Wilbarston Bells
A project to restore the bells of All Saints' Church
The history of bells at Wilbarton - a timeline of events:
1639
Hugh Watts II casts the largest bell. The Watts were a bell founding family situated in the city of Leicester. Hugh took over from his father and cast many bells between 1614 and 1643, so the bell at Wilbarston is certainly one of his later examples.

Many of his bells are to be found in the local area, and in general he produced good bells with quite  a nice in tone, unlike other founders, but that's next.

The Watts bell at Wilbarston - you can just make out the date 1639
1704
Alex Rigby Casts Two Bells. Alex Rigby, or somtimes Rigbie, was based in Stamford, Lincolnnshire which is about 20 miles away from Wilbarston. He took over the foundry from the Norris family, though it is thought he worked for them as their foundry forman before this. He was active from 1693 through to his death in 1708 and is buried in Stamford.

The same year he cast the two bells for Wilbarston, he also cast a ring of 5 bells for the neighbouring village of Cottingham, three of which still exist.

It's not clear if the bells at Wilbarston replaced some previous bells, but it is possible
Badgworth ringers they were mad, 
Because Rigbie had made me bad; 
But Abel Rudhall you may see 
Hath made me better than Rigbie
Poor old Alex Rigby obviously made some poor bells. Here is an inscription from a bell at Badgworth in Gloucestershire. The bells he cast for Wilbarton did not have a great fate either!
Thomas Eayre casts a bell. Thomas Eayre was situated about 15 miles away in the town of Kettering. He worked there from1717 until 1757 until he died aged 66

We can not be sure if this replaced a previous bell, but there is a chance it did.

The Eayre family cast many rings in the local area with the 6 bells at the next Village of East Carlton being cast by them in 1755


1739
The inscription of the 2nd, which shows the name T Eayre. The original Eayre bell was recast (see below) but the old inscription was reproduced.
Major restoration takes place. The whole church was restored in 1883 and this included the bells. Prior to this, things were not in a good state at all. In a report published in 1878 (see below) it was clear that the whole installation was in a derelict state. On top of this it would seem that one of the bells by Alex Rigby was cracked.

The restoration included the recasting of the two Rigby bells and the bold step of adding a new 5th bell. A new frame work and fittings were also provided. All this was carried out by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough, who we want to restore the bells again.

While the Victorian frame is still sound, the 1883 fittings are now worn and need replacement.


1883
Part of the bell frame which was installed in the 1883 resoration and is still in great condition
The belfrey floor and bell frame are rotton and unsafe, and the bells themselves are not in a satisfactory condition (1878)
The bill please. So, how much did all this work cost? John Taylor & Co of Loughborough have taken a look in their archives and have kindly provided us with a copy of the invoice for the work.

To have one new bell, plus the another two recast all rehung is a new frame cost the sum of £166 15 9, which by general inflation is about £18,000 in today’s money.

To carry out all the work we want to do now is nearly twice the value for what could be considered less work. However, not everything has grown eaqually in value with commodities, such as Copper and Tin and labour growing at much more significant rates, which has made this value grow so much above the general inflation values.

Copy of the bill from July 1883
With thanks to John Taylor & Co for providing the information
1885
Enter the clock. The bells had only been installed just over 18 months when a decision was made to install a clock in the church.

There is believed to have been some controversy about the installation as it is said that the clock should have gone to neighbouring village of Stoke Albany, but following a dispute it was installed at Wilbarston.

Ironically, the clock has been installed on the west wall of the tower, so the clock face cannot be seen by anyone in Wilbartson, but can be seen in Stoke Albany!

Putting in the clock as an afterthought meant the ropes of the three lightest bells had to be moved, which compromised their rope paths. This means that these bells take more effort to ring due the ropes dragging in side rope chutes.

We hope to rectify this issue as part of the restoration work.
The wooden case housing the clock, which was set running in January 1885
The old rope hole for the 3rd bell which had to be moved to install the clock
1982
Lightning strikes!  In 1982 disaster stuck in the shape of a lightning bolt. This stuck the tower around tea time on a Saturday - there had only been a wedding in the church a few hours before.

As well as leaving a hole in the spire and the tower structurally unsafe, masonry fell down inside on to the bells causing them damage.

Luckily, the insurance company paid for the spire to be taken down and rebuilt. Work was also carried out on the bells, which included replacing the fittings in the two lightest bells and re-casting the 1739 Eayre bell as this was broken by the falling masonry. 

This put the installation back in to a fair condition and the bells were rung for some years after until the band disbanded.
The old Eayre bell which was recast bearing the date 1985. The original 1739 Thomas Eayre inscription was reproduced on the new bell
Details of the current five bells at Wilbarston
Bell Number Who made it ?
When it was made? Weight of bell
1 John Taylor & Co 1888 4-0-12
2 John Taylor & Co 1985 4-1-12
3 John Taylor & Co 1888 5-0-25
4 John Taylor & Co 1888 6-2-25
5
Hugh Watts II 1639 7-2-15
What have we got now? - Following all the events over the past 375 years, Wilbarston is graced with the bells shown left.

The installation of the clock caused the ropes of the three lightest bells to be moved, making them difficult to ring.

The two lightest bells are on modern fittings following the lightning strike, which is good news!

The fittings of the three largest bells are still the original ones from 1883 and need to be replaced.

How heavy? - Bells are still weighed using the Imperial meausrement system of hunderedweight, quarts and pounds.

A Hundred weight is 112 pounds, a quart is 28 pounds and a pound is well, a pound! The 5th bell is therefore (7 x 112) + (2 x 28) + 15 which is 846 pounds, which is just over 60 stone. There are 2.2 pounds in a Kilogram, so the 5th bell wights 384Kg
2017-2018
The Next Chapter. It is now time to write the next chapter in the history of the bells at Wilbarston.

Could you play a part in making this happen?

Visit our About the Project page to see details of the bold and exciting project we want to achieve.