Burham, Old Church of St Mary

Photo: Richard C Offen, 2006

  • No bells (formerly ring of 3)
  • Formerly ring of 3, tenor 3½ cwt approx. Transferred to the New Church, although 1 was stolen on its return.
  • Grid Ref: TQ717620
  • Rung from: Ground Floor
  • Frame: 1983 Whitechapel, Iroko with space for 2 bells. Vacant owing to theft of surviving bell.
  • Denomination: Church of England
    Diocese (Anglican): Rochester
  • Building Listed Grade: I Click for Heritage details.

Prior to 1881

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Treble (of 3)3¾ cwt approx.25⅛"F1700Richard PhelpsNeverTransferred to New Church 1881, Preston 1983.
2nd (of 3)4¾ cwt approx.28⅞"E1734Richard PhelpsNeverTransferred to New Church 1881, Maidstone 1982.
Tenor (of 3)3½ cwt approx.25¼"E♭c.1300Richard de WimbisNeverTransferred to New Church 1881, Stolen 1982


c 1300 A bell was cast by Richard de Wymbis. It was presumably originally D, but had since been very heavily skirted to raise its note.
c 1450 In 15th Cent a 3 bell frame was constructed.
1632 The old bells were taken down, the frame was reconstructed for ringing the bells., there was some casting activity and the bells were rehung.
1700 The smallest bell was recast by Richard Phelps.
1734 The church accounts include entries for the casting, carriage and handling of a new bell, cast by Richard Phelps. The middle bell was tuned by skirting.
1821 Further work was carried out on the frame.
1881 A new parish church was built on a different site. The old church ceased to be a Parish Church and was used as a mortuary chapel (until between the wars). The bells, frame and fittings were transferred to the New Church.
1956 The church was restored by the Friends of Friendless Churches, completed the following year.
1981 The church was declared redundant and vested in The Churches Conservation Trust. The bells that had been taken to the new church a century earlier were taken back to the old church for storage. The Richard de Wymbis bell, which was the oldest in the Diocese of Rochester, was taken back to the Old Church by the Kent CACR. The architect would not let them hoist it to the first floor for safety pending the installation of the new frame, and it was left on the ground floor with the result that it was stolen.
1982 The 1734 bell was transferred to St Michael and All Angels, Maidstone as a clock bell. In the summer the ancient tenor bell was stolen while it was awaiting rehanging.
1983 The 1700 bell was transferred to St Mildred, Preston-next-Wingham as a treble to augment the 5 bells to 6.


The church was derelict when this photo was taken in 1945. The tower parapet was altered during the restoration of 1956.
Photo: David Cawley collection

A picture of the Richard de Wymbis bell of c.1300 following rehanging by Whitechapel in the Victorian "New" Church. The photo is by Christopher Dalton and was used to illustrate the PM Report which was a part of the redundancy process.
Photo: Christopher Dalton (from David Cawley collection)

One of the wheels and the clappers were saved when the three bells from the old church were transferred to the new Victorian church. These, together with the ancient middle-sized bell were later taken to the old church. The clappers were taken upstairs, and the surviving wheel, which appears to be a half-wheel adapted, was cleaned and fitted to the north wall.
Photo: David Cawley

A view of the area from where the three old bells would have been rung prior to 1881. The rescued wheel was done up and is now fixed on the north wall. Over the newel stair door in the south west corner is an ancient Whitechapel framed Bell record which was also restored. Note the magnificent tower arch.
Photo: David Cawley

The Bell Frame

The bell frame consisted of mediaeval sills, centre-posts and straight braces and was designed for three bells hanging side by side. It bore the following on its east head:

1632 : F T . R D . T V
E L  T . P  (carved crest) F K

The tenor pit had the following letters:


and other obliterated.

Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent Page updated: 10 October 2020