Writtle Church

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You are in: The old bells > Details of the old bells

The Bells and Bellringing at Writtle

Writtle bells



The 5th and 2nd bells in the centre of the picture, the tops of the wheels of the 4th and 3rd in the foreground, the treble centre right and the tenor bell in the background


Writtle has a very long tradition of bellringing which is evident from the Churchwardens' Accounts of 1588-1643. By 1597 there was a peal of five bells; and of eight by 1758. In 1787 Robert Patrick of Woodford furnished an estimate (still preserved among the parish records) for recasting.  We do not know whether this was carried out, for the collapse of the tower destroyed the bells. On 4 April 1800 part of the tower, which for some time had shown signs of decay, fell down. At midnight the remainder of the tower collapsed. Villagers woke up to a scene of total devastation with 7 of the 8 bells lying broken in the rubble. A local rhyme of the time went "In 1800 Writtle tower and Chelmsford steeple, both fell down and hurt no people". Fortunately, a record of the original tower exists in a watercolour of the late 18th century by Thomas Girtin.  Click here to view Girtin's watercolour

Local brewer Henry Lambirth, supervised the rebuilding of the tower, which was completed in 1802 at a cost of 2,000. The tower is now a very solid construction, with walls over 4 feet thick. The rebuilt tower rests on the foundations of the original tower, but is not as high and has massive brick buttresses supporting the corners. Click here to view the rebuilt tower. In 1925 further alterations were made, when the brick string courses were removed, the large round topped windows filled in and the clock placed in its present position.  There are now Gothic arched louvred openings to the belfry on three walls with the clock face on the North wall. Pinnacles were added to the corners of the tower (but removed in 1975 as they had become unsafe) and the West door enlarged to its present form.  Click here to view the tower as it is today. It was not until 1811 that a new oak bell frame and ring of 8 were installed. The bells were opened on Monday 30 December 1811 with a peal of Oxford Treble Bob Major rung by the Ancient Society of College Youths in 3 hours and 11 minutes.

The bells were moved in January 2004 and purchased by the Keltek Trust.  The front six were taken to Whitechapel Bell Foundry and retuned and two new trebles added.  It is proposed that the eight bells will be hung in a new tower in Seatle sometime in the future.  The other 2 bells (seven and Tenor) have yet to be found new homes by the Keltek Trust.

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