Bell History

Old Ring of Four Bells 1671ad

The old bells are stamped with the relevant founder marks. They are not tuned to any modern scale and closest of these medieval scales is Phrygian mode.

For details of the individual bell inscriptions and further information please click on the attachment.

The King Edward Inventory carried out in 1553 to collect information about church assets provided valuable information to historians on the number of bells in the country. Yarkhill earliest evidence of bells hung in the tower come from the following extract. Yerkyll. Item iiii belles whereof the least of xxviii inches the second of xxx inches the thirde of xxx inches & quarter of inches the iiii of xxxiii di brode over in the mouthes

Current Bells & Frame

For details of the individual bell inscriptions and further information please click on the attachment.

Yarkhill’s present bells are of two dates and founders. The tenor is the oldest bell in the ring and was cast in 1636 by John Finch of Hereford. John Finch is remarkable for the aesthetic quality of his bells and Yarkhill’s tenor is of the same fine standard. Finch lived and worked through the time of the Civil War, this affected his output of bells and we find very few left in the country, those remaining are mainly in Herefordshire.

John Martin of Worcester cast the other three bells in 1671. John Martin’s founding was much more prolific, most bells were cast after the commonwealth regime and more examples of his work may be found around the country.

The sound quality of the bells is somewhat disappointing; various bell hangers have reported that they are of poor tone and little can be done to bring them into modern tuning. At present they are in no scale, being too much out of tone. We are at a loss why this is so, it seems that John Martin when tuning the four did not bring them into a medieval mode or modern scale. The bells, starting with the treble is sharp of C#, slightly sharp of C, somewhat sharp of A and very flat and A. The nearest scale to this is Phrygian mode. Because of this they are rendered worthless as a modern ring but are important historically. A part of the problem in tuning these bells also lies in their partial tones. To bring the bells into tune would require a great deal of metal being taken away leaving them dangerously thin. Since these bells have historical merit because of their connection with Francis Stedman (and possibly Fabian), to tune them would be a risk not worth taking.

The Frame and Fitting

When we come to the Yarkhill frame we have an excellent example of medieval activity in this tower. The frame is on two tiers with the heavier three bells on one frame and the treble hanging from two transverse beams. The frame was probably made in the first half of the seventeenth century. This suggests that these beams were originally used in an older frame. This does seem to fit together. The medieval bells were hung in the older frame, which was taken apart between 1600 and 1650, the bells were recast and fitted in a newly designed frame reusing some of the old timbers. From this we have more evidence of swinging bells during medieval times with scraped masonry to allow the medieval bells to swing and not hit the walls of the tower. This rich history of forming full-circle ringing from a medieval half-wheels swing is unprecedented. The fittings are interesting in their own right. These are newer, being chiefly made in the nineteenth century. They all have elm headstocks, strapped gudgeons, stock-hoops, and plain brass bearings. The wheels are of usual design except the treble which is the work of a local wheelwright. The treble and second have latchet stays and sliders and the third and tenor have traditional stays and sliders. All the fittings and frame are in a derelict state and the treble has had to be removed to a safe position for fear of it falling.