The present belfry now contains a peal of eight bells, installed in 1978.
The following article is partly based on a letter (dated 1 Jun 1978) by Chris Pickford to Robert Grange, transcribed by David Thorpe, and forming part of the History of the Bells (in the Ringing Chamber).
The bells in the "old" church tower:
The earliest record of the bells in St Lawrence Church is from an inventory of 1552 (in the reign of Edward VI), when the church had three bells as well as a "Sanctus bell".
At least one bell - "a treble bell" - was added by Godwin (or Gawen) Baker in 1601.The sanctus bell was possibly the "corner bell" which was recast by Godwin Baker at the same time. [A Gaven Baker of Henley, probably Henley in Arden, was a bell founder working in the early 1600s. There is no other known example of his work in Wiltshire, berkshire or the adjoining counties].
By 1667 there were five bells, as both the "fourth bell" and "tenor wheel" were mentioned in the accounts.
New brass bearings were bought from "Curr of Aldbourne" (possibly Oliver Curr) in 1668, presumably when the Currs were brass founders. There is no record of them casting bells until William and Robert Curr cast bells for Berwick Bassett in 1694.
The tenor bell (of 13-0-25) was recast by Samuel Knight of Reading in 1698.
The frame and fittings for the bells were renewed in 1713 by Goodman Cadler.s were
In 1730 the sanctus bell was again recast, this time by John Carr, at a cost of £1 17s 11d.
This sanctus bell had a short life, as the "little bell", along with the tenor bell, were recast at Witney in 1736. The founder was Henry Bagley, who had opened his Witney foundry in about 1732. The recast bell weighed 63 pounds.
The bells in the "new" church tower:
When the church tower started to collapse in 1811 plans were made to re-build the tower, and to increase the number of bells to six - implying that there had previously been five until that time.
In 1816 the total weight of the old ring was estimated to be 43 cwt. This suggests a ring of five bells with a tenor of about 13 cwt, the other bells weighing perhaps 5½ cwt, 6½ cwt 8cwt and 10cwt.
An order for a peal of five bells (some records say six bells) was made to James Wells in the nearby village of Aldbourne in Wiltshire. This small village produced two notable dynasties of bell-founders—the Corrs, who started in 1696, and the Wells.
They were asked to recast the four old bells into a new ring of six bells, with a tenor of 15cwt. Evidently the bell frame was not suitable for these, and required modification. The new bells were cast in 1816 and were hung in the new tower in two tiers. Mr Well's estimate of 1812 and all fittings amounted to £251 0s 0d.
In 1830 the tenor bell was recast by Thomas Mears II of Whitechapel.
In 1847 a "little" bell (the present Sanctus bell) was added by William Taylor of Oxford, member of a firm that is now world famous as Taylors of Loughborough. It was supplied to Hungerford church by James Bridgemans of Aldbourne (who had originally been emplyed in the Aldbourne foundry).
These six bells were rehung on a single level steel frame in 1927, quarter-turned and re-tuned (in F), and two light (treble) bells were added to make up the peal of eight. This work was carried out at a cost of £590 by Messrs Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel Road, London. (Faculty BRO D/P 71/6/31/5). The timber of the old bell-frames was used to make the present west door.
The treble bell was given by Major Edward Robert Portal in memory of his son Nigel Hugh, killed while flying in 1926; the second bell by John H Wooldridge and his sisters. It was Mr Wooldridge's father who carried our the work of the 1880 restoration. The 1927 work cost £344.
The Sanctus Bell, triple toned, of lacquered brass, was given by Mrs Thomas Barnard and dedicated by the vicar on Easter Day, 2 Apr 1961. (se Inventory 1940-90, p.59)
The New Bells, 1978:
In 1977, following advice from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry concering stress on the tower fabric, the PCC agreed to have the bells recast into a lighter ring of eight. Fund-raising began in Feb 1978, and within ten weeks a total of £10,000 was raised. The old bells were rung for the last time on 23 Apr 1978 before being taken down (on 26 Apr) and transported to Whitechapel. They were returned to St Lawrence church on 26 Jun, re-hung and were re-dedicated at a special service on 16 Jul 1978 by the Dean of Salisbury. A Commemorative pamphlet was produced for the Service of Dedication. It includes the history of the bells at St Lawrence, photographs, list of donors, and the order of service.
The Inscriptions are as follows::
Treble (3-3-0; 2' 0¾"; G): GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO / GIVEN BY THE RINGERS / ROBERT GRANGE TOWER CAPTAIN
2nd bell (3-3-24; 2' 1½ F#): PER ARDUA AD ASTRA / IN LOVING MEMORY OF NIGEL / THE LADIES' ORGANISATIONS OF HUNGERFORD / GENEROUS DONORS TOWARDS THIS BELL
3rd bell (4-0-12; E): IN TERRA ANGLICA VIRIDI ET AMOENA / IN MEMORY OF BRUCE WARING SMITH / 1894-1976
4th bell (5-0-12; D): ADOPT, ADAPT, IMPROVE / GIVEN BY HUNGERFORD ROUND TABLE
5th bell (6-0-24; 2' 7"; C): CANTATE DOMINO CANTICUM NOVUM / GIVEN BY THE TOWN AND MANOR / OF HUNGERFORD / HUGH HASSALL CONSTABLE
6th bell (6-3-24; 2' 8"; B):: PRORSUM IN FUTURUM / GIVEN BY THE LORD ROOTES
7th bell 9-0-12; 3' 0"; A): VENITE EXULTEMUS DOMINO / GIVEN BY THE BUSINESSES AND INDISTRIES OF HUNGERFORD / DENNIS CRYER P.C.C. TREASURER
Tenor (12-1-8; G):: PAX VOBISCUM / DEDICATED IN THE 25th YEAR / OF THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II / RICHARD KINGSBURY B.A. VICAR / RONALD TALBOT / DAVID BRADY - CHURCHWARDENS
Later in 1978 a new Sanctus bell was cast by the Whitechapel fondry. It is inscribed "THE GIFT OF THE LADIES'ORGANISATIONS OF HUNGERFORD. MARY TALBOT M.U. ENROLLING MEMBER".
Click here to return to the main article of St Lawrence Church
- "The History of St Lawrence Bells from 1552 until their recasting by Whitechapel in 1978" - Information supplied by Robert Grange; sorted and organised by David Thorpe and Cath Fitsell; dedicated to Brenda Abrahams, ringer until she was 92 yrs.
- Belfry Record book in the Ringing Chamber.
- Berkshire Record Office:
Vestry Minute Book 1582-1823 (D/P71 8/1)
Churchwardens Accounts 169-1820 and 1820-1906 (D/P71 5/1-2)
Minutes of the Trustees for Rebuilding the Church 1812-1824 (D/P71 24/13)
Accounts of the Trustees 1813-1841 (D/P71 24/3)