Frittenden, St Mary

Photo: Dickon Love, Dec 2005

  • 8 bells hung for full circle ringing
  • Tenor: 15-1-4 in G♭.
  • Grid Ref: TQ813409
  • Complete ring cast at the same time
  • Rung from: Upstairs Ringing Room
  • Frame: 1928 Gillett & Johnson 2 tier teak frame
  • Denomination: Church of England
    Diocese (Anglican): Canterbury
    Archdeaconry (Anglican): Maidstone
  • Kent County Association of Change Ringers District: Ashford
  • Building Listed Grade: II* Click for Heritage details.
  • Peals rung at the tower

Details of the Bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Diameter Note Date Founder Canons Retuned
® Treble 4-0-2426" G♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2721) Flat Never
® 2 4-2-926⁷⁄₁₆" F 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2722) Flat Never
® 3 4-2-1727⅞" E♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2723) Flat Never
® 4 5-1-129⅞" D♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2724) Flat Never
® 5 7-0-1533" C♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2725) Flat Never
® 6 7-2-2134⁷⁄₁₆" B♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2726) Flat Never
® 7 11-0-038½" A♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2727) Flat Never
® Tenor 15-1-442¹⁵⁄₁₆" G♭ 1928 Gillett & Johnston, Croydon (2728) Flat Never

®  - Hung for full circle ringing


How the bells are tuned

The 1803/4 Ring

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Treble4-2-1427⅜"F♯1804Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. "Tuned a little." Recast in 1929.
2nd5-1-1829½"E1804Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. Maiden bell. Recast in 1929.
3rd5-3-730⅞"D1804Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. Maiden bell. Recast in 1929.
4th7-0-2133⅜"C1803Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. Maiden bell. Recast in 1929.
5th7-2-1134⅞"B1803Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. "Tuned a little". Recast in 1929.
Tenor9-0-2637¾"A1804Thomas Mears INeverCast weight given. "Skirted". Recast in 1929.

1847 additional bells

Bell Weight
(most recent)
Treble (of 8)4-0-1726"G1847Charles & George MearsNeverRecast in 1929.
Tenor (of 8)13-0-242⅜"G1847Charles & George MearsNeverRecast in 1929.


1803 Date on 5th and 6th of newly cast octave.
1804 Ring of 6 cast by Thomas Mears. These may have been a minor 6.
1847 Treble and tenor added by Charles & George Mears to make 8.
1849 The bells were opened with a peal on 17 Jan. [1]
1927 The 7th bell was reported as cracked, and quotes were requested to overhaul the bells. We know that quotes were received from Alfred Bowell, Mears & Stainbank, Gillett & Johnston and John Taylor. Taylor's records show a rather feisty correspondence with the church. Mr J P Fidler from Taylors and gave a report on the bells, noting the cracked 7th (from the canons, on the shoulder, and through the mulley-groove). He noted that the bells were poor, out of tune with sharp trebles. He also condemned the fittings and in particularly the timber frame which was in 2 independent tiers. Taylors was of the view that a new iron frame was essential. (Mears & Stainbank also recommended a new frame although Alfred Bowell was prepared to retain the timber frame.) Taylors gave an estimate of £380 for the recast bell, new metal frame and fittings. The Rector (the Revd Cyril Stooks) accepted the estimate subject to Faculty. Clearly the Faculty application had not gone smoothy, and reading between the lines, it would appear that the sticking point was the iron frame. At this point there was a change in Rector, and the new Rector, the Revd H M Leathley, again queried the need for the metal frame, which again Taylors justified. The result was that the new Rector wrote to advise that they were now no longer able to accept the tender as the faculty prohibited a metal frame. Taylor's view was that the contract had already been made following the acceptance of their quote. This led to analysis of the offer and acceptance correspondence by the Diocese who concluded that, since the acceptance was subject to faculty, and that the faculty had not been given, no contract was in place. Taylors promised to put the whole matter into the hands of their solicitors, after which all correspondence went quiet. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]
1928 The contract for the work was finally awarded to Gillett & Johnston, who agreed to provide a new timber frame. However, as well as recasting the 7th, they persuaded the parish to recast all the bells! We cannot but think that his competitors thought of Cyril Johnston, "He’s done it again!" [13]
1929 The last 2 bells (2nd and 7th) were tuned a couple of days into January. The bells were then hung in a new two tier frame in the tower. They were dedicated by the Bishop of Dover on 21st February.
2002 The KCACR did some work on the clappers.
[1] FRITTENDEN.- CHANGE RINGING.- The following peal was rung on Wednesday, at the opening of Frittenden bells, viz. - 5040 bob major in 2 hours and 57 minutes - conducted in a masterly style by Mr. James Bourne. The following are the names of the ringers: - Messrs. G. Southon, of Benenden, treble; J. Bowles, Frittenden, 2nd; A. Farris, Biddenden, 3rd; G. Lansdell, Benenden, 4th; T. Daynes, Frittenden, 5th; J. Hurry, London, 6th; J. Bourne, Biddenden, 7th; E. Wenham, Benenden, tenor. (Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser - Tues 23 Jan 1849)
[2] Revd Cecil Stooks, the Rector wrote to John Taylor & Co: Gentlemen, the Bells of Frittenden Church require rehanging and other repairs & I should be glad if you could send a Representative to Report and furnish an Estimate. For making your investigation I should like you to have in mind (1) what is absolutely necessary to put the Bells and frames etc into a satisfactory condition and (2) what would be desirable to do should sufficient money be forthcoming. (Taylors Letter Book (as per David Cawley), 12 Jul 1927)
[3] Mr J P Fidler of Taylors came and prepared detailed notes. He expressed himself "Not much impressed by my reception, no ringer was present and it took the Rector an hour to get one (Mr B F Baker), so stayed a long time." In his notes for a report he describes the bells as all by Mears, treble and tenor 1847; 5 and 6, 1803; 2, 3, 3, 7, 1804. 7th is cracked; the crack extends from the canons, on the shoulder and through the mulley-groove: the bell sounds like a gong. All the bells have canons, cast-in crown staples and none has been turned. The bells are a poor lot and out of tune, the trebles sound very sharp. All fittings are old and unserviceable, wheels loose, wood wheel stays, old cumbersome headstocks, ironwork corroded, hoop gudgeons badly worn and knock, bearings let in frame, clappers loose and battered, pulleys loose. The wooden frame is light and in two tiers independent of each other. The lower portion (containing the back five bells) rests on the floor. 3 bells swing in the windows. The ends of pits 4 and 6 are fastened by light wrought iron, very rusty, one corner of pit 5 is tied with light iron. The frame is wedged to the walls , there are adjustable wedges which can be tightened by a screw arrangement. The frame moves a good deal when only one bell is rung. The 6th frameside is close to the mullion, there is a slight crack at west side of south window just above the frame. The upper tier rests on 2 large beams whose ends take their bearing on a slight set-off in the window openings E & W. This frameworks dips a good deal when only one bell is rung. All joints seem very weak and loose, there are light T-irons let in the woodwork but they do not see adequate. There is a little rot in the frame and worm-holes in the upper tier, it is cut slightly to give bells clearance. Rehanging in this frame is out of the question. Following his inspection, Mr Fidler had a long conversation with the Rector, and told him that a new frame was necessary, quoting approximately £400 for recasting the 7th with new (iron) frame and all new fittings. The Rector told him that Alfred Bowell of Ipswich would retain the frame; Mears & Stainbank wanted to clear it out, but "do not appear favoured". The Rector said that if Taylors could keep below £400 he could "do business with us". Taylor’s price was to exclude work to floors or masonry. (Taylors records, JP Fidler inspection notes, 19 Jul 1927 and commentary by David Cawley)
[4] Taylor’s report followed the lines of the inspection notes and their estimate for recasting the 7th and rehanging the bells in new fittings in a two-tier cast-iron frame was £380 excluding masonry and floor work. (Taylor's records, 21 Jul 1927 per David Cawley)
[5] The Rector wrote "Your estimate has been accepted by the Frittenden Parochial Church Council but I cannot give you the order to start until I have received the Faculty which I am applying for by the same post. I should like specifications as to the work done by the local masons & carpenters, but perhaps you cannot give me that until you come down?" (Letter from Rector in Taylor’s records). This was the last communication with Mr Stooks, who seems to have retired in September. The new Rector, the Revd H M Leathley seems to have been rather different. It is clear that the Faculty application had not gone smoothly, and reading between the lines it would appear that the sticking point was the iron frame. (Taylor's records, 7 Aug 1927 and commentary by David Cawley)
[6] The new Rector wrote to Taylors, informing them that his predecessor "has handed to me your report & specification which the Advisory Committee has seen. The Advisory Committee proposes to send its architect to report on the bells here, shortly. In the meanwhile, will you kindly inform me as to your reason for supplying iron or steel in preference to timber for the framework. Is the framework really incapable of restoration ? You will help to expedite the matter if you will kindly answer these queries." (Taylor's records, 16 Oct 1927 per David Cawley)
[7] Taylors replied almost by return. "We beg to say that it is quite impractical for the present framework to be made sufficiently strong to carry the peal; the frame timbers are too light and weak, there is an absence of framing at the ends of the pits of the 4th and 6th bells and the corner of the frame of the 5th bell is in a very bad place. There are no means by which these defects can be overcome and the frame could never be anything like firm unless it is wedged to the walls which, however, is a practice which could not be employed. We could not lend ourselves to such an unsatisfactory job as would result in any attempt to patch up and retain the existing framework ...We have heard the argument put forward that a peal of bells does not sound so well in a metal frame but we have never found any justification for this...We are of the opinion that this view has arisen in certain cases where unskilful machining and tuning of bells has been carried out by bellhangers not qualified for such work...in reality it was the bad treatment the bells themselves received at the hands of the so-called tuner." (Taylor's records, 18 Oct 1927 per David Cawley)
[8] Mr Leathley’s reply was short and not sweet: "Gentlemen, Adverting to your letter of 18th ult., I regret that the Wardens & myself & the Church Council are unable to accept your tender for this work. The Advisory Committee, on whose decision rests the grant of the Faculty, absolutely refuses to consider the question of a metal frame." (Letter from Revd H M Leathley, JT Records). Taylors’ reply is not in the file, but it would appear that they had taken Mr Stooks’ letter of 7th August as an order pending Faculty. (Letter from Revd H M Leathley in Taylor's records, 26 Nov 1927 as per David Cawley)
[9] To this reply, Mr Leathley replied: December 11th I am afraid I am not prepared to admit that a contract was engaged in with reference to the action of the Church Council here & your tender for the rehanging of the bells, because the consideration was dependent on a Faculty being granted - Since a Faculty for work on the bells on a steel frame was refused, no contract existed - But what I would suggest is this, since you are prepared to erect the bells on a teak frame and recast one of the bells & utilize ball bearings, you send an estimate of the cost, & this with others shall be taken into consideration at the meeting of the Council on Friday next. (Letter from Revd H M Leathley in Taylor's records, 11 Dec 1927 with commentary from David Cawley)
[10] The Christmas spirit did not work in Taylors’ favour as the following two letters imply: January 14th 1928 Gentlemen, Referring to our previous correspondence, I should be obliged if you would send me a copy of Mr Stooks’s letter to you which you state constituted an acceptance of your tender. Please let me know, at the same time, when and where the original letter can be inspected if necessary. (Taylor's records, 14 Jan 1928 with commentary from David Cawley)
[11] Gentlemen, I regret that I am not prepared to admit a definite contract for the work on the bells at Frittenden Church by your firm. In the opinion of the Diocesan Registrar, Mr Stooks’s letter ‘does not constitute an unqualified acceptance of tender’. This opinion is endorsed by entirely independent legal advice which I have sought, therefore I cannot ask you to undertake the work contemplated. (Letter from Revd H M Leathley in Taylor's records, 24 Jan 1928 with commentary from David Cawley)
[12] Rev. Sir, We beg to acknowledge your letter of yesterday’s date contents of which we have duly noted. We regret we cannot accept the opinions you mention and we are placing the whole matter in the hands of our Solicitors. Perhaps they never did. The file ends abruptly with this letter from Taylors. Perhaps they noted Mr Leathley’s hint "and others" to be considered at the PCC the following Friday. We know that other estimates had been received from Bowell (keeping the old frame) and Mears & Stainbank (not much favoured). Nothing had been mentioned about Gillett & Johnston, but it was they who secured the contract, not only for the timber frame but to recast the whole ring as well. We cannot but think that his competitors thought of Cyril Johnston, "He’s done it again." (Taylor's records, 25 Jan 1928 with commentary from David Cawley)
[13] Faculty for the rehanging of the bells and alterations to the tower. (DCb/E/F/Frittenden, St Mary/10)


The new bells arrive at the church.
Photo: David Cawley collection

The new bells on display at the bell foundry in their frame.
Photo: Gillett & Johnston archive, Croydon

Church Bells outside the Bell Tower with two employees of Gillett and Johnston, August 1928.
Photo: Church website
Recent Peals
The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
2008-11-155152 Zeus Surprise Major
2002-06-045152 Plain Bob Major
1989-11-255056 Cambridge Surprise Major
1979-03-035088 Plain Bob Major
1883-04-0910080 Plain Bob Major
Recent Quarter Peals
The most recent performances, according to BellBoard.
2019-10-121296 Baldrick Little Bob Triples
2019-09-151250 Yorkshire Surprise Major
2018-09-231250 Yorkshire Surprise Major
2018-05-261260 Grandsire Triples
2018-02-271260 Grandsire Triples
2017-11-041312 Nempnett Thrubwell Surprise Major
2017-05-051264 Double Norwich Court Bob Major
2017-02-251260 Mixed Doubles
2016-09-251260 Grandsire Triples
2016-06-121260 Plain Bob Minor
2015-09-081260 Grandsire Triples
2015-08-241287 Grandsire Triples
2015-08-171314 Rutland Surprise Major
2015-05-021260 Stedman Triples
2015-04-051260 Grandsire Triples
2014-05-051260 Grandsire Triples
2014-04-031344 Spliced Surprise Major (6 Methods)
2013-11-051250 Yorkshire Surprise Major
2012-09-291260 Grandsire Triples
2012-06-041260 Grandsire Triples
2011-05-181280 Stroxton Surprise Major
2011-04-291260 Grandsire Triples
2010-08-161344 Frittenden Surprise Major
2009-02-271282 Platinum Surprise Major
2008-11-101260 Grandsire Triples
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: 28 June 2020