Lost Rings

Bristol Branch

Gloucester & Bristol Diocesan Association

St Luke, Bedminster

Somerset

ST593719

This church was designed by John Norton and built in 1860-1. Its tower had an octagonal upper stage with four tall angle pinnacles stretching from the stage below to above the parapet, but the pinnacles and parapet were all removed during alterations in 1933 by P. Hartland Thomas.

In 1874 Ellacombe records "One Bell about to be augmented to Six", which appears to have been a steel bell cast by Naylor Vickers & Co. of Sheffield in 1860 as it was offered for sale on eBay in February 2009. Listed as a "Very Large Antique Cast Iron Church Tower Bell" by the seller, one of the accompanying photographs clearly showed it hung for full-circle ringing in more recent times. The bell had been disposed of in 1874 to offset the cost of the new ring of six, and its whereabouts between then and 2009 remain a mystery.

The bells that replaced it were the first to be cast by the methods set out in "Bells & Bellfounding" in 1879 but they weren't altogether successful, and can be perhaps best described by the comments of a local ringer who heard part of the final ringing of the bells: "Not a pretty sound! Having said that, I heard them only once. It was enough." Incidentally, although the author of "Bells & Bellfounding" is given as "X-Y-Z", given the introduction by John Llewellin, the large drawing of a Llewellins & James bell a few pages in and the fact that it was printed in Bristol, the Llewellins & James bellfoundry (who operated out of Castle Street, Bristol) probably had a significant input. Much of the final chapter is devoted to slating many of the bells in Bristol at the time, including their own ring of six at this church which was surely not the best advertisement for the book itself.

The second and fourth were maiden bells (they did not require tuning) and are described in the book as "the best of the peal". The tenor was not so well received, however, and I have reproduced the relevant passage in full: "[It] was for the sake of economy cast light in fact too light for that note and it does not properly cover the sound of the smaller bells. As there is ample space in the tower for two more bells the ring could be readily augmented into one of eight by adding a new treble and a new tenor of about 16 cwt in F. This would necessitate the flattening of the present fourth whilst the present tenor would make a good seventh bell. With the proposed new bells the ring would be constituted an effective light ring of eight and be a considerable improvement upon the present peal."

The church closed in 1968 and was demolished in 1970, later to be replaced by a block of flats known as St Luke's Court. Thanks to the efforts of E.F. Hancock the bells were transferred to St Paul, Southville where the front five had their canons removed, the treble and third bells were sharpened (the treble only slightly, the third to C#), and a new treble was added to form a new ring of six. The tenor, along with an Hour bell (1958, circa 14 cwt) that had been hung for swing-chiming at Southville, was disposed of to offset the cost.

The bells of St Luke, Bedminster
BellWeightDiameterNoteFounder Date
14-2-08  E Llewellins & James 1874
25-1-00  D Llewellins & James 1874
36-0-15  C Llewellins & James 1874
46-2-20  B Llewellins & James 1874
58-0-12  A Llewellins & James 1874
610-0-22 39 inG Llewellins & James 1874

Source: All weights and diameter of tenor from John Taylor & Co. with thanks to Revd David L. Cawley and Nick Bowden. Details of the original steel bell from Nick Bowden. Further information from "Church Bells of Somerset" (Revd Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 1874), "Bells & Bellfounding" (X-Y-Z, 1879), ChurchCrawler (Phil M. Draper), Revd David L. Cawley and Will Willans.


Where a bell's exact weight is known, it is given in the traditional way using the British imperial units of Hundredweight, Quarters and Pounds (cwt-qtr-lb) in which there are 28 pounds in a quarter, four quarters in a hundredweight, and 20 hundredweight in a ton (one hundredweight is equal to approximately 50.8 kilograms). However, if only an approximate or calculated weight is known, it is given to the nearest quarter of a hundredweight.

A bell's diameter is measured across its mouth (open end) at the widest point and is given in inches (to the nearest quarter of an inch), one inch being equal to approximately 2.54 centimetres.