The Bells in
All Saints Church, Maidstone

The Maidstone All Saints Bellringers Society is affiliated to the Kent County Association Of Change Ringers.

All Saints Church, Maidstone Bellringers Society

Background to bellringing.

The tradition of ringing bells ‘full circle’ and of changing place is unique to Britain, the Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada and in the United States. Although churches had bells in them for many centuries, the present method of change ringing has evolved from the initiatives of Fabian Stedman in 1640. His ‘principle’ of Stedman Doubles (rung on five bells but which can have a sixth bell ringing last in each sequence of changes) has now increased to an ever growing number of methods on ever increasing numbers of bells e.g. sixteen bells at St. Martin’s in the Bullring, Birmingham.

The Bells at All Saints, Maidstone

There are ten bells in the tower at All Saints ranging from the lightest - the Treble – weighing five cwt/diameter twenty-nine inches to the heaviest – the Tenor – weighing thirty-two cwt./diameter fifty-six inches.

The original oldest bell was cast in 1783 but all the bells were re-cast in1957 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough.

The bells, the frame they swing in and all the associated ropes, pulleys and wheels require constant ongoing maintenance to be kept in good condition and at All saints as in most towers this maintenance is seen as the responsibility of the ringers themselves.

Recent work has included re-furbishing of all ten clappers, fine tuning adjustments to improve the striking of the bells, a new headstock and six new ropes.

To strike a bell in change ringing the bell must be moved through approximately three hundred and seventy degrees by means of a rope, hanging down through several levels to the ringing room. These ropes have a ‘furry’ section starting around shoulder level, which is called ‘the sally’, and below it a length of rope which is doubled back on itself and is called ‘the tailend’.

There are two ‘strokes’ in bellringing – the hand stroke when the sally is grasped with both hands whilst maintaining hold of the tailend and ‘the backstroke’ when only the tailend is held. It sounds quite complicated – rather like learning to drive a car – but with time, effort, aptitude and commitment a learner may be able to handle a bell competently and safely within six months.

The Ringing Room

You’ve already heard about the ropes but a ringing room usually contains a variable amount of memorabilia and history as well. All Saints has a ringing history dating back over three centuries some of which is represented by the Peal boards, record books, photographs and trophies. The All Saints Bellringers Society recently became the custodians of the memorabilia of Tom Cullingworth who sadly died in May 2003 and who although nationally respected and acknowledged as one of the finest ringers of his time was first and foremost deeply committed to his home tower, All Saints, Maidstone!

Why rings bells?

First and foremost ringing is a service to the Church but it is also a wonderful hobby providing physical and mental activity. At whatever age you can learn at, be it in your teens or in midlife, ringing also provides:

Present situation

For the ‘art’ of bellringing to survive, new recruits are always needed not least because for most of us as we age our physical capabilities diminish whether we like it or not and this inhibits the range of ringing capability within the tower. Every tower, including All Saints, needs a continuing programme of recruitment and training of potential new ringers (who need not be churchgoers).

SO IF YOU ARE IN THE SLIGHTEST BIT INTERESTED in learning more about this fascinating and very fulfilling, truly intergenerational hobby and pastime, please contact our Tower captain, Graham Heath. Contact details can be found at the bottom of this page.

The History of the Bells in All Saints

In the tower, which is 78 feet high, there was a ring of bells early in the fifteenth century. We find Archbishop Arundel blessing bells here; and in 1494, when John Lee, a master of the College, died, the "fourth bell" was rung for a quarter of an hour. In one of the corporation books, under date of 30th July 1604, it is stated that, the "great bell" being imperfect, and the second one broken, a committee, consisting of three curates and the churchwardens, was appointed to have the two bells exchanged or recast, the expense not to exceed 30. There were in 1667 "6 bells well hanged in the steeple".

They where re-hung in 1678 and the great bell was recast by a founder named Hodgson. In April 1708 the vestry agreed to pay the sexton 6 pounds per annum for ringing the curfew bell and for looking after the clock and chimes. The seventh bell was repaired in 1719; and two years later, several of the bells were recast by Phelps of London. There were in 1741 eight bells, and the great bell was repaired in 1762, at the cost of ten guineas. In January 1784 the bells were found to be no longer fit for use, and an order was given to the firm of Chapman and Mears, of Whitechapel, to supply "eight new and musical bells, the tenor to weigh 30cwt, and the rest in progressive proportion, the whole to weigh six tons, at 6 per cwt". A contract was entered into whereby founders were to furnish eight new clappers, and complete the work for 806 5s; but the 552 was to be allowed for the old bells which also weighed about 6 tons, besides 8 2s 6d for their carriage to London and the total balance to be paid by the parish was therefore 240 2s 6d.

The new bells were hung, and "opened" by the Leeds ringers in the same year. On August 16th, 1784, the vestry ordered that "where as the ringing of what is commonly called the curfew bell in winter is useless, and an unnecessary expense to the parish, the same be discontinued for the future". In the minutes of the same meeting, we read that "where as much damage hath frequently arisen from an indiscriminate permission of all persons, whether ringers or not, at their pleasure to enter the belfry, and there to pull about and ring the bells in such manner and for a long a time as they shall choose, whereby the parish hath in times past been put to great expense, it is ordered that no persons whatever, except known and acknowledged ringers, be permitted to enter the belfry without the unanimous consent of the minister and churchwardens."

By the end of the eighteenth century the eight bells had been augmented to 10, supported on very strong oak beams, over which the roof beams show black scorch marks, the only evidence from the fire in 1731 when lightning struck the wooden spire. A new clock was purchased in 1899, from the Gillett and Johnstone Foundry in Croydon. The former clock and chimes were repaired in 1721 and again in 1880. The new clock is still in excellent condition, but now only chiming the quarters and hours using the Westminster chime the old barrel chime being removed in 1976, having been out of action since 1945.

The Chapman & Mears bells had various re-re-castings throughout their time, and were re-hung in the existing frame in the nineteen 20's, by the mid 1950's this anticlockwise ten was becoming more and more difficult and a scheme for reordering was taken on board.

Here are the weights of the bells In cwts – qtrs – lbs…

Bell

treble
1

Weight

5-0-26

Bell Diameter

29"

Note

F

2

5-3-4

30"

D#

3

6-0-24

31"

C#

4

6-2-18

32.5

C

5

7-3-17

35"

A#

6

9-1-22

38"

G#

7

12-2-27

42"

F#

8

15-3-4

45"

F

9

23-0-12

50.5

D#

tenor

32-0-20

56"

C#

 

The 32 cwt. tenor bell

Graham Heath with the Tenor Bell

A Potted History of Peal Ringing at All Saints.

The first Peal in the tower was rung on January 15th 1741, the Method was Grandsire Triples and took 3hrs and 12 minutes to complete. The Band is unknown.

The First Local Band Peal was rung on October 30th 1776, the Method was Plain Bob Major but no other information is known

The First Ten Bell Peal was rung on May 30th 1784, the Method was Kent Treble Bob Royal and it took 4hours and 6 minutes, no other information is known.

A Bet of Six Guineas was decided by peal no. 20. On November 19th 1787. A 6480 of plain bob caters was rung in 4 hours and 12 minutes

No Peals were rung between 1800 and 1881

The next 16 peals were peals of Triples, mainly rung on the front 8 bells and rung within the space of nine years. The first of these was rung by the newly Formed Kent County Association.

A peal of Stedman was first rung on the bells in 1892, this was Stedman Triples and rung half muffled in memory of the Duke of Clarence.

Stedman Caters was the very next peal after the Triples and was rung by a resident Kent Band. on November 5th 1892

The 20th Century peal ringing was started on February 17th 1900 when Kent Treble Bob Royal was rung

The first peal of Surprise was rung on July 14th 1900. A 5056 of Superlative S. Major was rung in 3 Hours and 34 Minutes and conducted by William Pye.

The 50th Peal on the Bells was rung on June 4th 1906

After re-hanging by Mears and Stainbank A peal of Stedman Caters was rung on 28th February 1922

Ten Peals of Stedman Caters were rung on the trot from 1906 until 1924

The first peal of Erin for the tower and the Kent County association was rung on May25th 1931

The first peal of Surprise Royal was Cambridge and was rung on August 1st 1931

The Sunday Service band rang a peal of Stedman Caters on May 20th 1933 composed and conducted by Louis Head

Louis Head became a prolific Stedman Caters conductor and composer

The Second World War put a stop to peals for 7 years, the last being on April 15th 1939 and the first after the war was rung on August 5th 1946

The last Peal before re-casting was rung on 15th May 1954. The peal was a 5043 of Stedman caters rung in 3 Hours and 30 minutes, conducted by Louis Head and "rung for the homecoming of HM Queen Elizabeth II"

The first Peal to be rung on the bells after re-casting and re-hanging by J. Taylor of Loughborough was rung on August 9th 1958. Again the method was Stedman Caters, Conducted and composed by Louis head.

The first 16 Peals on the bells were ten bell peals between August 9th 1958 and September 29th 1962

The 100th Peal on the bells was rung on September 23rd 1961

Spliced Surprise Royal was first rung for the KCACR here on January 15th 1966 the methods being London, Cambridge and Yorkshire.

Thomas Cullingworth circled the tower for the first time on August 10th 1968 by ringing the 5th to Stedman Caters

The First six bell peal was rung on the front six on June 21st 1968

The 100th peal for the KCACR in the tower was rung on June 6th 1970 and was a non-conducted peal of Stedman Caters

Thomas Cullingworth Circled the tower for the third time on November 23rd 1974 ringing the 3rd

Bristol Surprise Major was first rung on the bells on 5th July 1975

The 200th peal in the tower was also Tom Cullingworth s 1000th rung on March 2nd 1976 in 3 hours and 18 minutes of Yorkshire s. Royal

Bristol S. Royal was first rung for the Kent association her on 20th July 1976 in 3 hours and 16 minutes

Tim Wylie became the second person to ring their 1000th peal here on October 26th 1976

378 Method and Variation Doubles was rung here on June 12th 1978

Thomas Cullingworth circled the tower for the 6th time on26th January 1980

The 300th Peal on the bells was rung on July 17th 1982

Thomas Cullingworth Circled the tower for the 10th time on August 13th 1985

The 400th Peal was rung on September 2nd 1986

John Howard became the third person to ring theirs 1000th peal here on May 4th 1987

The first peal on the back 6 was rung on 25th September 1990

The 500th peal in the tower was rung on 20th October 1990

Thomas Cullingworth became the first person to ring his 2000th peal here on 4th February 1992

John Keeler was the 4th person to ring his 1000th peal here on 24th March 1992

His 400th peal on the bells was also Tom Cullingworth s 80th Birthday

The 600th peal in the tower was on 20th August 1994 and was also Tom and Lily Cullingworth’s Golden Wedding compliment

John Keeler rang his 300th on the bells on 1st October 1996

The 5th Person to reach their 1000th peal here was Catherine Merlane

Thomas Cullingworth Circled the tower for the 27th time on 4th March 1997

Peal no. 700 here was rung on 15th September 1998

Thomas Cullingworth rang his 500th peal in the tower on 20th April 1999

Ringing times at All Saints are…

Sunday  8.45am – 9.30am

(Evensong quarter-peals by arrangement).

Practice night is Thursday 7.30pm – 9.15pm.

The bells are also rung for special services and weddings. Visiting ringers/ bands are very welcome to ring on the bells.

The tower officers are…

Tower Captain/ Secretary – Graham D. Heath - 01622-721288 E-mail - grahamheath@blueyonder.co.uk
Ringing Master – Rev.Canon David W. Grimwood
Treasurer -           Dot Hooker
Steeple keeper -   Martin Pring

Please contact Graham Heath if you require a tower tour, if you are a bell-ringer wanting to come and ring at All Saints or if you require any further information.

Links to other sites

Felstead Peal Database

Church bells of Kent...

Kent County Association of Church Bell Ringers....

Captain of the Ringers

Mr Graham Heath
2 Hartnup Street
Maidstone
ME16 8LR

Telephone:- 01622 721288
E-mail:-
grahamheath@blueyonder.co.uk

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