All Saints' Kempston Bell Ringers

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  A brief history of All Saints, Kempston Bells

The earliest known reference to the bells at Kempston is contained in the will of one Thomas Amse, 1500 who left "To the bells, 9d".  The bells were similarly remembered in other wills. One of the heaviest items of expenditure in the Churchwardens accounts concerned the bells and ringers.  In 1636 it cost them 12d. for "Mending the great bell clapper, rounding the bowl, mending the four bell wheel and new bell ropes" and in 1671 the Clerk and Sexton were paid 2/6d. for "rendering the bells for half a year".  From earliest times the ringing of the bells was considered very important in the life of the church and the ringers were paid accordingly. 1678 "Spent upon the ringers at perambulation, 6d." and again in 1679 we read, "Money for ringers 2/6d." and "Beer money for the ringers 1/3d." They always received money for beer when ringing the bells for special occasions such as "Gunpowder Treason" , "The King's Accession" and "The Coronation".

From the Churchwardens accounts entry for 1636 we can deduce that there were five bells at this time, the "Great Bell" would be the present tenor which had been cast in 1603 and the "Four Bell" the bell which is believed to have been cast in 1484 but which was re-cast in 1893 and is the 9th bell of the present ring of 10.

 
     
 

 

Detail on the Tenor Bell

By the late 1800s the bell frame and fittings were in a sorry state.  North, in this "Church Bells of Bedfordshire" which was published in 1883, gives details of the five bells, the fourth being cracked, so it was that in 1893 through the generosity of Squire Harter of The Bury, Kempston, the old treble, second and fourth were recast and a new treble added to make a ring of six bells.  The old oak frame was stiffened up and the bells all rehung on new fittings.  This work was carried out by John Taylor and Company of Loughborough and is recorded by the inscription on the present ninth bell.

No further work was carried out on the bells until 1921 when the six were rehung by Taylors on new bearings.  In 1926 the bells were again taken down and quarter turned to make the clappers strike in a different position and so guard against cracking.

It is interesting to note that at this time Taylors had recommended the bells be augmented to eight by the addition of two new trebles and they should be hung in a new iron and steel frame at a cost of 325.

During the 1939-45 War the five largest bells were removed from the tower for safety, many of the bells in London having been destroyed during air raids.  The bells were placed for safety under the large horse chestnut tree in the churchyard against the churchyard wall where they provided entertainment for the choirboys who would attempt to ring them by throwing conkers at them until disturbed by Canon Barker or Mr Stratton.

Early in 1945 the bells were rehung by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry on ball bearings and at the June P.C.C. meeting Canon Barker spoke regarding the addition of two bells to complete the octave.  He felt that, apart from the young enthusiastic bellringers who were anxious to be trained under the leadership of Mr. Inskip, it would be nice to add to the parish church something for future generations.  The Whitechapel Foundry quotation of 354 was accepted and within a few months the subscription list which was opened by Canon Barker, had been oversubscribed.  The two new bells were dedicated on Sunday 25th January 1948 by the Archdeacon of Bedford.

 

Reproduced from All Saints' Parish Church Kempston: A History C.R.Parrott 1979