History of the tower and bells of St. Nicholas Church

Circa 1400 - The three-stage west tower, buttressed, parapeted, and pinnacled, was built. In 1748 it retained a short spire, probably removed after 1783. No bells are recorded as being put in the tower at this date.

1552 - Four bells were cast and installed in the tower. It is unknown whether these bells were hung for change ringing. Change ringing was in its infancy at this time and these bells may well have been hung for swing chiming via arms or partial wheels.

1709 - The four bells of 1552 were recast in 1709 to make five bells. The bells were cast by the Bishops Stortford Bell Founder, John Waylett. The recast was funded by a John Strand of Great Wilbraham. His name is inscribed on one of the bells. It is thought that these bells were hung in the tower for change ringing.

1837 - The John Waylett tenor bell was recast in 1837. This bell was cast by Mears and Stainbank of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London and bears the names of the then churchwardens. She remains the largest bell in the tower.

1908-1958 -The bells fell into disrepair and were declared as unringable. Three of the bells were lowered down from the belfry and resided in the base of the tower for many years. Circa 1930 a local engineer decided to put the bells back into the tower and hung them on tripods. An ellacombe chiming apparatus was installed and the bells were used for stationary chiming. For several years the bells were chimed this way for Sunday Matins and Evensong. The Ellacombe box is still preserved in the ringing chamber and bares graffiti from the boys who were the chimers. Some of these names also appear carved into the stonework further up the tower in the clock chamber walls.

1958 - All five bells, not rung properly for fifty years, were re-hung in 1958-9. The fourth bell (currently the fifth of six) being recast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. This bell retains her original inscription. Whitechapel also hung the bells in single row ball bearings and in a steel frame built for the provision of a sixth to be added at a later date.

1962 -The first peal was rung on the bells.

2008-2009 - A new bell was cast for St. Nicholas. This bell, cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, now occupies the vacant pit in the 1958 six bell frame and augments the peal of bells from five to six. The other five bells were completely overhauled and re-hung. The new bell is dedicated to the patron saint of the church and has its inscriptions laid out in pre-reformation style. Sancta Nicolae Ora Pro Nobis is inscribed around the top of the bell with Philip S. Gorman (Tower Captain) beneath it. Upon the waist of the bell in larger lettering are the names of the donors, Richard and Angela Wright from Temple Manor.

2013 - The upper stories of the bell tower have been weather proofed and a state of the art sound management system installed to the belfry windows. This can be be implemented in a number of combinations so that sound can be reduced, increased or made multi-directional.

Page last updated on 5th August 2013

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