All Saints' Kempston Bell Ringers

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Kempston Bells Appeal 

A project to preserve and replace two 17th century bells


Why do we need to do this?

The present ring of 10 bells at All Saints consists of eight relatively modern bells tuned in accordance with current practice and two old bells of 1603 and 1633 which are relatively thin and would probably not survive any attempt to tune them more accurately. At the time of installation of the new steel frame in 1978, consideration was given to replacing the two 17th century bells, but for reasons of finance this was not pursued, although the bell frame was designed to accommodate a larger and heavier tenor bell. Recently two modern bells have been made available to us by The Keltek Trust at virtually scrap metal prices. These bells, with very light tuning, would meet exactly the requirements of replacing the 17th century bells. The Keltek Trust is a charitable organisation that seeks to acquire and find new uses for otherwise redundant bells. The two new bells are from a redundant peal of eight from Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire. This offers a unique opportunity to make the Kempston bells one of the best peals in the county, and at the same time preserve the two 17th century bells for use as service and funeral bells, thus retaining an important link with ringing at Kempston going back to the time of Elizabeth I.


The history of the Prinknash Bells.

Caldy Island, situated in Carmarthen Bay in Pembrokeshire has been home to a religious community since a Celtic monastery was established there in the sixth century. The current abbey was built in 1910 by Anglican Benedictine monks when its founder, Abbot Aelred Carlyle, installed a peal of eight bells cast by Messrs Taylor and Co., Loughborough. The bells range from tenor to treble and were dedicated to: St Aidan; St Aelred; St Bernard; St David; St Gregory; St Benedict; Our Lady; St Hugh of Lincoln, St Thomas of Canterbury and All English Saints). With the exception of Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury, the saints were all monks.

Owing to the size of the tower only two of the bells (Our Lady and St Bernard) were hung for full circle ringing. The others were fixed or hung dead, and could only be chimed by a hammer. The bells were used during festivals, to help with the due observance of discipline and to punctuate the monastic routine. They were also rung for great occasions such as the end of World War II.

In 1913 the community was received into the Roman Catholic Church and in 1928 it moved to Prinknash Abbey Gloucestershire. An agreement was reached whereby the Cistercian monks who took up residence at Caldey Island, retained the two hanging bells and supplied replacements. These were also cast by Taylor’s of Loughborough and designed to match the exact tonal character of the originals.

In 1931 when the eight bells reached Prinknash Park they were fixed in a frame in the East Court. In 1975 the bells were moved to a newly-built abbey. They were last rung in 2008, when the community moved back to St Peter’s Grange.

The Prinknash Abbey bells are of a very high quality and from a period when Taylors were casting some of their best bells; this (1896 through to the late 1950’s) being considered something of a ‘magic’era. Bedfordshire rings cast by Taylor’s during this period include the magnificently sounding octaves at Bromham (1907), Cardington (1924), and St Paul’s Bedford (1896-1945).



The Prinknash Abbey bells destined for All Saints Kempston


In May 2015 the bells of Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire were purchased by the Keltec Trust, a charitable organisation that seeks to acquire, preserve, and find new uses for otherwise redundant bells, making these available at cost. Having found uses in Suffolk and Lichfield for six of the bells, discussions with the Trust resulted in the remaining two bells (the 5th and tenor) being offered to Kempston. By fortunate coincidence, these bells will make ideal replacements for the Kempston 7th and tenor bells. With moderate tuning to bring them into line with the existing ring, the note and size of these bells is such to enable the creation of a truly fine-sounding and well balanced ten with a tenor of just over 21 cwt in E; the same note as the existing tenor. bell The inscription on the Prinknash tenor bell; St Thomas of Canterbury and All English Saints is particularly appropriate for All Saints Kempston.

So there is now an excellent and possibly unique opportunity to preserve and replace the two ancient bells as envisaged at the time of the 1978 restoration at a cost of less than 30% of new replacement bells. This will significantly improve the tonal quality and the dynamics of the ring, making them more musical to listen to and easier to ring, especially for less experienced ringers. We will ensure preservation of the Prinknash bells for full circle ringing; the purpose for which they were originally cast. The ancient Kempston bells will be preserved in the tower and equipped with elctro-mechanical chiming hammers for use as communion and funeral bells eliminating any risk of these bells cracking through their continued use for full circle ringing.  



Detail inscription of the tenor bell


Detail inscription of the 5th


What work is required?

The work to be carried out will comprise:

  • Removing the two old bells and hanging them on supplementary steel work above the main bell frame.

  • Providing electric chiming mechanisms for both bells.

  • Tuning the two new bells.

  • Providing new wheels, headstocks, bearings etc. for these bells as required.

  • Hanging these bells in place.

  • Remedial work on existing clappers including the provision of adjusters.

  • Installing a supplementary floor under the bells to reduce the sound level in the ringing room.

The contract for the work will be placed with a long established, very well-respected firm of bell hangers and all work on site will be carried out under their supervision. We are fortunate in having members of our ringing team experienced in bell hanging and by their voluntary work the cost of on-site labour will be reduced.


How can I support this work?

The total cost of the project is £45,000. This is a very large sum, and has to be raised without calling on church funds. We are seeking, and would be very grateful for, any donations large or small. Donations may be made by cheque payable to ‘’All Saints Church Kempston Bells Appeal’’ and sent to the Appeal Treasurer:

Richard Hillson, 17 Mortimer Road, Kempston, Bedford, MK42 8RE

If you are a tax payer, every £1 you give could be worth £1.25, at no cost to you. Gift Aid is reclaimed by the appeal from the tax you pay for the current tax year. Your address is needed to identify you as a current UK taxpayer. We would ask that you print the form from here and include the completed form with any donations made by cheque.