St Mary the Virgin, Silchester

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The Bells at St Marys


Little is known about the bells or the Bell (Pigeon) Tower before 1742, when Rector Paris bequeathed “fourscore (80) pounds to new cast the three bells and to add two others.” The original 3 bells may have been bought from a scrap-metal merchant selling material from an abandoned local monastery, suppressed by Henry VIII during the time of the Reformation. As at Heckfield a few miles away, they may have been bought from a scrap-metal merchant dealing in materials from the suppressed religious houses of the district (in the case of Little Marlow priory of Benedictine nuns, its bells and lead together were valued at less than £5).

The work of re-casting the 3 bells and casting 2 new ones was undertaken by John Stares of the Aldworth Foundry in Wiltshire and completed in 1744. The John Stares bells are listed for preservation in the Council for Care of Churches “Schedule of Bells for Preservation” in the Diocese of Winchester, as detailed below.

No 1 (Treble) Gift of John Paris DD, Late Rector of Silchester. JSBF (John Stares) 1744.
Diameter 2’- 0â…ž” (63cm). Weight 3-0-17 cwt (160 kg) Note F
No 2 Taylor Oxford fecit.  Recast in 1848
Diameter 2’- 1
9/16” (65cm) Weight 2-3-05 cwt (140 kg) Note Eâ™­
No 3   “Richard Pottinger and John Money. Churchwardens” John Stares made
me in 1744. Diameter 2’- 3½” (70cm) Weight 4-0-17 cwt (211 kg) Note D
No 4 Inscribed as No 3 above
Diameter 2’- 7” (79cm) Weight 5-2-09 cwt (283 kg) Note C
No 5 (Tenor)

“My hope is the Lord” Richard Pottinger and John Money. Churchwardens
John Stares made 1744
Diameter 2’- 9½” (85cm) Weight 7-0-01 cwt (356 kg
)  Note Bâ™­

        See also        Doves guide for bell ringers: Silchester

The bells were originally supported by the four large arch-braced posts at the west end of the church. However, the stresses caused movement of the timbers that damaged the west wall which had to be buttressed. The bells are now housed in a ‘lowside’ wrought steel frame supported by beams which span the nave. The wrought iron and steel five-bell frame was constructed by Bowell of Ipswich and dates from the early part of the 20th century. It consists of X-brace sections with T-shaped upper cills. The frame is supported by a foundation consisting of four timber beams running in a north-south direction. The treble and 2nd swing mouth to mouth in a north-south direction. The 3rd, 4th and tenor swing east-west, side by side on the east side of the tower.

The weights of the bells are estimated based on their diameters, and are taken from the on-line version of ‘Dove’s Guide’ to the Church Bells of Britain. The Treble, 3rd, 4th, and Tenor bells are noted by The Churches Buildings Council to be worthy of preservation.

A major refurbishment was completed in 2020 when the bells were turned and fitted with new headstocks and bearings. The 2nd was re-tuned and the wheels refurbished.




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