The most significant and exciting change to the structure and fittings at St. Giles for a great many years took place during the first half of 2012, namely the installation of a new peal of six light bells.
Bell InscriptionsFive of the bells were obtained following the cancellation of an order by another church. The sixth (the 2nd) was newly cast, an event which was witnessed and enjoyed by many parish members, see Foundry Visit
All of the bells have their date of casting and John Taylor’s name inscribed on them, the third also has the special message 'ring out wild bell'.
The newly cast (2nd) bell has the following special inscriptions, which can also be seen in these images.
Phase 1 - InstallationThe bells were delivered by one of two Paul Masons from John Taylor (D Paul Mason) on Wednesday 30th May 2012, and it was going to be a race against time to get the bells ringable for the Jubilee weekend. With the combined efforts of both Paul Masons and helpers on Thursday 31st May and after a considerable amount of hard work, the bells were deemed ringable, albeit the installation was not finished as the bells had no stays or sliders.
Prior to the installation being finished off we had a weekday wedding for which experienced ringers were imported, and the consensus was that the bells were indeed excellent. One of those ringers is in charge of ringing at Westminster Abbey so his opinion was very valuable.
Ringers had to be found for a further two weddings on Saturday, 16th June 2012, and due to other competing events it wasn’t possible to secure the services of six experienced outside ringers. We therefore resolved that a number of the St Giles ringers, new to ringing only last October, would ring. This meant ringing the bells up in peal (altogether in sequence) at the end of the wedding, and then after 20 minutes wedding ringing, ringing down in peal and, at no time, trying to set (stop) the bells as they couldn’t be!. I think rarely, if ever, have such a number of ‘inexperienced’ ringers managed such a feat by ringing six bells without stays or sliders, as this is something that even most experienced ringers have rarely done. They did very well and also were pleased to earn some money!
Phase 2 - CompletionThe second phase of the bell installation resumed on Tuesday 26th June 2012, when the G&J bell was delivered to Farnborough to be reinstalled in the tower. It arrived together with its frame sides and fittings, and fortunately there was a goodly gathering of helpers at the right time in the afternoon to unload it from the van and then trolley it to the base of the tower.
During Wednesday and Thursday the stays were fitted as were the new pendulum sliders, which were then suitably adjusted. All this work was either done or overseen by the other Paul Mason from Loughborough. A number of helpers were enlisted on a daily basis to help with aspects of the work, and great thanks are due to them. Some helpers were from other towers in the District and indeed from other Districts.
Friday, 29th June saw final adjustments, checking of fittings and the ‘go’ of the bells and general finishing off and tidying up.
Dedication and BlessingA special dedication and blessing service took place on 18th November 2012, during which the new bells were blessed by the Rt. Rev Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge.
History of the St. Giles Bells
1552 Record of 3 bells in the tower ("Item iij bells suited of brass in the steple").
1631 26th Dec. The church was so damaged by a storm that it was necessary to take it down and rebuilt it.
1664 Small bell cast by John Hodson. This became cracked in the past century and was stored in the porch until it was stolen in recent years. This was known as the "Tinker" bell.
1667 Larger bell recast by John Hodson.
1724 The tower and spire was damaged by a storm.
1766 The present clock bell was cast by Lester & Pack. It was not originally for the church and it is not precisely known where it came from.
1838 Tower struck by lightning, severely damaging it, requiring it to be extensively rebuilt. The timber spire wasn't replaced, the tower was given a flat roof with a parapet crowned with a stone pinnacle at each corner.
1887 Record of 2 bells in the tower.
1907 Single bell cast by Gillett & Johnston with 2 cwt added with a view to making it suitable to be the tenor of a new ring of 6. It was cast at 6-1-16 and sent out on 4th July. (Order book date 17th June). It was hung with new fittings in the existing frame.
17 June 1907 Gillett Order Book:
Recast old bell and add 2cwt to make a bell of 6th. New fittings. Rehang in existing frame. Inscription:
REFECTUM. A.D. M.C.MVII. E. TESTAMENTO./ MARIA. ANNA. OLNEY. OBIIT. A.D. MCMV./IN. MEMORIAM/ CONJUGIS. EIVS. FREDERICI./ OLNEY. PATRISQUE. HENRICI. VINCENT./ MATRISQUE. MARIA.
1949 Jan. The tower was gutted by fire, which destroyed the bells. Gillett & Johnston offered estimates for bells of various sizes, pointing out that they had cast the original bell.
1951 The tower was restored under Miss Cunningham, church architect and Hobday & Maynard, architects in Bromley. At this time the spire was restored to the tower also.
1951 28th Jan. Bell cast by Gillett & Johnston using metal from the old bell. It was hung in a new cast iron frame and cost £282. The old clock from the Stables at The Rookery, Bromley Common (a large house which once stood on what is now the Bromley College of Technology), was purchased for the church for £25 and refurbished by Gillett & Johnston. The clock strikes the hours on the 1766 bell which possibly came from The Rookery also.
1969 John Taylor & Co. estimated for adding five bells to make a ring of six (£3,400) or seven bells to make a chime of eight - the tenor remaining hung for ringing (£2,600).
2012 Six bells were acquired from John Taylor Bellfounders (having been earlier cast as the front six of a new ring of ten for Old St. Martin's church in Worcester, but subsequently made available after a different front six was cast). The 2nd was recast (on 16th Feb) and all six were hung in a new grillage frame. The existing bell was refitted and rehung with full circle ringing fittings elsewhere in the tower.