The Bells at East Raynham


In the early years of the eighteenth century all three of the Raynham churches had bells. Light peals of three rang out from St Margaret’s and St Martin’s churches, accompanied by a very heavy peal of four at St Mary’s, East Raynham., a total of 56cwt. Changeringing was a very popular pastime, and there is little doubt that these bells were well used by local ringers, at a time when most sets of three and four bells were regularly rung in full circles. The second quarter of the eighteenth century was something of a watershed, where church bells were concerned. While many churches increased the number of their bells to five, six or even eight as a response to ringers’ enthusiasm for changeringing, a rather larger number sold off their bells to pay for expensive church repairs, leaving only a single bell to be tolled for the regular services. East Raynham church had become so dilapidated by 1734 that the sum of £200 was needed to repair it.The parishioners were faced with the prospect of raising half the money, to complement £100 offered by the patron and prominent politician, Charles, the 2nd Viscount Townshend, who became better known as ‘Turnip Townshend’ after his achievements in agriculture. Metal was in short supply, and the Raynham bells would have been quickly recycled, probably by Thomas Newman, the Norwich bell-founder who was very active at that time. The single bell left behind was inscribed: JOHN DARBIE MADE ME 1670 THOMAS WILKINSON CHURCHWARDEN. Darbie, an Ipswich founder, cast the tenor bell at Litcham in the same year, and completed a peal of five in the new tower there two years later.

When East Raynham church was rebuilt in 1868 the architects provided a good, solid tower, designed for a proper ring of bells, and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast three bells, the tenor weighing almost 10 cwt, to the order of the 5th Marquess Townshend. The oak bell-frame was set on four massive foundation beams, and designed in such a way that it could readily be extended to take six, or even eight bells. The bells themselves were good castings, clearly intended as the three largest of a ringing peal. Fittings were provided for full-circle ringing, and a ringing chamber was fitted out on the first floor of the tower.

Although the three bells were ringable, and indeed occasionally rung, up to the 1950s, they were very difficult to manage; and the revival of regular ringing in the 1998 highlighted problems with moving parts that were now over 100 years old. The restoration of the bells in 2002 breathes new life into the fine craftsmanship of 1868, and the augmentation of the bells to eight completes the original scheme.

 Paul Cattermole,  13 June 2002                                                                    


The New Ring of Eight Bells at Raynham

with their approximate weights

 (in Quarters of a ton, pounds/ lbs & ounce/ ozs)  

and their  inscriptions



Treble Bell        I ring for Francoise  amdg                 whitechapel 2002

3  -  2 - 14                                                                                                       


No.2 Bell            I ring for Townshend Descendants in South Africa  amdg

3  - 3 - 14                                                                                              whitechapel 2002       


No.3 Bell            I sing for the Family  2001 ad  amdg   whitechapel 2002

4 -  1 - 0                                                                                                                        


no.4 Bell             desc.of capt.c. Hervey  Townshend, new haven, ct.     admg

4 -  3 - 0                                                                                   whitechapel 2002


No.5 bell             I ring for The Townsend Society of America    amdg

5 -  2 - 0                                                                                    whitechapel 2002


no.6 bell             mears and stainbank, founders,       london   1868

  6 -  1 - 4


no.7 bell             mears and stainbank, founders,       london   1868

7 -  1  - 2


tenor bell          mears and stainbank, founders,       london   1868

9 -  3 -  5