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Treble Katherine 5-3-2127¾" G 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 2 Fabian 5-3-1029" F 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 3 Christopher 6-1-730" E 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 4 Margaret 6-2-1732" D 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 5 Mildred 7-3-2734" C 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 6 Faith 8-3-2735" B 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 7 Augustine 10-0-2038" A 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 8 John 12-1-1141" G 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 9 Timothy 17-3-1746" F 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 10 Pancras 21-2-2349" E 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never 11 Cuthbert 29-1-554" D 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never Tenor Bow 41-3-2161¼" C 1956 Mears & Stainbank, Whitechapel Never

The ring of 12 lost in the War

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Diameter Note Date Founder Retuned Fate
Treble6-0-928½"F♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
26-1-1029⅞"E1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
37-0-031"D♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
48-2-434"C♯1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
59-2-835¾"B1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
610-2-2037½"A♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
713-2-2140½"G♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
816-2-1444"F♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
919-0-747¾"E1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
1025-3-1751"D♯1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.
1131-2-056⅝"C♯1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
Tenor54-0-1265"B1933Gillett & JohnstonNeverDestroyed 1941.

The original ring of 12 bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Diameter Note Date Founder Retuned Fate
Treble8-0-2130½"F♯1881Mears & StainbankNeverRecast 1933.
28-2-1631½"E1881Mears & StainbankNeverRecast 1933.
38-3-732½"D♯1762Lester & PackNeverRecast 1933.
49-0-234"C♯1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
510-1-436½"B1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
612-0-739"A♯1762Lester & PackNeverRecast 1933.
713-2-441"G♯1762Lester & PackNeverRecast 1933.
817-0-1144"F♯1762Lester & PackNeverRecast 1933.
920-2-2648"E1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
1024-2-551"D♯1762Lester & PackNeverRecast 1933.
1134-1-857"C♯1762Lester & Pack1933 Gillett & JohnstonDestroyed 1941.
Tenor53-0-2265"B1738Thomas LesterNeverRecast 1933.

Prior to the ring of 10 (installed after the Great Fire).

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Diameter Note Date Founder Retuned Fate
Treble1677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
21677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
31677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
41677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
51677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
61677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
71677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1762.
Tenor53 cwt approx.1677John & Christopher HodsonNeverRecast 1738.

History

1469 First known reference to Bow Bells. Stow says the old steeple was built in this year. [1]
1472 John Donne died this year and left a bequest for the upkeep of Bow bell. [2]
1512 A new tower was built. [3]
1515 William Copland, churchwarden, gave a tenor to the church to augment the ring to 5. [4]
1552 Record of 5 bells and 2 sanctus bells in the tower [5]
1603 The Society of Cheapside Scholars was founded.
1635 Record of 6 bells in the tower.
1662 The Society of Cheapsde Scholars ceased to exist.
1666 The tower and bells were destroyed in the Great Fire.
1669 The tenor was cast by John Hodson and hung in a temporary structure. It weighed about 52 cwt.
1670 The church was rebuilt by Wren, complete in 1680. An 1866 commentator recorded that "when the church was rebuilt, the belfry was prepared for twelve bells, but only eight were placed".
1677 The front 7 bells cast for the new church and hung with the 1669 tenor in a new frame by John and Christopher Hodson.
1708 Record of "eight large unringable bells".
1734 The Stamford Mercury reported on the cracked tenor. [6]
1738 The tenor was recast by Thomas Lester, the arrival of which was recorded by the Norwich Gazette as weighing 5958lbs. The bell was hung by Charles Oliver Jnr, as per his [7]
1752 Citizens petitioned the vestry for recasting the bells and adding two more.
1761 The front 7 bells were removed from the tower.by Thomas Lester. [8]
1762 Front 7 recast and 2 bells added to make 10 by Lester & Pack. The new ten were first rung on 4 June.
1822 There were concerns regarding the safety of the steeple.
1823 A new clock was provided by Thwaites and Reed that struck the hours on the tenor and quarter chimes on 4 other bells.
1824 Record of 10 bells. [9]
1827 The Vestry discussed a report on the state of the bells. [10]
1837 Thomas Mears did some remedial work in the belfry. [11]
1881 2 trebles added to make 12 by Mears & Stainbank.
1904 The bells were rehung, but not very successfully.
1905 The quarter chimes were started. They were composed by C. V. Stanford.
1907 The bells were rehung by Mears & Stainbank.
1926 The bells were again declared unringable.
1932 The bells were dismantled ready for restoration. [12]
1933 8 of the bells were recast (all except 4,5,9 and 11) by Gillett & Johnston, the gift of H. Gordon Selfridge. [13]
1941 Bells destroyed by a German air raid during the Second World War on 11 May.
1956 A new ring of 12 was cast by Mears & Stainbank.
1961 A new frame was built and installed, and the bells hung in it. The bells were rung for the first time on 21 Dec.
[1] The olde steeple of this Church was by little and little reedified, and newe builded vp, at the least so much as was fallen downe, many men giuing summes of money to the furtherance thereof, so that at length, to wit, in the yeare 1469. it was ordayned by a common counsaile, that the Bow bell should bee nightly rung at nine of the clocke. (Survey of London, John Stow, 1603)
[2] Shortly after, Iohn Donne Mercer, by his testament dated 1472. according to the trust of Reginald Longdon, gaue to the Parson and churchwardens of saint Mary Bow, two tenements with the appurtenances, since made into one, in Hosiar lane, then so called, to the maintenance of Bowe bell, the same to bee rung as aforesaid, and other things to bee obserued, as by the will appeareth. This Bell being vsually rung somewhat late, as seemed to the yong men Prentises and other in Cheape, they made and set vp a ryme against the Clarke, as followeth. Clarke of the Bow bell with the yellow lockes, For thy late ringing thy head shall haue knockes. Whereunto the Clarke replying, wrote. Children of Cheape, hold you all still, For you shall haue the Bow bell rung at your will. (Survey of London, John Stow, 1603)
[3] Robert Harding, Goldsmith; one of the Sheriffs 1478, gave to the new Work of that Steeple, Forty Pound. John Haw, Mercer, ten Pound; Dr. Allen, four Pound; Thomas Baldry, four Pound; and others gave other Sums. So that the said Work of the Steeple was finished in the Year 1512. The Arches or Bows thereupon, with the Lanthorns, five in number; to wit, one at each corner, and one on the top, in the middle, upon the Arches, were also afterward finished with Stone, brought from Cane in Normandy; delivered at the Customers Key, for four Shilling six Pence the Tun. William Copland, Taylor, the King's Merchant; and Andrew Fuller, Mercer, being Churchwardens 1515, and 1516. (A Survery of the Cities of London and Westminster, John Strype, 1720)
[4] It is said, that this Copland gave the great Bell, which made the fifth in the Ring, and to be called he Bow Bell; and so to be used to be rung nightly at Nine of the Clock. I have also been informed, that this Bell was first rung as a knell, at the burial of the said Copland. It seemeth, that the Lanthorns on the top of this Steeple, were meant to have been glazed, and Lights in them to have been placed Nightly in the Winter; whereby Travellers to the City might have the better sight thereof, and not to miss of their ways. (A Survery of the Cities of London and Westminster, John Strype, 1720)
[5] Item Fyve greate belles. Item two Sanctus belles (Edwardian Inventory, 1552)
[6] Last Tuesday the Tenor at Bow Church in Cheapside, which was accounted one of the finest Bells in England, was crack'd as they were ringing about nine o'Clock at Night. (Stamford Mercury, 23 Feb 1734)
[7] (1) Norwich Gazette, 12 Oct: Yesterday the new Tenor of Bow Church was brought on a Carriage, and hoisted into the Belfry. It weighs 5958 lb.; (2) Printed list of Charles Oliver jun, c.1843 (BL Add.Ms.19369 f.224): "C. Oliver, Jun. has Hung and Re-Hung with C. Oliver, sen. the undermentioned Peals " [old peals rehung] St.Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London 10 53 cwt [date not known]" (3) Yesterday the Workmen began to take down seven of Bow Bells in Cheapside, which are to be new Cast, in order to make a compleat Peal of ten Bells; the Tenor, which is judged to be the finest in England, is to remain. The seventh Bell weighs thirty hundred Weight. The Contractor, Mr. Lester of Whitechapel, has engaged to finish and hang them, by Easter next. (Various)
[8] Yesterday the Workmen began to take down seven of Bow Bells in Cheapside, which are to be new Cast, in order to make a compleat Peal of ten Bells; the Tenor, which is judged to be the finest in England, is to remain. The seventh Bell weighs thirty hundred Weight. The Contractor, Mr. Lester of Whitechapel, has engaged to finish and hang them, by Easter next. (Oxford Journal, Saturday 26 Dec 1761)
[9] These fine bells have lately been put in proper order, and a very competent band of ringers appointed, which have not been had for the last 40 years; but the parish-officers have put a decayed parishioner to be steeple-keeper, who has no more knowledge of bells than my old shoe, and therefore performs by deputy. Why not appoint a competent individual? (The Times, 26 Feb 1824)
[10] Tuesday a vestry meeting was held at Bow church, to receive the report of the Committee appointed to examine into the state of the bells belonging to the church, and of the masonry of the tower, as connected with them. / Mr. Simpson, the chairman, stated that the committee, after some proceedings, themselves, thought proper to take the opinions of their architect, and of Mr. Mears, a bell founder, who was a person of considerable experience and science, on the subject. The chairman then read the report of these gentlemen. It stated, there could be no question with persons ac attainted with the subject, that much injury had been done to the tower, since 1762, when the present peal was set up. This injury they felt no doubt had arisen from three causes, namely, from the injudicious mode of hanging the bells - from part of the frame, on which the bells swing, being wedged-up against the masonry of the tower - and from a want ot sufficient solidity in the construction of the tower itself, to withstand the force created by the motion of a peal of bells, consisting of ten tons of metal. In the year 1762, two new bells, and a considerable addition of weight to the bells, then were added to a light peal, consisting previously of only eight bells. The old frame was altered to accommodate the addition, but without any improvement. In course of time it appeared the frame became ricketty, and, to keep the bells steady, wedges were fixed between the frame and the masonry of the tower, by which means the motion of the frame in ringing, was imprudently transferred to the tower; whereas, were the frame left properly detached from the walls, the motion would nearly lose itself in it. The remedy which these gentlemen proposed for this evil, was to re-hang the bells, so that the direction of the framing, and the ringing of the bells, should be against the four angles of the tower, instead of being against the four sides, as at present, and at the same time dis- posing of the weight of metal as nearly equal on all sides; and also the swinging reciprocally in contrary directions, as far as circumstances would allow. To remedy the want of solidity in the tower, Mr. Gwilt suggested the fixing of a chain of iron ties below the main timbers of the bell-frame which, he said, was decidedly the place where the tower suffered most. The total expense of putting the lower in complete and safe repair, and of effecting these alterations, they estimated at £775. A model had been prepared by these gentlemen to exemplify the new mode of hanging, and was exhibited in the vestry. / After much dsscussion, in which the Committee urged that what they had ordered was requisite, the vestry agreed to sanction the measure. The report of the Committee was approved, although its recommendation had been rejected. The meeting then adjourned./ We understand that one or two of the advocates for the ringing of the bells, are determined not to let the matter rest here, but to apply to the ecclesiastical authority on the subject. Such was formerly the zeal in favour of these bells, that one citizen left two houses in Bow-lane, from which the parish receive £100 per annum for maintaining two of the bells. A lady also bequeathed £2,000 for embellishing the church, and furnishing it with bells (Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Mon 29 Jan 1827)
[11] To men's time 2 days screwing up the Bells and Ironwork of Frame. 2 Iron Bolts and wedges. (Whitechapel Day Book, July 1837)
[12] Sept 1932. St Mary-le-Bow, London. Remove main beams from under frame and replace with heavy steel girders. Repair top cills; November 1932. St Mary-le-Bow, London. Dismantle pits 1, 2, 3, 4 & 10 for renewal and sundry repairs. (Gillett & Johnston work from the notebook of Frederick E. Collins 1926-1936)
[13] Jun 1933. St Mary-le-Bow, London. Rehang peal of 12 in repaired frame, new fittings throughout. Bells 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10 & 12 recast. Tenor - 54 cwt. (Gillett & Johnston work from the notebook of Frederick E. Collins 1926-1936)

Articles

  • "The Church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, E.C.", Cook, William T (The Ringing World) 3 November 1967
  • "Work at St Mary-le-Bow", Regan, Mark (The Ringing World) 18 October 1985
  • "The Bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside", Regan, Mark (The Ringing World) 19 December 2003
  • "Olympic artist at Bow", Meyer, Simon S (The Ringing World) 15 February 2008
  • "50th anniversary of the opening of the new Bow bells", Regan, Mark (The Ringing World) 10 February 2012
  • "Mrs Bird and the College Youths", Regan, Mark (The Ringing World) 7 June 1996
  • "The Bells of St Mary le Bow, Cheapside", Regan, Mark (The Ringing World) 1 December 2003
  • "Bow Bells", Timbs, John (The Illustrated London News) 21 December 1850
  • Pictures of the church.



    Photo: Spitalfields Life, 1912

    Pictures from the old Whitechapel ring era


    "The Bow Bells on Christmas Eve"
    Photo: An engraving made for The Illustrated London News, Christmas 1850.

    THE SILENCE OF BOW BELLS: A SKETCH IN THE BELFRY AT BOW CHURCH LAST WEEK Bow Bells are having their voices tuned, that they may ring their silveriest for the Coronation. Our sketch shows the workmen engaged i cleaning the big bells of the world-famous pea
    Photo: From "Black and White", 31 May 1902. This was the given caption.

    Pictures from the Gillett & Johnston ring era


    The 12 bells arranged by Gillett & Johnston before being dispatched to the church.
    Photo: Gillett & Johnston, 1933

    Casting the tenor bell.
    Photo: Gillett & Johnston, 1933

    The Gillett & Johnston Tenor
    Photo: Gillett & Johnston, 1933

    The tenor being hoisted into the tower
    Photo: Gillett & Johnston, 1933

    Pictures from modern era


    The distinctive clock chime.
    Photo:

    The belfry in 2012.
    Photo: Dickon R Love, 2012

    The ringing room in 2012.
    Photo: Dickon R Love, 2012
    Recent Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2019-09-155056 Coniston Bluebird Delight Major
    2019-09-155088 80th Birthday Delight Major
    2019-09-155040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    2019-09-155032 Vorlus-Snorlus Alliance Major
    2019-09-155040 London No 3 Surprise Royal
    2019-09-155007 Stedman Cinques
    2019-09-155950 Stedman Cinques
    2019-09-155040 Gillett Alliance Major
    2019-09-145040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    2019-09-145019 Stedman Caters
    2019-09-145152 Yorkshire Surprise Major
    2019-09-145088 Bristol Surprise Maximus
    2019-09-145040 Cambridge Surprise Maximus
    2019-09-145148 Spliced Maximus (8 Methods)
    2019-09-145040 Spliced Surprise Minor
    2019-09-145120 Spliced Surprise Major
    2019-09-145000 Bristol Surprise Royal
    2019-09-145184 Spliced Surprise Major (2m)
    2019-09-145056 Plain Bob Major
    2019-09-145040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    2019-09-145040 Cambridge Surprise Royal
    2019-09-145088 Lessness Surprise Major
    2019-09-145040 Grandsire Triples
    2019-09-145040 Doubles (three Methods)
    2019-09-145160 Bristol Surprise Royal
    Recent Quarter Peals
    The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
    2019-09-151260 Grandsire Triples
    2019-09-151296 Carlisle Surprise Minor
    2019-09-151296 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-09-151260 Doubles (3m)
    2019-09-151344 Little Bob Major
    2019-09-151260 Doubles (5 M/V)
    2019-09-151280 Yorkshire Surprise Major
    2019-09-151320 Spliced Surprise Royal (4m)
    2019-09-151320 Plain Bob Doubles
    2019-09-151260 Doubles
    2019-09-151344 Lessness Surprise Major
    2019-09-151344 Plain Bob Major
    2019-09-151260 Grandsire Doubles
    2019-09-151296 Cambridge Surprise Minor
    2019-09-151320 Treble Dodging Minor
    2019-09-151260 Plain Bob Triples
    2019-09-151260 Grandsire Triples
    2019-09-151250 Yorkshire Surprise Major
    2019-09-151260 Chilham Treble Place Doubles
    2019-09-151270 Doubles
    2019-09-151264 Plain Bob Major
    2019-09-151295 Plain Bob Minor
    2019-09-151260 Plain Bob Triples
    2019-09-151260 St Simon's Bob Triples
    2019-09-151274 Minor (2m)
    Full list of peals here
    Full list of quarters here

    Love's Guide to the Church Bells of Kent Page updated: 16 September 2019