St Wilfrid’s Bells – Prehistory

The eight bells of St Wilfrid, Harrogate were recast from redundant bells from All Hallows, High Hoyland (near Barnsley), All Saints Sculcoates (Kingston upon Hull) and St Clement’s Sheepscar (Leeds).

This article attempts to tell the story of these bells before they were recast for St Wilfrid’s. There are plenty of gaps in information. If any readers can shed any light on this we would be interested in hearing from them.

All Hallows, High Hoyland

The first church was built in 1150 with the tower built in the 1679. The entire church was rebuilt in the early 19th century in a classical Georgian style, but retaining the tower.

The tower contained six bells. The back 5 bells were cast by Edward Seller of York in 1745 with a treble added by Thomas Mears of Whitechapel in 1822.

Bell Weight Inscription
1 3-3-8  T MEARS OF LONDON FECIT  1822
2 4-1-14 INCIPE MUSA PRIOR  1745
{E Sellers Ebor} with frieze of bells
3 4-2-26 CANAMVS DOMINO  1745
{E Sellers Ebor} with frieze of bells
4 5-2-4 TE DEUM LAUDAMUS  1745
{E Sellers Ebor} with frieze of bells
5 6-2-12  GLORIA IN ALTISSIMIS DEO  1745
{E Sellers Ebor} with frieze of bells
6 9-2-6

CUM SONO BUSTA MORI CUM PULPITA VIVERE DISCE 1745
THO DAWSON     RECTORS
THO MALBON
IOHN BURTON     CURATE
IOHN SWAINE     CHURCHWARDENS
MAT WHITE
{E Sellers Ebor} with frieze of bells (2 bands)

In 1872, a new church was built in the centre of the population of the parish in Clayton West and All Hallows was demoted to a chapel of ease. By this date, the bells were no longer rung – it appears that the ringers were disbanded for drinking and smoking in church! Not everyone agreed with this course of action; one local resident writing to the Barnsley Chronicle to lament the “cessation of the fine peal of bells”!

The nave and chancel were rebuilt on a smaller scale between 1904 and 1907 for use as a mortuary chapel and occasional services and the Rector appeared to recruit a new team of ringers. For how long they kept ringing after that is uncertain. No peals were ever recorded as being rung on these bells.

By the 1970’s, the bells had become derelict and the infrequent use of the church made restoration unviable. The bells were then offered for the casting of the new ring of six for St Wilfrid’s in 1972.

After the removal of the bells, a single bell from the redundant church of St John, Tong Street in Bradford was hung in the existing bell frame for chiming. In the years following, All Hallows was finally declared redundant in 1981, and after closure it served as an art gallery. More recently it has been converted into a house.

All Saints, Sculcoates, Kingston upon Hull

All Saints in Margaret Street (not to be confused with its namesake in Westminster) was built in 1869 to replace the historic St Mary’s as the parish church of Sculcoates; although St Mary’s was subsequently replaced with a church of the same dedication but on a different site.

Sculcoates1-2

All Saints, Sculcoates

All Saints originally had three bells. In 1899 they were augmented to a complete octave by John Warner of Cripplegate, London. The five new bells were donated by Isabella Earle in memory of her husband. This event was recorded on a plaque in the tower (now in the clockroom of Holy Trinity, Kingston upon Hull)

The peal of eight bells in this tower
was completed at Easter 1899
by the erection of five new bells
(inscribed with the names, “peace”
“purity” “freedom” “truth” “light”
which were given by Isabella Earle
to the glory of God and in memory of
Her husband, Foster Earle,
who died Sept. 10th. 1897
aged 66 years
“Ring out the darkness of the land
ring in the CHRIST that is to be”

It is not certain which name was on which bell of the octave, but the inscription on the treble was preserved, when it was recast for St Wilfrid’s Harrogate in 1976:

“PEACE”
RING OUT THE THOUSAND WARS OF OLD
RING IN THE THOUSAND YEARS OF PEACE

The other bells would have had similar verses, from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The treble weighed 6cwt, 6lb and the tenor weighed 14cwt, 1lb. Only five peals were rung on these bells, all between 1901 and 1914.

In 1964, bells 2 to 7 were removed and sold as scrap. The treble was destined to suffer a similar fate, but fortunately it was recovered for recasting as the new second at St Wilfrid’s. All Saints was closed and demolished in 1974; presumably the tenor was lost in demolition.

St Clement’s Sheepscar, Leeds

St Clement’s church in Chapeltown Road was built by George Corson in the Early English Gothic style in 1868.

There was a tall tower at the east end of the south aisle, with a distinctive open upper stage and a fleche like spire on the staircase turret reaching a height of 140 feet. There was only one bell, cast by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough in 1868. It weighed 5cwt, 1 qtr, 6 lb.

St Clement’s was closed in 1975 and demolished the following year. The bell was recast as the treble for St Wilfrid’s Harrogate. The original date was preserved in the recasting.

Sources

The Church of All Saints, Clayton West 1875-1975; by Dr John Addy – available from the parish website: www.allsaints-claytonwest.org.uk/history.html

Photographic archive of Leeds www.leodis.net

Felstead peal database cccbr.org.uk/felstead