Cowden, St Mary Magdalene

Photo: Dickon Love, Jul 2004

  • 6 bells hung for full circle ringing
  • Tenor: 7-2-15 in A.
  • Grid Ref: TQ466404
  • Rung from: Ground Floor
  • Frame: 1911 John Warner & Sons, reassembled on a new foundation lower in the tower
  • Denomination: Church of England
    Diocese (Anglican): Chichester
  • Kent County Association of Change Ringers District: Tonbridge
  • Building Listed Grade: I Click for Heritage details.
  • Peals rung at the tower

Details of the Bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)

(As supplied)
Diameter Note Date Founder Canons Retuned
® Treble 3-1-233-3-1425⅜" F♯ 1911 John Warner & Sons 2000 Whitechapel
® 2 3-2-204-1-1426½" E 1911 John Warner & Sons 2000 Whitechapel
® 3 3-3-727¹⁵⁄₁₆" D 1791 Thomas Mears I, Whitechapel 2000 Whitechapel
® 4 5-0-630¼" C♯ Robert Burford, London 2000 Whitechapel
® 5 6-1-1732½" B 1584 Sussex Itinerant 2000 Whitechapel
® Tenor 7-2-158-2-035¹³⁄₁₆" A 1911 John Warner & Sons 2000 Whitechapel

®  - Hung for full circle ringing


Earlier bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Treble (of 5)3¾ cwt approx.26"1654John HodsonNeverRecast 1911
Tenor (of 5)8¼ cwt approx.35½"1635John WilnarNeverRecast 1911


1392 -1418 Bell cast by Robert Burford (present 4th).
1584 Bell cast by an unknown founder (present 5th).
1635 Tenor cast by John Wilnar.
1654 Treble (of 5) cast by John Hodson.
1726 Richard Still from Waystrode Farm bequested 20 shillings a year for the ringing of "The Great Bell" at 5am and 8pm "from Michaelmas to Lady Day for ever".
1791 2nd (of 5) recast by Thomas Mears.
1875 The 5am bell ceased, "the amount not being considered sufficient pay for the double work".
1887 J C L Stahlschmidt reported on the 5 bells in the tower. [1]
1911 Treble and tenor (of 5) recast by John Warner, who added an extra treble to make 6. The bells were retuned and rehung on plain bearings in a new cast iron frame. The bells were dedicated by the Bishop of Rochester. [2]
1912 3rd Feb. Cowden band elected to the Kent C.A. [3]
1928 20/10/2019 00:00:00 The first peal was rung on the bells, and until their restoration in 2000, was thought to be the only peal on the bells. The Ernest J Ladd (usually known as Ernie) was the son of the Walter Ladd and the youngest brother of the Harold Ladd who joined the KCACR in 1912. Harold was killed in the First World War, but Ernie was still ringing until 1998 when he died at the ripe old age of 92. Ernie actually taught himself to ring by raising and lowering a bell at Cowden so that he could ring the curfew. While this was the only peal, rumour had it that Ernie had circled the tower, so there may have been more. [4]
1972 Bells condemned as unringable.
1998 The tower was inspected by members of the Kent County Association who made a report on the tower and the bellframe. [5]
2000 Tower strengthened and bells retuned and rehung in the old frame, reassembled lower in the tower on new foundations, by Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Bells rededicated by the Archdeacon of Horsham, The Ven. William Filby on 24th September.
[1] From Michaelmas to Ladytide the bell from the old steeple is tolled every morning at five, and every evening at eight o'clock, telling with iron tongue the hour. The small sum of twenty shillings was charged annually upon an estate in the parish, about a hundred and fifty years ago, by a person of the name of Still, to be paid to the clerk or sexton for the performance of this duty; and, if declined by them, there are always competitors for it.* I think we have here a clear case of survival of the morning and evening "Ave" bells - the latter being better known as the Curfew or "Ignitegium". The bequest is recorded on a board in the church, under date 1726. Of course there goes with it the usual tradition, that the donor had lost his way in the forest, and was guided home by Cowden bells - which may or may not be true; anyway, worthy Richard Still gave his rent-charge upon Waystrood Farm as remuneration for a duty which the clerk or sexton of Cowden had been performing for many centuries. I regret to have to say that the morning peal has been discontinued for the last twelve years, the amount not being considered sufficient pay for the double work. Passing bell rung as soon as notice is given, but not before 8 a.m. Tellers, 3 x 3 for male, 3 x 2 for female before tolling. Treble used for infants, 2nd for children under eight, tenor for all over that age. Sunday Ringing. - Third bell rung at 8 a.m., called "Service" bell; tenor at half-past nine, called "Sermon" bell. Bells rung for service on the great festivals, chimed on ordinary occasions or half an hour previously. Peals on New Year’s Eve, Queen’s Birthday, and Accession Day. Ringing on 5th November and 29th May discontinued. Vestry (4th) bell also discontinued. Best thanks to the Rector, the Rev. R. Abbey Tindall. * "Archaeologia Cantiana," Vol. i., p.113. ("Church Bells of Kent" (J C L Stahlschmidt, 1887))
[2] For many years the peal of five bells of Cowden Church had been unringable, and at a meeting of the parishioners it was decided to invite tenders for their restoration. The work was entrusted to Messrs. John Warner and Sons, Ltd., Crescent Foundry, Spelman Street, N.E., bell founders to His Majesty King George V. The treble and tenor were recast, the old bells retuned, and a new treble bell added, to serve as a memorial to his late Gracious Majesty, King Edward VII. The bells are fitted with cast iron headstocks, and are hung in an iron and steel girder frame. The tone and “go” of the peal now leave nothing to be desired, and the bells have been dedicated by the Bishop of Rochester. ("The Ringing World" (19 May, 1911, Pg 145))
[3] According to the Association's membership records, the Cowden band joined the Association on 3 February 1912. The ringers nominated (as Probationers) on that occasion were: J Baker, G Camfield, H Camfield, K Gearing, J E Gearing, G Hadlow, H Ladd, W Ladd and A Still. (KCACR Annual Report for 1912)
[4] KCACR Peal No 3396 Saturday 20 October 1928 in 2 hours 46 minutes Seven 720s of Bob Minor, each called differently Tenor 8½ cwt. 1. Reginald E Lambert 2. Robert T Lambert 3. George Lambert 4. Joseph Wren 5. Ernest J Ladd 6. Albert E Edwards Conducted by Albert E Edwards First peal on the bells (KCACR Peal Records)
[5] The frame of the tower consists of four corner timber uprights which go from ground level to about 25 feet, and then another set of uprights which rest on the lower ones and go to the base of the spire. The bells hang in a metal frame at the top of this second structure, and the wooden spire sits on top of the upper frame. This whole structure is more or less free-standing with the west end of the church and three outer walls surrounding it. The bells are rung from the ground floor, with a draught of about 25 feet to the ceiling and the top of the bottom timberwoork. Above this there is a silence chamber with again a height of about 25 feet, and then the bells. The clock is in the centre of the silence chamber. The idea is to lower the bells (maybe frame and all) to where the clock presently sits, and (possibly) rehang on ball bearings. The quote for this work seems to be around £50k. Meanwhile the diocese has told the parish that it must restore the tower, bells or no bells, and English Heritage have come up with a massive 70 per cent of the estimated cost of £172k. (Notes by Frank Lewis)


  • "Restoration at Cowden, Kent", Bavey, Hilary and Levy-Cooper, Caroline (The Ringing World) 8 December 2000
  • Recent Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2021-09-145040 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-07-015040 Minor
    2019-01-315040 Minor
    2017-08-255040 Doubles (5m,1v)
    2016-12-215040 Doubles (3m)
    2016-07-015040 Doubles
    2008-08-235040 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2006-08-125040 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2005-10-295040 Methods Surprise Minor (7m)
    2004-07-225040 S Minor
    2003-07-205040 Surprise Minor (7m)
    2002-11-025040 Doubles (2m)
    Recent Quarter Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2022-05-071260 Doubles (2m)
    2022-02-061260 Doubles and Minor (4m)
    2022-01-031260 Doubles (2m)
    2021-12-071296 Chepstow Delight Minor
    2021-10-301260 Doubles (2m)
    2020-02-171260 Stedman Doubles
    2020-02-041260 Minor (2m)
    2020-01-281320 Kent Treble Bob Minor
    2020-01-151260 Plain Bob Minor
    2020-01-121260 Southrepps Doubles
    2019-11-301296 Bourne Surprise Minor
    2019-11-261320 Kent Treble Bob Minor
    2019-11-111260 Doubles
    2019-10-301260 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-07-211260 Doubles (1p/3m)
    2019-07-161260 St Clement's College Bob Minor
    2019-06-091260 Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles
    2019-04-281260 Doubles (2m)
    2019-03-181260 Plain Bob Minor
    2019-02-241260 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-02-051296 Morning Star Treble Bob Minor
    2018-12-241260 Single Canterbury Pleasure Bob Minor
    2018-11-301260 St Clement’s College Bob Minor
    2018-11-141260 Doubles (7 P/m/V)
    2018-11-111260 Plain Bob Doubles
    Full list of peals on Bellboard here
    Full list of quarters on Bellboard here

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