Church of England Diocese of Chichester Duncton

The Church Bell

Holy Trinity has but one bell, but it is a remarkable one. It has the distinction of being the third oldest dated church bell in Great Britain – the other two being in Claughton, Lancashire (1296) and Lissett, East Yorkshire (1254). The inscription, in primitive lettering, as recorded by a Dr. Tyssen in 1864 runs:

“DE FLOTHE A…E. :LA:HAGUE :FET :LAN MCCCLXIX”

Recent rubbings show that the H in FLOTHE is very indistinct, and there seems to be an N before LA. LA HAGUE is quite clear.

It has generally been assumed that the bell is of Dutch origin and Dr Tyssen regarded De Flothe as the name of the founder. During 1955/6 enquiries were made on the continent, the result of which indicate almost conclusively that the bell is Norman in origin. The authorities of the Rijks-museum in Amsterdam say that they can find no trace of a bellfounder by the name of De Flothe and, further, that Flothe is not a Dutch name. They add that the Dutch Hague at so early a date as 1369 was only a very small village. So research turned to France , which has its Hagues and Hogues. Monsieur de Bouard, Dean of the Faculty of Letters at Caen University, points out that there is in the La Hague peninsula a small village called Flottermanville-hague. The inscription, therefore, may refer to a place and not to a founder. A rubbing was sent to M. de Bouard, who asserts quite definitely that the inscription is Norman. This is also the judgement of the Conservateur des Objets d’Art of the Department de La Manche, Monsieur L’Abbe Lelegard.

Documentary evidence on the original location of the bell will probably never be forthcoming. Perhaps it formed part of the booty brought back from one of the numerous commando raids between France and England, and vice versa, in the 14th century.

The Duncton bell has no religious symbol on it – a very unusual occurrence for those days. A rather rash suggestion, perhaps, would be that it may have been a bell attached to a buoy off the Norman coast. Flotte ancrée is French for buoy. Farfetched?

With grateful thanks to Frederick T Barrett