Chiddingly Church Bells

Chiddingly Church home page

There is a ring of eight bells in the Church tower; the original "3rd bell" was replaced in 1998 and is on display by the south wall.

The bells and bell frame were refurbished during the summer of 1998 - the bells were previously removed and restored in 1952. Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast three new Millennium Bells on July 10th 1998; a new Treble and 2nd and a replacement for the old 3rd bell. A new steel bell-frame was also made up. The whole works cost around £80,000, and the project was helped by a substantial grant from National Lottery funds. The bells and new bell-frame were re-installed in the autumn and were first rung on September 9th., 1998.

Treble: one of the new bells cast by Whitechapel in July 1998. The inscription reads "G.R. & M.G. BRETTEN STONEHILL HOUSE 1998". It weighs 339lbs, and is tuned to G.

2nd bell: another of the new bells cast by Whitechapel in July 1998. The inscription reads "THE PARISH, FRIENDS AND RINGERS 1998". It weighs 378lbs, and is tuned to F# .

3rd bell: inscribed "MILES GRAYE MADE ME 1634". Miles Graye cast one bell in Sussex, that at Chiddingly, whilst his best known bell is the tenor at Lavenham, Suffolk. The bell at Chiddingly is clean cast with clear, precise inscription. Miles Graye was based at Colchester; the Lavenham tenor bell he cast in 1625 is considered by some to be the finest toned bell in England. The bell here weighs 374lbs, is just over 2 feet in diameter, and is tuned to E.

The bell weighs about 414lbs, is 2 feet 3 inches diameter, and is tuned to D.

5th bell: the last of the new bells cast by Whitechapel in July 1998. The inscription reads "In Memory of ROLAND PENROSE & LEE MILLER Farley Farm 1949 - 1984".
It weighs 500lbs, and is tuned to C.

6th bell: inscribed "T.G. 1617". Thomas Giles started founding in Chichester probably about 1602, although he had been an assistant there to Anthony Wakefield since at least 1594. He moved to Lewes to take over his brotherís foundry in 1614 (his brother Edmund cast the Poynings second in 1595) , his last known bell being dated 1621 at Ashburnham. The bell weighs 561lbs, is 2 feet 6 inches diameter, and is tuned to B.

7th bell: inscribed "RECAST BY SUBSCRIPTION THOMAS MEARS OF LONDON FECIT 1811". Thomas Mears junior of the Whitechapel Foundry started casting in 1810, the example at Chiddingly being one of his earliest bells. He cast a bell for St Johnís Hospital, Winchester, in 1825. In his earlier years he usually used the title "T. Mears", but this bell is an exception. By this time he had an almost complete monopoly of founding, and continued to purchase local foundries, moving their business to London. He died in 1842. The bell weighs 756lbs, is 2 feet 10 inches diameter, and is tuned to A.

Tenor: inscribed "RECAST BY SUBSCRIPTION 1773 THOMAS JANAWAY FECIT". Thomas Janaway is thought to have gained his knowledge of bell founding from Thomas Lester, and had his foundry in Chelsea, where he set up business in 1762. He died in 1788, his tools and stamps being purchased by William Mears at Whitechapel. His work seems mainly to have been in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, and the 4th tenor bells at Chiddingly are among the relatively few examples (16) of his work in Sussex. The bell weighs 998lbs (nearly half a ton), is 3 feet 2 inches diameter, and is tuned to G.

For reference, the Jefferay Monument was constructed in 1612, the date over the church porch is 1657 and the weather vane was originally made in 1772.

The old 3rd bell: inscribed "JOHN LULHAM ROBERT STORER CHURCHWORDDNES, ROGER TAPSELL MADE ME 1633 SL". Roger Tapsell succeeded his father Henry, who was a well-known bellfounder, at West Tarring in 1604, having worked jointly with him for perhaps 10 years prior to this date. In the West Tarring registers there is recorded the baptism of four of his children, Martha 1599, Anthony 1602, jane 1606 and Ellen 1608. Their foundry and home was in Church Lane opposite the east end of the churchyard.

He was not a neat workman and his bells differ greatly in shape and size. The Chiddingly bell is one of only two bells, curiously his first and last, where he is known to have used ornamental stops in the inscription. He cast the Poynings treble in 1625: his foundry closed in 1633, the date of the Chiddingly bell. John Lulham according to the inscription appears to have been Churchwarden at the time, and would have taken great interest in the casting of this bell, probably near by the church yard, for he later founded several bells himself, possibly at Stream Mill.

Stream Mill also happens to be the only site in Chiddingly mentioned in the Domesday Book.

In 1649 he cast a treble and 3rd for St Thomas a Beckett, Lewes, and in 1651 he recast six bells for St Maryís, Eastbourne. The bell at Chiddingly is known as "the Lulham Bell". It weighs 480lbs and is 2 feet 5 inches diameter.

February 2000

Acknowledgement: much information written here has been obtained from "Sussex Bells and Belfries" by George Elphick, published by Phillimore & Co Ltd in 1970.