The Bells

Before the Dissolution of the Priory monastery, Richard Pollard surveyed the monastery in some detail for King Henry V111. His writings provide documentary evidence of bells:

‘The Steple beying Towre ffashyon ys highe & dangerously in decaye. There be in the same Steple seven Bells mete to be rongen all at one tyme yff yt so happen.’

It is evident that the tower was in some danger of collapse, as huge buttresses were built on the north side of the nave in the 15th century to stop it leaning.

Early Bells

The history of the bells from the Dissolution until the eighteenth century is scarce. It is known that there were at least two bells, and that these were rung regularly. An extract from a churchwarden’s account of 1669 reads:

Disburst by the Church Warddains of the p’ish of Bridftngton for the yeare 1669.
Ringeres for the king 29th May Matth. Harrison for 2 belles mend 1/6
November the fift day 1669 paid ringers 13/6

18th Century Restoration

By the early eighteenth century, the remains of the Priory were in a ruinous state. The great West Window had been blocked in and was partially obscured by the low roof. A small brick cupola had been added to the south-west tower to house a clock. James Harrison, a bellfounder from Barton-on-Humber, added three bells in this tower, two were dated 1763 and one 1782.

The Harrisons of Barton and Barrow were prolific bellfounders, and many churches in the area (particularly on the banks of the Humber) still have their bells. They were not considered great bellfounders, however; it is said that the tenor bell at St. Mary’s, Cottingham is the best bell Harrison ever cast — most local bellringers know that is not the compliment it first seems!

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the first of a number of restorations to the Priory began, culminating in the major remodelling a hundred years later by Sir George Gilbert-Scott. He redesigned the roof, opened up the West Window, and built up the West Towers to their present height. The clock was replaced, and the three bells retained.

18th Century Bells

Bell Note Weight Diameter Inscription
cwt qr lb ft in
Treble B (Approx) 8 1 24 3 0 "For light restor’d is heard my silver sound,
To songs of Praise to wake ye village round."
Second A (Approx) 9 2 12 3 2 "Nor joy nor grief employs my peaceful voice;
Mine ’tis in consort only to rejoice."
Tenor G (Very flat) 10 2 18 3 5 "To Speak a Parting Soul is giv’n to ME:
Be trimmed thy LAMP, as if I toll’d for THEE."
Cors. Rickaby, Minister;
Henry Booth, Willm. Simpson, Rob’t Hardy, Churchwardens. 1763

1902 Installation

In early 1902, Mr. William Jameson contracted John Taylor to supply a ring of eight bells, in memory of his father Alfred. The old bells were rung for the last time on April 16th 1902 for a wedding, dismantled and left standing in the church for some time. They were eventually taken to the foundry at Loughborough and melted down in 1902 where the metal was used for a chime of eight bells for Christ Church, Fulwood, Sheffield.

The new Priory bells were cast at Loughborough during the last fortnight of April 1902, and were fitted during the last week of May, over 100ft up the South-west Tower. Mounted on a massive cast iron H-frame, the installation included Hastings stays and self-lubricating plain bearings. The bells hang on hollow box cast iron headstocks, and have an open-draft of nearly eighty feet. A Cambridge chiming mechanism for the clock was also donated. Sadly, this part of the clock was disconnected some years ago and is now derelict. The total cost of the installation was £886; as a comparison this is rather less than a set of eight bell-ropes would now cost.

1902 Ringing

The bells were dedicated by the Archbishop of York on Saturday June 7th, (dreadful weather did not stop hundreds of people gathering on Church Green to hear them) and were rung to a quarter peal of GrandSire Triples the next day.

The first peal on the bells was one of 5024 Kent Treble Bob Major, rung in 3hrs 18mins on Saturday 2nd August 1902 by a band from as far afield as Newcastle and London. The first all-local peal did not take place until 1949 and in fact very few peals have been rung due to the Priory’s close proximity to housing.

The Bells Today

The bells are famous among bellringers as being one of the finest rings of eight bells in the country. They have, however, also been infamous for being very difficult to ring well, due to the state of the fittings, the weight of the bells, and the long ropes.

As part of the Priory’s extensive Restoration Appeal, attention turned in 1991 to the belfry. As a result, the three heaviest bells were re-hung on new bearings and provided with new clappers in early 1992 and the remaining five in 1993. Generous grants towards this work were given by the Beverley & District Ringing Society and the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers.

Current Bell Details

Bell Note Weight Diameter Inscription
cwt qr lb ft in
Treble D 6 1 21 2 7  
Second C# 7 0 3 2 8  
Third B 7 0 25 2 10  
Fourth A 8 1 1 3 0  
Fifth G 11 1 20 3 4 William B. Jameson
Sixth F# 13 1 2 3 6 Robert Medforth JP
Churchwarden 32nd Year
Inspector * Reflector * Detector
Seventh E 17 3 9 3 11 J Allan Pride MA LLB DCL
Rector * Corrector * Director
Tenor D 25 2 14 4 5 J Alfred Jameson JP
Pro Memoria

All are additionally inscribed John Taylor & Co Loughborough 1902 and on each bell except the tenor, just below the crown, are attached two 1902 pennies.