Shipton Church: Bells

Bells are made from a bronze known as ‘Bell Metal’. This contains 79% to 85% copper, the balance being tin. Bells are cast in a mould and finally turned on a lathe to tune them to the required note.

Originally, owing to the hardness of the metal, the bells had ‘cast in’ cannons and were suspended from elm headstocks. As the wood was subjected to temperature and humidity changes during the successive seasons, it warped, thus affecting the alignment of the gudgeons (bearings) and the ease with which the bell could be rung. The wood was also subject to the ravages of wood worm and other wood boring insects. The later use of cast iron or steel headstocks cured this. Attaching the bells to the headstocks was easier if the cannons were removed. The development of high speed steel allowed the bell crowns to be drilled and fitted with staples for fastening to the headstock. At the same time a Code of Practice was produced, and an arbitrary date of 1700 suggested before which date of casting cannons should not be removed from a bell.

There were originally five bells in the tower:-

Treble       cast by James Keen of Woodstock in 1628

Second     inscribed ‘Robert Atton made me in 1617’

Third         founded by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1726

Fourth       made by Henry Bagley of Chacombe 1634

Tenor        founded by R. Taylor & Sons in 1828

There are now eight bells and a Sanctus bell in the tower.

In 1893, the old tenor bell, weighing over 24 cwt (1222 kg), and the 2nd bell of 9 cwt (458kg), were taken to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of Mears & Stainbank in London to be melted down and recast. The present treble (or No. 1) and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 were cast from the old tenor bell, and a new No. 6 from the old 2nd. The former treble became the new No.5, the 3rd. became No. 7, and No. 4 cast in 1634, became the present tenor, and is listed for preservation by the Council for the Care of Churches. Nevertheless, the canons have been removed from this bell (although it was cast in 1634). Presumably this was done in 1893, when it was rehung. All the other bells still retain their canons and crown staples.