. The sympathy of the bells made their part of the joy and sorrow of a parish and spread the news from street to street. They struck the note of sympathy and made the family affair and the affair of the Church one in which they all had power to help. The happy thought which was associated with those gallant men, whom they would never again see on earth, was the peal of the bells at all times through that parish ringing their message of joy and sorrow, ringing that they should be awake and doing their part manfully. Let them interpret the ringing of those bells to be the voices of those dear ones helping them in times of depondency to be faithful and do their duty and to remind them that after this life there was a more glorious life still; that the comradeship here would be as nothing compared with the brotherhood in Christ when the great Church of Christ was assembled from the East and West, and the North and South. At the end all would hear the trumpet sound, and there would be no need to assemble then in the church they had known so long. They would see God face to face and they would be satisfied. They hymn "Angel voices ever singing" was then sung, followed by the recessional, "Hark, hark my soul" and the service concluded.' ('Kent & Sussex Courier - Fri 17 Oct 1919)
    [11] My dear Denison, I had to go to Croydon on Monday re St Luke's bells. I don't think that there is much to tell you. Johnston has managed to get nearly a major 3rd in the tenor, the ?quints are not solved. He is but an amateur at the job. He has got forks for ?every 4 ?vits from 78 to 5000. All the lowest forks are on resonance boxes. They are more satisfactory than I should have thought although it is impossible to get the fundamental tone at once on exciting the fork. He was mightily astonished when I told him the defects without using a fork. His furnace takes quite 2 hours more than yours. What ho re the fuel. They rush all their bell work. Their moulds are rough specimen. He tells me that he has ordered two new tuning machines, the largest to take a bell of 20 tons. I asked him how often he thought he would use it. They must have spent an enormous amount of money on machinery thanks to war profits. I must say that their clockworking department seems to me to be A1. All together they have got between 300 and 400 working there at the moment. I do not know who is the managing head but whoever it is, he is a first rate. Smith of Derby will have to buck up if they want to be in it as I am certain they cannot compete as to price when so much is done by the best machinery money can buy which produces at half the cost of labour. I have just got in an ? two tons of wood. Some logs took 3 men to shift and I have been sawing for all I am worth, consequently my hands are blistered all over and they are not fit for much piano or organ playing. Stiff as they are, it really does not seem to make much difference.' ('Taylor's Letter Book (T321) W W Starmer to Denison Taylor, 2 Oct 1919)

    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005

    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005

    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005

    The bass bell.
    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005

    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005

    Michael Royalton-Kisch plays the bells using the clavier. On the wall is the founder's framed notice which gives a different version of the weights.
    Photo: Dickon Love, 29 Jan 2005
    Quotation from Taylors 1 May 1919

    Page 1 of quotation for the chime of bells from John Taylor & Co on 1 May 1919.
    Photo: T1457 (Taylor's, Letterbooks, Volume 227, pp. 416-418)

    Page 2 of quotation for the chime of bells from John Taylor & Co on 1 May 1919.
    Photo: T1457 (Taylor's, Letterbooks, Volume 227, pp. 416-418)

    Page updated: 2 May 2020