GHG logo

Guarlford History Group

The history of St Mary's church bell

Guarlford church bellThieves stole the church bell from St Mary's, Guarlford, during the night of Thursday 6th and Friday 7th October.

The bell had safely hung in a Hornbeam tree in the churchyard for nearly a century after the turret on the church roof was removed for structural reasons.

The thieves cut the cable to the security lamp and tyre tracks suggest a heavy vehicle was involved.

The bell which weighs about 200 Kg is marked at the top M&S.CO and in the middle 'RECAST- 1926'.

The bell had also been marked with 'smart water' to aid identification.

The thieves had returned after being disturbed on Monday night. 

Sadly this was just one of several thefts from local churches and schools.

The Church and its bell

The first stone of a Chapel of Ease at Guarlford was laid by Lady Emily Foley on 19th August, 1843, on land donated by Mr Foley.  Finished the following year, it is now a Grade II listed building. It was built by the local firm of George McCann to a design by Thomas Bellamy of London, and the structure is of brick with outer cladding in Malvern granite. (The plans of the village school, also built on land donated by the Foley family, are signed 'McCann and Everall, March 1867'.) Many leading residents of Malvern subscribed to the cost of the church (about £2,000), and local farmers and labourers carried materials for its construction without charge. It was served by curates from Malvern Priory. 

In Pevsner’s Worcestershire, first published in 1968, part of his comprehensive survey of the buildings of England, the famously severe architectural critic and historian says of St Mary’s: “The crazy-paving walling is a surprise. Otherwise the church still represents the Commissioners’ type. Nave and chancel, West porch, lancet windows. In the East wall a group of three lancets.”

The bell hung in a simple stone bellcote over the west front, which was rebuilt in 1906. The west end of the church had been built with an entrance porch, but no windows, and consequently the church was very dark. Through the generosity of the seventh Lord Beauchamp, the natural light in the church was greatly improved by the installation of a large three-light window in the west wall.

This necessitated taking the wall down to porch level before rebuilding it with the new window. The parish magazine of the time records how cold and uncomfortable the church services were while this work was going on, half of the west wall being open to the elements. An improved heating system was later installed as part of the renovations.

During the rebuilding, the bell turret was found to be unsafe and the bell cracked. The bell turret was removed, and as a ‘temporary’ measure the bell was hung in the nearby hornbeam tree.

History of the bell

Chris Pickford of  Kinver supplied the following information about the bell.

The Whitechapel foundry daybook for 24 November 1844 has an entry for a bell cast by C & G Mears, supplied to S. McCann -- the Malvern builder - for Barnards Green church (i.e. St Mary Guarlford).

The original bell weighed 3 cwt 3 qtr 27 lb, and it was supplied with headstock and clapper.

This original bell was replaced in 1926, and the new bell was hung by chains from the branches of the hornbeam tree to the west of the church. It was fitted with a Mears cast iron headstock with fixed steel gudgeons, ball bearings and clapper suspended from an independent crown staple.

It was sounded by means of a chain tied to the clapper.

The bell had a flat top and its tuning is quite close to "true-harmonic", the main partials being hum 351Hz (F+8), prime 684 (F-36), tierce 815 (Ab-32), quint 1091 (Db-27) and nominal 1359 (F-47).

The octaves and the tierce were quite well in tune, but the quint was wild.

The Whitechapel daybook entry shows that the nett cost of recasting was £16.5s.6d. The full entry reads as follows:,

16 March 1926 P.C.C. Guarlford, Malvern. Recasting one bell

New Bell 3 cwt 3 qtr 18 Ibs @ £9.16s. a cwt - £38 6s.6d

Old Bell 3 cwt 2 qtr 23 lb @ £5 19s a cwt - £22.1s .

Sub Total £16. 5s .6d.

Carriage to & fro 12s 10d each way  - £1.5s .8d.

Total £17.11s .2d.

St Mary Guarlford circa 1900 If you would like to find out more about the sound of bells click on this link